The Galapagos Islands are where the curious explore



The five-star Pikaia Lodge offers land-based adventures in the Galapagos.Lodge Pikaia

It was the lizards that stole my heart. Black, spiky, and covered in their own salty nasal discharge, Charles Darwin described them as disgusting and clumsy “dark imps”. I found them strangely charming, like little dragons proudly basking in the sun, blissfully oblivious to their supposed horror. They are also, for me, the perfect symbol of the Galapagos Islands. We’ve all heard of Darwin’s trip to the islands aboard HMS Beagle and the finches that shaped his thinking, but in my mind nothing symbolizes his theory of evolution better than Amblyrhynchus cristatus, the iguana who learned to feed underwater.

Still, I understand that marine reptiles are not the main attraction. The stars of the Galapagos are the blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises and frigates. But what really makes all of the creatures here a wonder is their utter lack of fear towards humans, the result of being pretty much left alone for centuries. This, combined with the scarcity of several species, is why this Ecuadorian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 kilometers from the continent’s west coast, is worth seeing.

How fearlessly do we speak? The first stop on my four day tour is North Seymour Island. As my small group from Pikaia Lodge disembarks, our guide reminds us to stay on the designated path and at least two meters from the island’s famous birds. It turns out to be easier said than done. As I kneel down to take a picture of a madman, he begins to waddle towards me on his bright blue feet. I step back, but realize that I am encroaching on a frigate busy inflating its shiny red gular pouch in the hope of attracting a mate. The madman is practically chasing me and I start to panic when the guide laughs and tells me not to worry: it’s okay if the bird breaks the rules.

Guests of Pikaia Lodge, located in its own 31 hectare Giant Wild Turtle Reserve, sleep on land in one of its spacious suites.Lodge Pikaia

Many animals turn out to be just as rebellious. During a snorkel off the coast of Bartolomé Island, two tiny Galapagos penguins parade as a playful sea lion swirls right in front of me, rushing directly at my face to retreat from side to side. the last second. Later, several of his fellows, napping comfortably on the dock, ignore our protests and prevent us from boarding our dinghy. Sally Lightfoot crabs tiptoe to our toes on Baltra Island beach walks, demanding attention with their red, orange and blue shells. Just offshore, two male sea turtles risk drowning a female as they both attempt to mate with her at the same time. As the sun sets, frigates fly directly above us as we return to Santa Cruz Island, their two-meter wings casting shadows on the deck of Pikaia’s private yacht.

After these busy days, the hotel offers a well-deserved break, and Pikaia Lodge is a rare breed in itself. Guests of the luxury property, located in its own 31 hectare wild giant tortoise reserve, sleep ashore in one of its spacious suites, unlike the typical Galapagos experience of spending the night on a small boat rocking cruise ship.

With a pisco sour from the hotel’s DNA Bar in hand, I sit by the fire in the Homo Sapiens Explorer Lounge and take a copy of On the origin of the species. I may not agree with Darwin when it comes to marine iguanas, but he has some interesting things to say nonetheless.

The writer traveled as a guest of Pikaia Lodge. He did not review or approve this article.

Nothing symbolizes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution better than Amblyrhynchus cristatus, the iguana that learned to feed underwater.Lodge Pikaia

If you are going to

All visitors to Galapagos National Park must pay an entrance fee ($ 100) and obtain a transit card ($ 20). This can be purchased at the airports in Guayaquil or Quito in Ecuador before you depart for the islands. Traveling through Guayaquil at sea level avoids having to acclimatize to Quito’s extreme elevation.

Where to Stay The five-star Pikaia Lodge offers “land” adventures in the Galapagos, although it is necessary to go on the water; guests travel between the islands on the hotel’s private yacht. All rooms and suites, which range from 650 to 800 square feet, have private outdoor spaces. Rates for 2022 start at three nights for US $ 4,305 per person, based on double occupancy, and include all excursions, guides, Galapagos airport transfers, equipment (wetsuits, snorkels, bikes) , meals and drinks. pikaialodge.com

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