On some world maps you can see them as only tiny specks in the vast Pacific Ocean --on others they just do not appear at all. Yet the Islands of Galapagos are probably some of the most unusual and fascinating places in the world.
Directly on the equator -- latitute zero --and some 600 miles west of Ecuador , many millions of years ago these islands burst from the ocean floor in a volcanic ferment of fire and lava and steam.
At first they were devoid of all living things until reptiles and mammals found their way as refugees from the South American continent. They drifted out on rafts and floating vegetation in the warm equatorial currents. Here both animals and plants have evolved into unique and unusual forms. Many of those that survived the long ocean voyage have changed little from prehistoricc times, while others have changed considerably -- refusing to perish -- and have adapted well to their new and challenging environment.
Friendly sea lions are everywhere. They hope you have brought along your snorkeling gear so that they too, can play. The great joy of this Galapagos world is the fearelessness and friendliness of all the animal kingdom. Every island has its individual collection of plants and animals. By the time half a dozen of these islands are visited you will have seen up to 13 species of Darwin's famous finches, great tortoises, sea and land iguanas, lava lizards, blue-footed boobies, albatross, sally lightfoot crabs, sea turtles, penguins, pelicans, and frigate birds.
Intrigued by my second trip to Galapagos and amused by all those that were on their first, I asked an elderly woman from Iowa if she wasn't excited by what she was seeing. "Well," she said, "I guess I'm just about as excited as I can get."