In Ecuador when you are walking down the sidewalk at night and you see something on the sidewalk up ahead there is about a 50/50 chance it is a stray dog. However, in the Galapagos when you see a figure on the sidewalk at night there is a good chance that it is a sea lion just relaxing wherever it pleases. Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands with other students in my study abroad program. Although I would have loved to stay longer it was a wonderful five days on islands where iguanas, sea lions, blue footed boobies, and sharks are the normal animals to see on any given day out and about.
I had the opportunity to participate in a lot of phenomenal experiences including viewing pristine beaches, climbing a lighthouse, and visiting tortoise breeding areas. However, my favorite activity of the week was snorkeling. We spent the majority of our first two days on boats hopping between different snorkeling sites. I loved the feeling of becoming a part of the underwater life that you get when you don’t have to come up for air every few seconds. Floating alongside hundred year old sea turtles that glide through the water effortlessly truly felt like a scene from finding Nemo. At Kicker Rock and other snorkeling sites we were surrounded by sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, schools of fish, octopus, and other amazing tropical species. Most of the sharks that we saw were either black tipped sharks or another common smaller shark species in the Galapagos; however at one point (for a split second) I did see a hammerhead shark that was about 6 feet long (which is a total estimate, but it was big).
I also had the opportunity to learn a little bit about the history of the islands. The Galapagos were once used as a prison camp where the worst prisoners were sent. For a long period of time the islands were not taken care of and the natural resources and beauty of the islands were greatly depleted due to human activity. However, today there is a large effort to maintain the pristine condition of the islands and care for the many species that are endemic (only exist on the islands) to the Galapagos. It was interesting to learn of the history of the mistreatment and ultimate conservation of the islands. Having the opportunity to see so many different animal species in a natural setting reminded me that one of the reasons I am studying environmental science is to ensure that places like the Galapagos can be preserved for future generations.
It was such neat experience to go to the place often referred to as the Enchanted Islands and is the number one on thing to do in many travel books on Ecuador.
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<p>I am a junior Environmental Science Major with a Peace and Justice Concentration and Spanish minor at Villanova University. I love backpacking, traveling and new adventures. I am so excited to be spending the semester in Quito, Ecuador and I hope that these posts will help you experience the culture and beauty of life in South America through my eyes.</p>