With Richard Dawkins in the Galapagos Islands – Part One: Quito and Baltra

With Richard Dawkins in the Galapagos Islands – Part One: Quito and Baltra

In May of 2007 I went with the Center for Inquiry on one of their cruises, with the express purpose of meeting Richard Dawkins and Paul Kurtz.

Unfortunately, Paul was unable to make this cruise so Eddie Tabash came in his place. (I was to meet Paul later at a conference.)

The title of this series is a wry allusion to Lowell Thomas‘s With Lawrence in Arabia, although unlike that famous radio announcer I did not go to the Galapagos Islands as a journalist. But I did take this chance to see the islands that had inspired Charles Darwin – and to meet the famed biologist and writer Richard Dawkins! He and I spoke briefly on the bus ride from the airport to our hotel in Quito, and he complimented my blog posts summarizing The Extended Phenotype, his sequel to The Selfish Gene. (My blog’s title is a snarky response to a comment from a creationist.)


I must confess that while I have wanted to visit Peru for some time, I did not give Ecuador much thought. However, I have a sponsor child in Quito (and I didn’t contact her family – she’s quite small and we were scheduled to the hilt, and she would not understand why I could not stay long, if at all), and I found Quito to be a fascinating and beautiful city. (Aside from the headache I had the first night – the elevation is 9,350 feet! But that didn’t last long and soon I was acclimated.)

My cabin-mate on this voyage was Jo Ann. Left is the view outside of Jo Ann’s and my room.

Right is the Iglesia de la Compana de Jesus. Yes, we saw a lot of churches in Quito. I love architecture of all kinds.

Unfortunately, I did not get to ride the trolley or visit the Gold Museum (a few of us were organizing a group to go) due to time. It’s a pity, but I’ll have to visit again sometime.

Below left, a street musician performs. Below right, more views of Quito:


We had lunch at Restaurant El Crater, perched along the edge of the caldera volcano Pululahua. Below left is the garden overlooking a section of Quito, center shows the outside of the restaurant, and below right is the caldera itself, shrouded in mist that would quickly and briefly lift to reveal farms within the ring itself!


Landing at Baltra

Just before the CFI (Center for Inquiry) Explorer’s Club left Quito for the Galapagos Islands, we learn that our itinerary has been changed; instead of San Cristobel, we land at the small airport on Baltra, a small island close to Santa Cruz that once served as an American military base. At right, an iguana sat on the runway and stared at us as we entered the processing center. The animals rule the Galapagos Islands. Humans are instructed to leave them alone and to retreat the moment any animal reacts, so that they never become frightened of humans and allow us to observe them as if we are not present.

Left, sea lions are splayed on the dock at which we enter our small dinghy, or panga, for our ride out to the ship. You can see how they showed no fear of us.

Below is the view of the harbor in Baltra from our ship, the M/V Santa Cruz, and below right is taken from the ship looking at an illegal fishing boat that is being towed. Cruises and fishing is heavily regulated in the Galapagos. Any visitor must be part of a tour.

Below left, Jo Ann, wearing the white shirt, is my cabin- mate. She is sitting on the jacuzzi steps with Sue who, had it not been for some cancellations, would have been my other roommate. However, Jo Ann and I shared a three-person cabin, and so did Sue (with someone else).


I had had only one short conversation with Richard Dawkins, but I had brought some books to be signed with me, and I was looking forward to his lectures.

To be continued…


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