In the hierarchy of the animal chain, humans tend to place themselves at top. People have long captured and confined, domesticated and tamed, demonstrating dominance over other animals. We wield weapons and power. Though I know there’s always been a food chain on our planet—prey and predators aren’t new news—I think humans in particular have done an awfully good job of creating an environment where other creatures inherently fear us.
For me, and for many other people who visit the Galapagos Islands, encountering wildlife in such an intimate and immediate setting is one of the highlights of a trip to this part of the world. Most of the islands that make up the Galapagos are uninhabited and tightly regulated in ways that put wildlife at the forefront. There are no boardwalks or bathrooms, portable water coolers or shade structures. The earth belongs to the animals, and humans must step lightly and with care so as not to disturb those creatures who call these islands home.
In the Galapagos Islands, wildlife takes priority—not the selfish desires of human visitors. Humans don’t interfere with wildlife here, which means that animals control their own destinies. This also means that people must witness the natural life cycle, even if it is sad or hard to comprehend. I saw a bird that appeared to have been abandoned and a baby sea lion that was likely starving to death. In instances like those, I want someone to intervene and help, but the circle of life has to take its course.
During my week in the Galapagos Islands, I had the chance to come face-to-face with a number of wild creatures including several types of birds, seals and sea lions, giant tortoises, and marine and land iguanas. I also snorkeled with dozens of types of fish, manta rays and even sharks. On several excursions, I brought my camera out to play, to capture the characters I encountered on land and in the water, but I also learned that, to truly appreciate the ‘wild’ side of ‘wilderness,’ sometimes I needed to put the camera away and just enjoy the environment the way it was meant to be.
Sally Lightfoot Crab