This morning, we see more evolution-in-action at the Galapagos Interpretation Centre, a short drive from our landing site on San Cristobal, the fifth largest and most easterly of the Galapagos Islands and one of four visited by Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle in 1835.
An interactive display on the islands' Darwin Finches shows how cleverly the bird's beaks are adapted -- some like pincers, others like scissors or tweezers -- to facilitate feeding, nest building and other necessities of avian life.
Darwin's observation of these birds -- and the Galapagos mocking bird -- provided the major inspiration for his "Origin of Species," published 24 years after his five-week Galapagos sojourn.
The Interpretation Centre offers equally valuable insights into the Islands' human inhabitants. We see how the Ecuadorian Indians who were the islands' first visitors managed to get there -- on flimsy rafts lashed together from balsa wood. And we hear the sad story of the giant Galapagos tortoises, who were hunted to near-extinction by whalers and buccaneers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We round off an enjoyable morning ashore with a stroll along the cobbled waterfront of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the small administrative centre of the Galapagos, which offers a few shops and some pretty sea views, but not much else. Then we head back to the ship for a barbecue lunch at the Beagle Grill -- our Zodiac ride is enlivened by the sight of three sea lions basking like bathing belles in a small fishing boat.
Our afternoon tour to Espanola Island proves the most testing but also the most memorable of the cruise. Scrambling over more sleeping sea lions lying across the steep black rocks, we walk within inches of nesting boobies and see albatrosses performing their mating dances just feet away. Oblivious to our presence, these beautiful brown, white and cafe creme-coloured birds clash their yellow beaks and sway from side to side, heads describing graceful arcs and slender necks interlocking as they absorb themselves in their mates.
It's the kind of scene you watch on wildlife films, imagining a cameraman crouching patiently for hours to capture; yet here, in this magical place, it's happening right before our eyes.
And there's more to come. Before dinner, over drinks in the ship's Discovery lounge, our chief naturalist Jason, a cheerful American-turned-Ecuadorian, talks us through what we'll be doing tomorrow when we visit the Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz Island.