Island Hopping for Fall Break

Jennifer Bass
November 10, 2019
View through a cactus of Los Tuneles

While the leaves are beginning to change color and brisk temperatures emerge at my home university, it has started to get warmer and rainier in San Cristóbal. Luckily, a week-long Fall Break arrived alongside the warmer temperatures and provided a wonderful opportunity to experience the other three human-inhabited islands in the Galápagos.

After finishing our third module class, all of the students enrolled with IES Abroad prepared for a four-day long island hopping trip to Islas Floreana, Isabela, and Santa Cruz. Knowing that boat rides can be a bit rough, I happily found a seat on the second floor of the boat ready for the ocean breeze and beautiful views. But, right before departing I watched the captain put on a wetsuit and a waterproof outer layer. Everyone on the second floor glanced nervously at the captain, quizzically at one another, and settled in for the ride assuming he was simply overprepared. Sure enough, the next two and a half hours were filled with large crashing waves coming over the boat, drenching every inch of the second floor. While we were incredibly cold and slightly seasick, we found moments of laughter in wearing snorkel masks to see through the collisions of waves and dancing to music from circa 2008.

Finally, after what felt like forever, we slowly made our way off the boat, happy to find dry land. Teeth chattering, we sprawled out in the sun like lava lizards, absorbing the rejuvenating and warm solar energy. Thankfully, a few minutes of sun made the tumultuous ride a funny memory, and we were ready to explore Floreana, an island known for its mysterious history. We walked through the highlands of Floreana and saw several Galapagos tortoises, the source of fresh water for the island, and the caves where some of the first colonizers lived in El Asilo de la Paz. After a delicious lunch, and some time on the black sand beach, it was time to get back on the boat to head to Isla Isabela.

Juvenile Galapagos Tortoise on Isla Floreana.

Isla Isabela is one of my favorite islands. It is one of the largest islands but has a smaller population than San Cristobal. After a restful night, we awoke early and headed to Sierra Negra, a large shield volcano on Isabela. The day was absolutely perfect, and we watched as the clouds quickly faded out of the crater, almost forming a wall along the edge. As we walked we shared stories, laughed, and picked and munched on guayaba, a delicious fruit that is invasive to the islands. Later in the day, we had time to individually explore the island and had the opportunity to see flamingos, iguanas, and giant tortoises.

Sierra Negra volcano on a sunny day on Isla Isabela.

One of my absolute favorite parts of island hopping during Fall Break was snorkeling in Los Tuneles de Cabo Rosa, near Isabela. As we approached the tunnels, I was absolutely speechless. The combination of cacti, lava, and the ocean is so unique, unexpected, and breathtaking. We had the opportunity to walk around and observe Blue-footed boobies, several species of fish, and the overall environment before heading back to the boat to put on snorkel gear. While snorkeling we saw seahorses, sea turtles, various species of fish, and several sharks! One of my absolute favorite experiences was swimming through the underwater tunnels and cave areas - a few of which had sharks sleeping in them!

Los Tuneles near Isabela with several cacti, and a layer of hardened lava above the ocean.

After one final boat ride, we arrived on Santa Cruz, the island with the largest population. Seeing so many people and a large grocery store was a complete shock! With IES Abroad, we visited the Charles Darwin Station and the Santa Cruz highlands where there are lava tunnels and lots of giant tortoises. Following the organized island hopping trip, I stayed on Santa Cruz with a few of my classmates for a few more days and had the opportunity to visit Tortuga Bay, Las Grietas, more lava tunnels, and to get to know the town a bit more. Tortuga Bay is a beautiful and large beach about forty-five minutes from town. The bay area is perfect for swimming, relaxing, and a wonderful place to see sharks resting in the mangroves. Las Grietas was also stunning, and we had so much fun swimming in the crevices, diving through the tunnels, and jumping off rocks into the water.

At the end of the week, I felt ready to come back to San Cristóbal, the island of sea lions, the university, and my current home. It is interesting to observe how each of the Galápagos islands is incredibly unique in flora and fauna and in human population. Each island has an individual and charming personality, and I am so grateful to have experienced a little bit of each personality. I cannot wait to continue getting to know this beautiful archipelago and to the next two months!

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Jennifer Bass

<p>I am a music and environmental studies: policy, culture, society student at Pacific University. In my spare time I enjoy playing violin, hiking, tap dancing, reading, and exploring this wonderful planet as much as possible! I am also passionate about sustainability, social justice, traveling, and old movies or I Love Lucy reruns.</p>

Home University:
Pacific University
Tempe, AZ
Environmental Studies
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