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.
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.”