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Stepping onto a beach on one of the Galapagos Islands you could well find yourself surrounded by dozens of sunbathing sea lions lying about on the sand like sacks of potatoes. As you approach, they don’t blunder off into the sea or shuffle behind a rock, as you might expect; they keep on sleeping in the sun or stare at you with studied indifference.
Walking along rocky shorelines, you encounter blue-footed boobies laying eggs on the pathways who show not the slightest concern at your presence. They don’t bat an eye if you approach within a meter. Prehistoric marine iguanas, which look like miniature dragons or extras from a science fiction movie, eye you languorously from jagged lava rocks.
For hundreds of years human visitors have commented on the abundance and tameness of the wildlife in these remote and isolated islands that straddle the equator in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. For the most part animals of the Galapagos have evolved and lived without fear of predators, and this absence of fear gives human visitors a feeling of extraordinary and uplifting harmony with nature that cannot be experienced anywhere else on earth.
The Galapagos National Parks Service has designated more than 60 visitor sites on the islands, enabling visitors to see all the interesting wildlife; the rest of the park is off limits to tourists. At each visitor site a discreetly marked trail provides excellent views of wildlife, vegetation and landscape of the island. Also many snorkelling spots offer the chance to see the colourful underwater life of the Galapagos Islands.