Galápagos. What do you picture when you hear those four syllables? Chances are it’s wildlife, from giant tortoises and marine iguanas to blue-footed boobies. And rightly so, for the animals on these islands, sitting in extreme isolation 1000km (600 miles) off the Ecuadorian coast, are genuinely spectacular. In fact, it was the so-called ‘tameness’ of the Galápagos animals – just one facet of their incredible idiosyncrasies – that helped bring Darwin to his world-changing theory of evolution.
Yet when early visitors christened the Galápagos ‘Las Islas Encantadas’, it wasn’t because they were ‘enchanted’ by the charming animals: it was more that the islands appeared to be under some malevolent spell. And from cannibals, convicts and buccaneers to a nudist colony turned murderous ménage à trois, a dark edge has informed human interaction with the islands ever since. Our host Neil McQuillian visits the Galápagos to discover the alternative human history of the world's most famous wildlife wonderland.
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Thank you to Ximena Cordova and Sven Lindblad of Lindblad Expeditions for talking to us. We used sounds of the Galapagos from Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic and also by Chris Watson from Touch Radio, curated by Mike Harding. We featured music from local musicians EcoArte. Alannah Chance and Jessie Lawson of Reduced Listening were producers for this episode.
Top image: Bartolome Island in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador © Jess Kraft / Shutterstock