Over the last 20 years, more than one million visitors have set foot on some of the 60 islands and islets that compose the Galápagos Archipelagoincluding West Coast Editor and photographer Steve Casimiro and Contributing Editor David Quammen this past June. Whereas in most places heavy foot traffic can result in trampled, trashed backcountry, here much of the island terrain appears virtually as it did back in 1835, when evolutionary theory's granddaddy, Charles Darwin, first began brewing an idea that would forever change the way humankind views its world.
But a modern-day excursion to the Galápagos is not a carefree trounce through the island wilderness as back in the days of Darwin. In fact, as Quammen says in Return to Zootopia
, thanks to the rules and restrictions enforced by Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, "it's more like a VIP backstage tour at the world's most remarkable open-air zoo." For Casimiro, who photographed their trip, getting to snorkel, hike, and hang out with the archipelago's famously congenial creatures was far better than a visit to even the best zoo. Body-surfing sea lions, hitchhiking giant tortoises, and a profusion of goofy, trail-nesting boobies are fascinating, camera-ready subjects for a photographer. "I spent 30 minutes crouched on sharp lava watching a pile-up of marine iguanas," says Casimiro. "I never got tired of watching themthey're like living dinosaurs."