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Galapagos Islands 2018

July 12, 2018
Nine students from Hawaii, Ohio, Georgia, Rhode Island and Florida joined together at Miami airport for a long day of hanging out, food buying and card playing. We arrived around midnight due to lightning storm delays on the Miami tarmac.  A private bus with fancy blue lights took us the 10 minutes to our hotel where we split into rooms of 2, 3 and 5.

July 13, 2018
We woke up to blue skies, a bright green expansive lawn that connected our various hotel rooms, and a background of rolling green hills that set the tone for a day of a myriad of shades of greens and varying elevations.

After our two course breakfast and the first of many fruit juices, we took the same bus up and up and up into the absurd. Our country director Pete explained the micro climates that we passed through as we left the sunny dry  Pacific side and entered the Amazon basin during rainy season. Upon arriving at our destination, we took a nature walk (that felt like a hike because we were at 10,000 ft!) which winded through a cloud forest. We’d stop along the way as Pete explained aspects of flora and fauna in this environment. We followed this with a visit and bathing in the natural thermal pools of Papallacta, which was very welcome after 45 degree wet winds! It stayed overcast and gray and rainy until our return to our hotel on the other side of the Andes. I almost forgot to mention, we had an awesome lunch of nearby farmed trout, or chicken, beans, fries and again, juice, but this one was way better, it has blackberries and some local fruit we don’t know.

We then returned to the hotel, we  met Snow, Soph, Kurt and our new leader Katie who had  just arrived from a nearly  sleepless night in Peru since their flight has been cancelled and then re-scheduled. They were troopers and greeted is with warm smiles. We played icebreakers and frisbee and hung out for a while. We ended the day with dinner and a 70 minute presentation by Pete on the geography, geology, biodiversity and appropriate travel behaviors regarding the Galápagos Islands!
Good night!

July 14, 2018
We had an early start to our day, waking up at 4am to drive to the airport. Once we checked our bags and went through security, we had a quick coffee stop to energize us and we boarded our plane. We arrived in Baltra after a 3 hour flight and took a small boat across the channel to Santa Cruz. On the boat ride we saw pelicans, crabs, fish, and cormorants. We drove on a bus to a small fishing town and went to a local restaurant to eat our choice of fish or chicken. We purchased some natural ice cream made in Ecuador and enjoyed it while walking the streets. We then got to walk around and see tourist shops and look at wildlife. A highlight of being in that town was seeing a fisherman skinning fish and a sea lion waiting to eat the scraps.

After our excursion we got on a bus to travel to Cerro Mesa, an ecological reserve where we will be sleeping in tents for the next two nights. On the bus ride, we noticed a change in microclimates from dessert like terrain to a tropical forest, and then to a more mountainous area. At Cerro Mesa, we hung out and played card games and frisbee for a few hours before enjoying a delicious chicken, rice, and plantain dinner with a tres leche cake as dessert. We also made and signed a “group contract” to respect each other, the area, and the people around us. We are looking forward to our service work tomorrow and we are enjoying every minute of this trip.
Off to our bonfire!
Martha and Victoria

July 15, 2018
Hola! Today, we woke up at 7:15 to eat a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, and fresh orange juice.  Then we took a bus to a local patio restaurant where we watched the suspenseful final match of the world cup. We snacked on papas fritas (french fries) and the South American soda Inca cola. After seeing France take the win, we headed back to the camp site to take a nature walk to the vista point to see a breathtaking view. All the hiking and exploring had us hungry for our lunch of fish in coconut sauce with vegetable salad. We then started our service work! While walking to the site of our first service project, we encountered many native Galapagos tortoises. We arrived at El Collapso which is a collapsed volcano. Here, we did trail maintenance such as clearing big rocks and pulling weeds. After finishing our first project, we focused on reforestation. We followed a trail in the camp’s natural reserve to plant tree saplings that would eventually return the forest to its natural state of beauty. After finishing this hard job, we enjoyed a dinner of caprese salad and spaghetti and meatballs. We had free time for the rest of the night!
-Claire and Snow 🙂

July 16, 2018
Today we started off the day with a nice egg and toast breakfast. We packed up our bags and said our goodbyes to CerraMesa and headed down to the docks where we would starts our new adventure on a different island called Isla Isabella, where we will be spending 4 nights of our Galapagos Journey.

On the hour and a half boat ride to the next island we were all rocked to sleep by the ocean bumps hitting against our speeding boat. Once arrived to Isabella, we headed to our hostel, La Jungla, where we settled in and explored our new beach front view. After we ate a nice hearty lunch a few minutes down the road, we got fitted for our proper snorkel gear which included fins, a mask, and a wetsuit. We caught our bus down to the docks where we met our new snorkel instructor, Fernando.

On the pathway down to the snorkel spot we encountered many of our sea lion friends napping under the shaded mangroves. Everyone suited up and squeezed into their wetsuits and snorkeling gear and hopped into the water. In the underwater world we saw many different marine life species such as fish, puffer fish, sharks, and sea lions. The sea lions had even come up to us and swam along with us showing their acrobatic water skills. After snorkeling, we had some down time back and the hostel where some napped, showered, and hung out at the snack shack down on the beach. Once it was dinner time we sat down and enjoyed fresh grilled shrimp, chicken and a delicious fresh squeezed fruit juice. Everyone stopped for snacks and headed back to our rooms where we all settled in for bed.
¡Buenos Noches!
Kira And Kurt

July 17, 2018
We started our day with a delicious egg and toast breakfast, with bananas and kiwi on the side. Then, at 8:15, we boarded a bus headed to the nearby docks, and took a small boat to Tintoreros island, spotting many blue-footed boobies and penguins on the way. We went on a tour of the island with Sandra, learning about the life of the marine iguanas that live on the island. After seeing a baby sea lion on the beach, and taking multiple pictures near it, we finally took the boat over to the snorkeling spot where we spent the rest of our morning seeing the marine life around the island. We saw multiple sea turtles, some of which popped their heads out of the water to greet us, as well as many sea urchins we had to avoid! Once we finished our snorkeling adventure, we sailed back to Isabela Island, and got a choice of beef, chicken, or pasta for lunch, with fresh fruit available after we finished eating.

Once we finished our lunch, we began following a path to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center nearby. On the path, we saw many bright pink flamingos in two lagoons, all of which were busy eating as much shrimp as they could catch. We then learned about the Poison Apple Trees, which leave anyone who touches their sap with large, painful blisters! While their fruits are toxic to people, they remain a great source of food for the Giant Tortoises that live on the island. After that, we finally made it to the end of the path, and to the Tortoise Breeding Center, where we got to see hundreds of tortoises in fairly large pens, and Sandra showed us the different stages of them becoming full grown tortoises.
We returned home, had lots of free time which included going to the cafe by the beach where we hung out in hammocks and chatted. Some of us went down to the beach to climb on the rocks and view the iguanas and red crabs and pelicans. We had dinner, good yet again, and almost killed each other over the desert.

We ended the night with a charades based games with 36 words and terms based on our trip so far. And here we are spending way too long on this blog. Brennan typing slowly with one hand and Austin insisting he can’t write. Buenas noches.
Written by Brennan and a little bit Austin, finished by trip leader, Jake (who miscounted the points in the charades game thus yielding no winner.

July 18, 2018
Today we started our day bright and early at 7:30, and headed out for what we were told was going to be a beach walk. It was a hot and sunny day, and the trail was filled with tortoises and iguanas. After 3 miles we reached the wall of tears, a historic site constructed by prisoners who were tasked with building it up rock by rock, and then tearing it down again. When we reached the scenic view of the entire island from the top of the mountain, the group realized this was no beach walk. In fact we were nowhere near the beach, but we could still hear the waves crashing while looking over the bright blue ocean. After a delicious lunch, the extremely exhausted group was overjoyed to spend the afternoon at the beach. We played in the water, swung in hammocks and sipped virgin daiquiris at the sea side. We were content to chill after our 7 mile beach walk-turned-hike. We then went to get an incredible dinner and came back to settle in to a well deserved sleep.
– Love, Ursula and Soph

July 19, 2018

At the prime time of 6:45, we woke up to the sound of rain falling on the roof. We ate a scrumptious breakfast that consisted of grilled cheese and egg.  (yummy!) After breakfast, we gathered our snorkeling gear and ventured off to the lava tunnels on a 45 minute bumpy boat ride. We disembarked and walked around the land. We spotted many blue footed boobies, and learned that the baby boobies do not get their foot color or feather until they start fishing for sardines.

After seeing sea turtles and boobies we got back on the boat and put on our snorkeling gear. In two separate groups, we swam around and through lava tunnels to see white and black tip reef sharks, yellow and Black Sea turtles, golden rays, eagle rays, marble rays, a variety of little fishies, and eels! We hopped back on the boat and enjoyed a snack of sandwiches, burning hot tea, and pineapple. (delicioso!) When we arrived back on Isabella Island, we went to lunch and devoured spaghetti and meat balls or if fellas were feeling adventurous they would scrumptiously scrump down some chicken cake. Our afternoon at La Jungla, our hostel, consisted of free time which most spent doing things like going to the beach, playing volleyball and soccer with local teenagers, or spent time playing various activities near the water. After watching the golden sunset, we headed to supper and consumed our choice of grilled shrimp, fried shrimp, or a hamburger. (Wowza:)) We are headed off to bed to get a good rest for our travel day to Santa Cruz tomorrow. Toodles!!!!????
Martha & Victoria

July 20, 2018

Seven a.m, the brink of dawn, came upon us quicker than expected. Gloomy, gray clouds spread across the sky as half the group prepared for the actual, as promised, beach walk. One half of the group decided to get an early start on this beloved beach walk while the other half stayed tucked in their beds. The beach walk consisted of squishy, washed up jellyfish, waves sliding up and tickling our toes, and colorful song birds. After the beach walk, and after waking everyone else up, we all had a hearty breakfast. We had crunchy apples, juicy kiwi, and fried, cheesy potato pancakes. At 9:10, Alexs’ best friend Marcito (our friendly driver) pulled up in his van and drove us to the pier. Two lovely baggage checkers checked each of our bags, pulled out our shoes, and checked for seeds and shells. After making sure no one was smuggling away island property, we all headed to the sunny, sea lion covered pier. At the pier we got into a single file line and got into the boat. As we slowly drifted away from the beautiful dock of Isabella we are sent off by passing sea lions and blue footed boobies getting their early catch. Dramamine easing our stomachs, we all drifted off to the sounds and rocking of the waves. We finally arrived after a two hour bumpy boat ride to Santa Cruz Island. After checking into the hotel we all took a well deserved hour nap and went to lunch. Lunch was delicious! We started off with delicious vegetable soup, the main course was either chicken or fish, and the best part was the chocolate cake for dessert. After lunch our outstanding tour guide, Sandra showed us to the Darwin Center. Where we learned a great deal about a special type of saddle back tortoise named George and how he was the last of his kind on Pinta Island. We also came across a yellow iguana and we learned how it’s nostrils have a special sack that collects salts from the ocean or foods and manages to separate it from its oxygen. After seeing all the amazing animals, we went to the gift shop and bought tee shirts and baseball caps; the money was donated to turtle research. Since dinner was at 8:30, we all separated into groups and went souvenir shopping for our friends and families. To end a fantastic day, we had dinner at a fancier restaurant and immediately went to sleep.
Rachel and Alex

July 21, 2018

‘Tis the last day in Ecuador. After taking a bus and our final bit ride, we are now taxying towards the runway  on Baltra island; destination: Quito. This evening we’ll have the opportunity to go into historic Quito for a final dinner as a group.
Since there is less to blog about today, we’re asking each of our GW travelers to write a final thought about their trip. A fond memory, a highlight or a shout out.

Kurt- I can’t believe it’s over. Leaving such a beautiful place. I can believe I had the chance to swim with sea lions penguins sharks and all kinds of crazy aquatic life. I learned so much and am so grateful that I got to not only learn but experience the things I was learning about.
Ursula- This was an absolutely incredible experience for me. I learned so much, and saw thing most people never have the opportunity to see. We swam with sea turtles, penguins and sharks, and saw sea lions in every direction we looked. We met so many amazing people, and i know that I will never forget this trip
Soph- I loved having the opportunity to see hundreds of wild animals in their natural habitat; it’s certainly not everyday that a sea lion walks past you on the side walk:). This trip has given me a better appreciation for wildlife, and I will forever be grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. A moment that stood out to me was snorkeling in the lava caves and getting to swim just centimeters away from a pack of giant sea turtles alongside a group of amazing friends.
Kira- Traveling to the Galapagos is a once in a life time experience that not many people get to have and being able to come with such amazing people and see all these exotic animals is memorable. Seeing all these different animals such as Sea lions, Iguanas, Tortoises, Blue Footed Boobies, and so many more, is eye opening to me because it’s not everyday you get to see these animals in their natural habitat and you start to realize that we need to do more to help the environment. One moment that really stood out to me was when we were snorkeling and we saw all the huge sea turtles sleeping and every time you’d turn your head there would be a one swimming up right next to you! I am so glad I got to spend the past 10 days with such an amazing group of people, in such an amazing place.
Alex-  This whole trip has truly been amazing and immersive experience. I went from a big city to small volcanic islands. The change in scenery was definitely jaw dropping and the local foods were such a great change in pace from eating fast foods. Especially the desserts that we  shared together as a group were outstanding. I will truly miss the jaw dropping sea life, snorkeling with sea turtles, sting rays, and the reef sharks. I will most definitely miss waking up to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach and the cool breeze that hit me bright and early in the morning.
Austin- This was truly a spectacular experience for me and I’m sure the memories I’ve made on this trip will stick with me throughout my life. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to travel to such an exotic place on this planet and this experience has really opened my eyes to help me better understand how people in other parts of our world really live. For me, seeing animals such as sea lions, tortoises, and blue footed boobies out in the wild was really incredible and unlike any place I’ve ever visited. This was truly the trip of a life time and I’m glad I got to share it with my newly made friends.
Snow- even though we had a limited time visiting the Galápagos Islands, i was able to experience things some people never do. For that I am extremely lucky and grateful. This trip has given me another point of view, appreciation, and interest of traveling the world. The people with me have been encouraging and we’ve made so many memories and long lasting connections.
Martha-This experience has been so meaningful to me. The people I’ve met, places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen and learned, it has all been incredible. I have never been in an environment this pure, and it has been so cool seeing all of the animals interact with each other and with us. I will take away so much from this trip by just making sure to turn off my lights when I leave my room, by being of less harm to animals, and by interacting with locals when I travel and realizing what a difference that makes to everybody. I am very grateful for this experience that I will never forget.
Victoria-I am grateful for getting to tour such a biodiverse land. While getting to learn about the endemic and native species, what meant most to me is getting to meet and travel with such amazing people. We all were able to do a once in a lifetime experience with such crazy and fun people. This trip will always stick with me, and I hope to see the people I met on this trip in the near future.
Brennan-I cannot believe that I was able to visit such a beautiful group of islands in my lifetime, especially at just 16! I am so grateful for the opportunity I got, and all of the amazing plants, animals, and people I got to see during this trip! I loved seeing sea lions and iguanas everywhere we went, as well as the different and unique way people live on the Galapagos. I will never forget this incredible trip that I was able to go on, not the people I was able to meet!
Rachel- This trip made me extremely grateful for my living conditions now. It made me appreciate everything I’m blessed with and introduced me to a passion for conservation of nature.
Claire- I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to come to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. It was an amazing experience to snorkel in the lava tunnels and see so many exotic animals such as sea lions, sharks, tortoises, rays and all of the colorful fish. I have learned so much about the flora and fauna of the island and how much what I do impacts the environment. I am so glad I got to share this once in a lifetime experience with so many great people and make so many new memories.