What the Galápagos Can Teach Us About Travel
Walking through the middle of North Seymour Island, I quickly notice my steps occupy just a tiny sliver of the island’s expanse. I’m traversing a land that is centuries old, and it seems like I’ve lurched myself back in time: Massive birds congregate all around me, and I feel like I exist in another era, where animals roam free, completely unaware and uninhibited by the presence of humans.
I dive into the ocean to snorkel the surrounding waters. Idling delicately above, I try to make my presence as light as possible, as whitetip reef sharks dot the ocean’s floor. Brightly-hued, iridescent fish create a natural barrier between myself and the meat eaters. Although it seems like the ocean’s expansive depths may never end, there’s a stillness to the water. It’s as if the creatures are inviting me into their home, as they know I will be respectful of it.
I’m mesmerized by my first day in the Galápagos Islands, where I’m exploring the many geological wonders that make up the protected sanctuary with the team of Pikaia Lodge. Nestled atop an extinct volcanic crater, Pikaia Lodge is a 14-room sanctuary where sustainability and eco-consciousness are paramount. By day, I explore the islands aboard Pikaia Lodge’s 100-foot yacht named Pikaia I, traversing lands where penguins, seals, and blue-footed bobbies roam free. By night, I enjoy my villa that’s located on the slopes between the savannah and lush, steamy forest of the volcanic highlands, offering ethereal views of the Galápagos’ terrain.
As my week-long expedition with Pikaia progresses, I begin to understand the intricacies involved when the natural and human world meet. General Manager Andrew Balfour explains how the lodge coexists with the landscape, harnessing much of its power from solar panels, preserving rainwater to use on-site. The team works to replant trees, reviving endemic species. Sustainability is always a topic of choice at Pikaia, as it serves as one of the two property pillars. The other is evolution, which is on display through the lodge’s art and sculptures, representative of human and animal adaptation, much centering around the work of Charles Darwin.
While exploring the islands, it’s easy to see Darwin’s findings firsthand. The naturalist saw a trend in how species developed based on their environmental surroundings, which he dubbed adaptive radiation. Although the same species can live just short distances apart, the many microclimates that make up the islands provide a series of varying ecosystems; therefore, an iguana on one island will form in an entirely different way from an iguana on a neighboring island, as all species adapt specifically to suit the precise ecosystem in which they reside.
Three birds circle the boat as I make my way back to the mainland from my final voyage at sea, serving as a final an ode to my precious time spent in this paradise. The birds dip under the pre-sunrise moon, delivering me back to the port in a succession of flaps. In that moment, I realize how Darwin’s findings apply to travel and us as travelers. We change as often as the environments we frequent. We leave with nuances of the cultures we hold dear, cementing it into our own identity. We never shake the heightened fragility to life that travel lets us feel, and in doing so, we are innately more receptive to new ideas, more capable of evolving, and more willing to adapt to our surroundings, no matter where in the world we may find ourselves.
The Galápagos is a pristine ecological haven, and as such, it’s highly protected. If you plan to use any technical videography and photography equipment – such as drones – you must apply for a permit. If you intend to capture the scenery with a traditional DSLR camera, no permit is required. But you must maintain a proper distance with the animals, as your guide is under strict regulations with the Galápagos National Park. It may seem like a drag that you can’t get the extra zoom of the ocean water dropping off of the penguin’s slick coat, but it’s with due reason. The Galápagos is home to animals that don’t fear you, and in order to keep it that way, they must feel like there’s adequate distance between you and them. As long as you’re respectful of this, you will come home with more beautiful images than you can imagine.
Article by: Michaela Trimble