Marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) – seen here with a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) – were described by Charles Darwin as "hideous" but they are harmless to humans. Feed on algae growing on the rocks near shore, they spend up to an hour in the water and then long periods warming up in the sun afterwards.
Galapagos Islands – Been There

The Enchanted Islands still enchant

Photo by Frans Lanting

Galapagos Islands – Been There The Enchanted Islands still enchant

No one who visits what early seafarers called “The Enchanted Islands” can escape thinking of Eden, with its stories of man and nature living in harmony.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

At the top of Bartolomé Island, my legs aching from the long climb up its steep wooden stairway, I look out over the Galapagos Islands. The black volcanic landscape at my feet looks otherworldly, relieved by a flash of greenery between the two beaches that curve away far below. The horizon is filled with islands and a single cloud, dark with the elusive promise of rain, that hangs over a tranquil ocean living up to its “Pacific” name.

A lizard rests in the sun, blue-footed boobies squawk and whistle and even the insects seem to be taking it easy in the heat. It is a vision of Paradise, albeit a rocky, somewhat barren one. The hazy images planted in my mind in dozy Sunday Schools sprang into sharp focus the first time I stepped ashore to find that the flocks of birds and sunbathing marine iguanas just stay where they are, completely undisturbed by the presence of man.

The most famous visitor to make the connection with Creation was naturalist Charles Darwin, whose visit in 1835 was the genesis of his work. “Darwin would be amazed at what we have learned about evolution in the meantime,” says Swen Lorenz of the Charles Darwin Foundation. “He thought [it] only took place over very long periods of time. We now know that species can change incredibly fast, and in Galapagos in particular, you can literally witness evolution in front of your eyes.”

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The marine iguana is found only on Galapagos Islands and has the unique ability among lizards to swim in the sea, having developed a nasal gland to filter out salt. Scientists believe that they have evolved from land-dwelling iguanas in South America that floated to the Galapagos on logs or rafts of vegetations millions of years ago. Photo by Frans Lanting / Getty Images

Frans Lanting

Frans Lanting

Agency
Getty Images

The marine iguana is found only on Galapagos Islands and has the unique ability among lizards to swim in the sea, having developed a nasal gland to filter out salt. Scientists believe that they have evolved from land-dwelling iguanas in South America that floated to the Galapagos on logs or rafts of vegetations millions of years ago.

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