Hola a todos!
This past week was a vacation period for USFQ. During this break, I was able to go on the most amazing trip— a 5 day adventure to the Galapagos Islands. Considering the islands are warm, sunny, surrounded by the most beautiful ocean, and enveloped in rich biological history and diversity, I knew that this opportunity would be well worth the money. Plus, I got to share this experience with some of my closest friends Carolina and Elissa.
We started our trip on Thursday morning bright and early at 5am. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately our flight got delayed 2 hours, so we had to kill some time. Eventually we made it to the airport on Baltra Island. A short canal ride later, we made it to Santa Cruz Island.
From there, a group of 5 of us shared a taxi and took a tour on our way to Puerto Ayora where our hotel was located. We first went to Los Gemelos, which are two sink holes that formed due to all the lava activity on the island. Then we went to a ranch that had two sights. The first was a series of tunnel formations carved from lava. The second was a reserve where giant tortoises roam. We were able to walk on this reserve and get 10 feet away from this amazing creatures. Afterwards, we checked into our hotel, walked around town, and went to dinner. For dinner, I got the most fresh fish ceviche, and of course we had ice cream for dessert. At night we walked around the dock and saw some sea lions, crabs, sharks, and puffer fish.
On Friday, we first visited the Charles Darwin Research Station. We a got tour of the grounds, learned a little bit about Darwin and his work, and mostly saw their conservation work for the giant tortoises. At the research center, they take fertilized tortoise eggs, incubate them, hatch them, and them raise the tortoises until they are three years old. At that point, they return the tortoises to their birth location. The coolest thing I learned was that the scientists at the station where able to bring back a species of tortoise that was extinct through a process of DNA purification and then selective breeding of tortoises that shared a very high percentage of the DNA with the species they were trying to revive. Since I’m not a geneticist, I do not understand the specifics of this, but I think it’s absolutely amazing.
Afterwards, we took a 40 minute hike to Tortuga Bay—the most stunning beach with fine white sand, aqua blue water, and some fun creatures like the marine iguana and the sea lion.
Side note: sea lions are now one of my favorite animals. They are sooo hilarious. They will show off for you in the water, sleep on benches like they own the island, etc. They have such a free-spirited personality. It’s adorable (that is when the alpha males aren’t fighting over territory. Yes, I did witness this too).
After swimming and relaxing by the beach, we grabbed empanadas and went to Las Grietas. To describe it, imagine a canyon with a canal of pristine blue water running through the middle. We were able to swim in this beautiful, freezing cold water. It was breathtaking. A dinner of pizza and ice cream was well deserved, because I think we walked over 13 miles by the end of the day.
On Saturday, we got on a boat at 7am to ride to San Cristóbal island. Boy oh boy was this a choppy ride. During this three hour ride, people were sick, puking, and in general counting down the minutes until the torture was over. Meanwhile, I was reading, writing this blog, and then listening to music. However, by the end of the trip, I was very ready to get off that boat. After we made it to the island, we we to la Lobería y las Tijeretas to snorkel. During each snorkel, we saw amazing wildlife like sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, sting rays, and the famous blue-footed boobies. I am amazed by all of the wildlife that coexist together here. It truly is amazing to see these unique ecosystems.
Sunday we took an all day 360 degree boat tour of San Cristóbal. We alternated between periods of pleasant boating, hiking, and snorkeling. We tried fishing, but caught nothing. That is okay though, because I still got delicious fish with rice and cole slaw for lunch. The best part of the day was going to Kicker Rock, this huge rock formation in the middle of the ocean. We were able to snorkel around this rock, and on our journey we saw sea lions playing in the water, sea turtles, and SHARKS!! Don’t worry, these were either Galapagos sharks or black tipped sharks, nothing that would eat us. This was my favorite day by far because I got to see so many animals, eat lots of food on the boat (they had yummy snacks too), and even nap now and again.
As you can tell, this was an exhausting trip. Most days I was up by 5:30am and we were doing activities all day until sunset. I think it was well worth it, though. We had limited time and budgets, so we had to see as much as possible in a very short time. Even though our time was short, being in the Galapagos reminded me of how lucky we are to be on this earth surrounded by all of this amazing creation. There is a tremendous amount of diversity here, and I can’t believe I got the opportunity to witness it, especially with how quickly this planet is changing. Who knows, in 20 or 50 years, the Galapagos could look vastly different than it does now.
It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to the warm weather, pristine beaches, and playful sea lions on Monday. Five of us managed to sit in first class all the way home, so that was an unexpected plus that made going back to Quito feel a little better. I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos, especially due to all of the new friendships that I made with the students who came with us. This trip has been my favorite part of being in Ecuador thus far, and I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life.