I’ve dreamed about visiting the Galapagos Islands since I first learned about the animals there in my 4th grade Spanish class. I’ve learned so much about them through high school and college classes, books, and videos. Last week, my wish came true and I got to spend a very short 8 days in the Galapagos. Now, if you’re unlike me and have not taken many biology classes, the Galapagos are a set of 20 islands about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are very famous since after he visited them, Charles Darwin created his theory of natural selection which was instrumental in developing the current beliefs about evolution.
During my trip to the Galapagos, my group was split into 2 smaller groups (due to Galapagos National Park regulations) and half the time was spend on a sailboat and the other half was spent on the island of Santa Cruz. My group spend the first half of the time on the sailboat, the Nemo III. We would sail during the night and wake up at a different island to explore each day. We visited the islands of Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Santiago, and Bartolome. At each place we snorkeled and hiked. Over the course of the first few days, I saw sea lions, blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies (I had no idea there were so many species!), marine iguanas, terrestrial iguanas, a penguin, a dolphin, flamingos, and lots of different species of finches. I snorkeled with 3 different species of sharks (hammerheads, white-tip, and black-tip), 3 different species of rays (spotted eagle, diamond, and golden cownose), a sea turtle, and more species of fish than I can count. It was absolutely incredible! Each island was completely different. Some were dry and covered in cacti, some had lava for as far as you could see, and others had lush green forest. My favorite part about being on the boat was seeing a different sunrise and sunset every day. The stars at night were also incredible since we were further from light pollution than I have ever been in my life. Unfortunately, I got very seasick while on the boat, so I was glad when my group switched and got to spend time on the island.
During our few days on land, I saw many different giant tortoises, more sea lions, and many more birds. I learned all about the different habitats in the island and the human impacts that the people living there and the tourists have on the future of the Galapagos. I got to spend time on 3 different beaches with the clearest water and whitest sand I have ever seen. We took a day trip to San Cristobal Island where I snorkeled with sea lions (one even touched me!!!) and more sharks. I was extremely sad when I had to leave. It felt like I saw so much during the trip but so little at the same time. I will definitely have to return one day to explore more of the islands.
Tomorrow I have my final exams and then on Friday I leave for my independent study project. I will be returning to the Amazon for a month to study water quality and the health effects in the indigenous communities then write a 20 page research paper in Spanish. While I know I still have a month left in Ecuador, it seems like it’s almost the end. My time here is flying by. I took a ton of pictures in the Galapagos and below are the ones I think are the best. The animals there are not scared of people, so they are very easy to photograph!