Galapagos Islands – the birthplace of Darwin’s Origin of Species
Before you decide to spend a fair amount of hard-earned cash and to take a fairly big chunk of what might be your limited holiday time, it’s critical that you are clear on your own personal motivations for going all the way to this remote volcanic archipelago. It’s important that you understand why Galapagos is a world-renown destination, on par with the Serengeti and Antarctica. To avoid wasting your time and money, to avoid being disappointed, you want to be sure that your expectations are properly aligned with what the Galapagos can best deliver to you.
Here’s a hint: What sets Galapagos apart from any other tropical seaside holiday is not the local culture, not the night-life, not the beaches, not the hiking, not the shopping opportunities nor the available tourist activities. Though you can enjoy these things in Galapagos, you can find much better beaches, local culture, food, hikes, shopping and other tourist activities in dozens of other tropical islands, likely closer to home and more affordably priced at that.
No. Galapagos is world-famous as the place where, in 1835, Charles Darwin came upon some early insights into a major question that had been nagging him: “Where do species come from? What is their origin?”. On arriving in Galapagos, he quickly concluded that underwater volcanic forces led to the creation of the Galapagos in fairly recent geologic times, much more recently than mainland South America. He also remarked that species there closely resembled those on mainland South America, but were slightly different. He also noticed that these species were different from themselves, depending on what island in the Galapagos they lived on.
Charles Darwin’s early observations in Galapagos eventually led him to publish a book “On the Origin of Species”, 24 years later – after a lot of deep thinking and evidence gathering. The book completely shattered the commonly held belief at the time that God had created the earth and all species, and that nothing ever changed. It’s hard to understand today what an existentialist challenge this revelation presented to people all over the world in those days – but it was HUGE!
So, what Galapagos has to offer is a chance get into Charles Darwin’s headspace – to see the unique species of the islands, to see how they resemble each other, how they resemble species from the mainland, but to see how they’re different and to feel what he felt when he came upon his AHA! Moment.
Imagine walking through dense forests for days and days, and all of a sudden, in one final step, coming up the rim of the Grand Canyon – seeing a vast, deep canyon, seeing for miles. Imagine the sense of wonder and awe you would feel – it would be almost frightening. That’s what Charles Darwin felt when he realized that species changed, that they evolved, that humans had also evolved from earlier species. Going to Galapagos should help you feel what Charles Darwin felt and it should re-awake your sense of awe and wonder.
Of course, as an excellent secondary benefit, the species you’ll see in Galapagos are for the most part completely unafraid of humans. Beyond feeling Charles Darwin’s “mind trip”, you should also expect to have the time of your life getting up close to birds, giant tortoise, swimming with sea lions, penguins, sea turtles and shark, chasing mockingbirds away from nibbling at your shoelaces, watching hundreds of dolphins swim across the bow of your ship, and more. Some have had the chance to swim with dolphins, and even with orcas!