Jeff Frazier

Jeff Frazier

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Folk - Alternative | Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador
Total Song Plays: 5,943   
Member Since: 2003
   Last Login: over 30 days ago

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Jeff composing at Casa Rosada

Darwin's delight
Ben Westwood

Last Updated: September 02. 2010

La Casa Rosada on Isabela island is a beachside hotel run by the human rights activist Jeff Frazier. Ben Westwood for The National

I seem to have gate-crashed a family party. Mum and dad are hugging and getting a little over-excited, rolling around and biting each other's ears. The two young ones are playing about, rushing towards me then veering off to the side at the last moment. Each time I think they're bound to hit me, but they seem to know what they're doing. This is no ordinary family, though: these are Galapagos sea lions and I'm snorkelling with them.

I've only been a day in the Galapagos and already I'm daydreaming about giving it all up and joining a sea lion colony. After all, it's not a bad life, lounging around on rocks, swimming with the pups and catching fish.

The sea lions' welcoming attitude to my presence is exactly what makes a trip to the Galapagos so incredible. While most animals in the wild are scared or at best suspicious of humans, the reaction on the Galapagos ranges from curiosity to playfulness, the legacy of no natural predators on the islands (aside from the Galapagos hawk for trivia buffs). I decided quickly that the sea lions were my particular favourite and took every opportunity I could over the next week to swim with them.

Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution after travelling to the Galápagos in the 1830s, and the wildlife of these islands has changed the way we humans view ourselves. Visitors could be forgiven for wishing humans had evolved with eyes in the back of our heads, such is the array of wildlife - there are some 50 endemic species of birds, reptiles and mammals. From giant tortoises to marine iguanas, sea lions to sharks and blue-footed boobies to magnificent frigatebirds, it's hard to know which way to turn on these unworldly volcanic islands, about 960 kilometres west of the Ecuadorian coast.

The best excursion is Sierra Negra, on the most beautiful of the islands Isabela, the second largest crater in the world after Tanzania's Ngora-Ngora. The trek to the sulphur mines takes seven hours in total. As I found myself soaked to the skin by rain, my boots deep in mud, I wondered if it was worth it. However, the effort was soon rewarded with spectacular views of the crater followed by a descent into the yellow hills of the sulphur mines, which spew out pungent fumes. On the way back we encountered a tiny illegal immigrant: a field mouse. It was clearly well adjusted to the island attitude, as it sat on the path completely unconcerned by the group of hikers and started climbing over our boots. Even the mice on the Galapagos are friendly, the guide joked.

After my long hike, I headed back to the port, in dire need of a cold drink. I knew exactly where to go: La Casa Rosada. This beachside hotel is owned by the American Jeff Frazier and, if there were a competition for the coolest man in the world, Jeff would surely make the shortlist. A lawyer who has fought for the rights of indigenous people in the Ecuadorian jungle, he lives on Isabela with his incredible wife Clauida and their 4 children, triplet boys (14) Eli Napoleon, Jake Jeronomio and Axel Hodari ,as well as a daugther Isla Belle dividing his time between running his hotel, recording albums with his band The Iguanamen of Galapagos and taking on the odd legal case.

"I have a colony of iguanas on my porch and 4,000 miles of ocean in front of me all the way to French Polynesia ," he muses. Jeff is considering opening a recording studio on the Galapagos and is looking for partners to invest. As I sit on the beach strumming a guitar, the idea of staying here for the rest of my life, making music and snorkelling with sea lions, sound very tempting.