An exciting day today - we were traveling to the Galapagos islands. For those whose education has failed you these are a small archipelago which have never been connected to the main land. As such the few creatures which have stumbled across its location have been left to evolve in isolation and indeed a quarter of the species of shore fish, half the plants and almost all the reptiles are found nowhere else on earth. In many cases different forms have evolved on the different islands. Charles Darwin famously recognized this speciation within the archipelago when he visited on the Beagle in 1835 and these observations formed the cornerstone of his description of evolution. With such a prospect in store I set my phone alarm for 7am and slept safe in knowledge that we wouldn't miss this flight. In fact since I hadn't changed the time on my phone this meant the alarm woke us up at 1am, plenty of time indeed.

Our guide took us to the airport and checked us all in but after that chaos ensued. With no information on which gate was our flight we went for the tried and tested method of asking three people to cross reference the replies - in this case that was made somewhat tricky by the three unrelated answers. Eventually we joined a queue and seemed to get on the right flight, more luck than judgement here. On arrival our bags were held for a sometime while dogs tried to sniff out any alien seeds and fruit. I'm not sure how successful the process would have been but hopefully it served to jog peoples memories that such items were not welcome. We would be spending the next few days on a boat with a small group, some of whom were already enjoying the sights. Between us and the boat was a hot and humid bus ride only broken up by a small ferry crossing.

While waiting for a dingy to pick us up at the jetty and take us to the boat we experienced our first taste of what makes the Galapagos so fabulous. With no natural predators on the islands for the vast majority of the animals they are incredibly tame and we enjoyed watching a seal sun bathing on the jetty only a few feet away. On the boat we were shown our cabin which was small but had a bathroom and even air conditioning - perhaps we paid too much for the trip! After a quick bite to eat we transferred back to the mainland for a tour of the turtle breeding center run by the Charles Darwin foundation. A guide explained some of the local tensions between villagers who feel they have a right to fish the waters as their families have done for generations and the national park who wish to curb this activity as the population grows in case irreparable damage is done to the main attraction - the very wildlife that is being fished. This seemed to be a complex problem with no easy solution and indeed this has been a constant source of aggravation for many years. With many people on the islands living far below the poverty line it is hard to argue that they should be denied a plentiful supply of food, especially when they claim that much of the damage arises because of the tourism industry. From 1986 various quota systems were tried but invariably failed - resulting in some hostage taking and a park warden being shot. More recently legislation has been passed to try and strike a balance but it remains to be seen if this will solve the issue amicably. With this education done we were free to wonder around the center and frankly head for the most exciting resident. The islands are famous for many species but in particular huge turtles and of these one stands out head and shell above the rest - Lonesome George. He is the last known individual of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni), which is one of eight to fifteen subspecies of Galapagos tortoise. He also has the honour of being labeled the rarest creature in the world. At 100 years old he is in rude health but efforts to entice him to mate by placing two females of the closest sub-species in his pen have so far proven unsuccessful. Sadly the rest of his species died out when a goat population was introduced which devastated the islands vegetation. With some snaps of George looking safe and relaxed we moved on to see some other giant turtles up close; these beasts are huge but were more interested in the food provided than us posing for photos with them.

On the way back to the boat we stopped off in some shops, more to take advantage of the air conditioning than for serious shopping but we did notice some lovely wall hangings in a distinctive style but sadly these were attached to some eye popping prices so we moved onto the more modest postcards. Back on the boat our charismatic guide introduced himself and then laid out the plans for the following day, it looked like a busy schedule but i was pleased to see designated afternoon snooze slots while we moved from one area to another. In the evening the toilet in our cabin broke and while they were trying to fix it we were moved to the spare cabin below decks. This made us realize how fortunate we were to have a berth at the top of the boat; in the bottom there is little between the bunk and the diesel engine which ran overnight, very noisy! Karen, an intrepid traveler from Australia accompanied by her cuddly toy, gave up and slept in the main compartment with the crew. Luckily our cabin was deemed fixed and we gratefully went back upstairs to relative quiet with a note to not complain about what little noise we could here from there.