All students are on their way home after an amazing program!
For our last morning in the Galapagos, we went into town to do some shopping before walking to the San Cristobal airport and returning to Quito. While waiting for the shops to open we did our group activity, charades, at the harbour. The locals were very entertained with our antics. Then we meandered through town visiting the souvenir shops and cafés. After stocking up on snacks for the plane, we set off for the airport. We said our heartbreaking goodbye to Fabricio, one of our fabulous guides, and then we were off to Quito.
We spent 4 nights and 3 days on San Cristobal Island, spending our mornings doing service work and the afternoons exploring the beaches and town of the island. On Saturday we spent the morning cutting down invasive blackberry bushes on a mountain side and then the afternoon snorkeling with sea lions, sea turtles, and other Galapagos sea creatures. We wrapped up our day with some free time around the town and a delicious dinner back at the hotel. We woke up the next morning to head back to the same work site where we continued to cut a few more invasive bushes and then planted our own endemic Galapagos plants to restore the natural habitat.
We spent the afternoon at a beautiful beach filled with more sea lions and played a game of pictionary in the sand. The water was a little chilly and the sun wasn’t fully out so only Alex and Honour went snorkeling but they said they saw sea turtles, baby sea lions, and colorful fish that were spectacular. Our last day on San Cristobal was spent at a new work site where we cut down dying banana trees to make room for the living ones. We then went to a new beach where we all gathered with the host family from the hostel for a BBQ. This beach was also covered with sea lions just like all the others along with other Galapagos animals. The water was warmer at this beach so many of us spent a lot of time in the water playing around in the waves. We the returned to the hostel to pack our stuff and prepare to leave for our flight the next morning back to Quito. We sadly had to leave two of our guides at this point, Wilson and Fabricio, but Hakan returned to Quito with us. Overall San Cristobal was an amazing island to explore together.
-Danielle and Mark
Greetings from the Galapagos!!
We have made it to San Cristobal island yesterday evening after a rough boat ride on some rocky seas! We stopped at Floreana Island along the way and saw the caves where the first settlers lived in the Galapagos. From Floreana, we departed on our second boat ride and arrived in Cristobal just in time for the sunset. We had some ice cream in town and then headed up to our lodge. We had a lovely dinner made by the family we stay with and then everyone headed to bed early.
This morning we went to our work site where we cleared out the invasive species of blackberries and guava. Tomorrow we will go back to black endemic species to try and restore the area to its natural habitat. This afternoon we went snorkeling in Las Tijiretas where we saw numerous sea turtles, sea lions, and other creatures. We are currently having some free time to explore the town here in Cristobal.
Look for more pictures of our fabulous trip to come!!
A Full Day!
Yesterday we woke up at the same time for every work day and had breakfast at seven. Once everyone was finished we got all of our things together and head to Campo Duro. Upon arriving we got assigned different jobs. Along with four other students – Mark, Konstantine, Erin, and Lianna – I got assigned to get fire wood. At first none of us were excited to just be walking through the forest searching for dry wood but when the local director for GLA, Hakan, brought out two machetes for us, all of us immediately got excited. So for the next two and a half hours we just spent the time jamming to a variety of music and chopping away at the sticks, trees, and branches. Once we got enough chopped wood and brought it back to the shed we head towards where all the others were.
When we arrived all the others were digging an area for the tortoises to nest. Everything was going smoothly except there was a small tree in the center of the area. So for the next hour we all took turns digging around the bottom of the tree, chopping off branches, and pushing and pulling the tree back and forth trying to get its roots to come out. After many grunts, laughs, and cutting we finally got the tree down. Since we were finished for the day with our work it was time to play some Fútbol (heaven forbid we call it ‘Soccer’ Dan!).
About ten minutes in of intense running, shooting, defending, and falling, I unfortunately managed to hurt my ankle by rolling it back. But automatically Liz and both guides Wilson and Fabricio surrounded me to make sure I was alright and they all helped me get to the side line where Liz and Wilson helped me ice it and elevate. Although I now have a ‘cankle’ and five little marshmallows on my foot, it feels a great deal better then how it did when I first got hurt. Once the last goal was scored, I hopped my way up to the buses and we all made our way back to Sandrita (our hotel) to have lunch and change into our bathing suits for snorkeling and kayaking. After our delicious lunch made by the lovely America we once again loaded up the buses and head to Concha Perla.
Although I did not go snorkeling because I did not want to hurt my ankle even more, I got to take some great pictures of iguanas, sea lions, all the people, the beach, and the ocean. When the first group of snorkelers got back they were all raving about how amazing all the marine life was and I got to see all the pictures and everyone was so excited and amazed by what they saw. Soon after the group of kayakers came back in and we switched.
As soon as we paddled out all we saw everywhere were brightly colored fish, sea lions, a swimming iguana(!), blue and red footed boobies, frigate birds, and even a few Galápagos sharks! It was so amazing to be in middle of all the activity and life. On our way back, our guide set us all up side by side holding on to each other’s oars and we had a race back to the shore! Although I didn’t come in first but in second, it was so much fun to be screaming and laughing at all of us trying desperately to get to the front. But the best part was definitely when Mark and Andrew’s boat flipped over when they were about to win and to stay in first place they pushed their boat the rest of the way!
Before we walked back to the beach near the hotel, we all signed the book at the kayak/snorkeling shop and wrote about how much fun we had. At the beach our group leaders Dan and Dessa led us all in a really fun (and competitor game) on the beach. Once we were finished we all walked (or in my case hobbled) back to Sandrita to get cleaned up for yet another delicious meal. After cleaning up our plates we all headed up stairs for some free time then had our group meetings where we estimated about how much water we used per day, then we walked down stairs and had a relay where we all had to transport a bucket full of water to another bucket using anything but something man made. I think it goes without saying most of the water ended up on the ground but the big leaves made some impact on trying to move the water.
We then all head back upstairs to get split into groups where we had to act out public service announcements regarding water that the general public should know and try to change. After many funny skits and even a shoe going over the side of the balcony, Liz ended the night with a visualization about how we are all connected to water and how all the water is connected. We then wrote down in our journals a place that’s really special to us that is connected to water and that without the water wouldn’t be the same. After everyone looked up from their journals we all got to have our free time until 10:30 and then had to have lights off. So while people split up and either went to explore the town together or went to bed early I spent a little quiet time catching up in writing about the days here thus ending another long and beautiful day in the Galápagos.
Second Day on Isabela
Yesterday was our second day on Isabela island and our fourth day in total. We woke up at seven in the morning for breakfast which consisted of fresh fruit and homemade bread. We proceeded to load into the buses to go to the Eco-center Campo Duro. At the center we learned of the wild and endemic “egg plant.” And started working to clean the tortoise living area of stray branches. While moving the branches we were lucky enough to witness a tortoise mating and get profusely attacked by fire ants. As we continued with the work we also stumbled upon rats. Rats are introduced species and are a danger to the tortoises and eggs so we had to rid the area of their presence. The next half and hour consisted of hunting rats down. Although we only managed to kill one we still helped the tortoises and celebrated with a Futbol (soccer) game where team GoPro took the win. Team GoPro consisted of Andrew, Jessica, Honour, Mark, Erin, Dessa, Alexander, Rebecca, Crystal, Fabricio, and one of the Ecoudorian dads.
After the game we went back to the hostel for lunch and got ready for a tour of the Wall of Tears. The wall is a memorial for the prisoners that died by cruel deaths from the corrupt policemen. After we went to the mangrove forest to walk in the channel leading to the ocean from the forest. The group had a lot of fun pretending to sink in the squishy sand below our feet. After the mangrove fun we headed to the beach for a group activity and played a fun game having to do with misDRAWmmunication. (Drew with our fingers on each others back and the last person to guess the picture drew it on the sand) the ending pictures were pretty hilarious. We concluded with some free time to walk around town, dinner, free time for ice cream, a group meeting to learn more about the Galapagos, and sleep!
-Jessica and Alex
After many hours of brutal traveling, we have arrived safely on Isabela island in the Galapagos! After heading to the airport bright (as bright as it could be at four in the morning!) and early this morning, we flew into the small island of Baltra. We then embarked on a long journey of transport on boat and bus from Baltra to Santa Cruz and then our final destination on Isabela. We had a bit of time to explore the beach on Isabela where we all played a game in two teams acting as baby turtles going through the difficulty of getting to the water after they’re born. After the intense raise of being turtles struggling to get into the water, we all enjoyed some free time in the water. The water was so blue and so perfect everyone spent the entire time laughing and smiling and just soaking up as much of this experience as we can.
After spending time getting washed up we had a delicious dinner all sitting together at one long table. After cleaning off the dishes and making sure to thank our wonderful host’s then enjoying a bit of free time until our nightly group meeting. Before meeting up with the rest of the group I had a one on one check in with one of my mentors Crystal. She asked me how I was enjoying my time here, she made sure I knew how I knew how I could talk to her or my other mentor Liz about anything and that they only want everyone to have an amazing time. After our conversation ended we went up for the group meeting where we split up into two groups and discussed what community means to us and how Ecuador sees Americas vs how Americans see Ecuador specifically the Galápagos.
It was amazing to hear how everyone’s ideas and thoughts were both so similar and different but what was best was that everyone was not only accepting about what everyone had to say but they were interested in hearing it. After discussing in groups for a bit more, we all joined together and discussed. After we got everything done we made a prayer flag (each person adding a bit of themselves to it) and put it together. Then some people went to explore the town with Crystal and Liz while others stayed for a bit of quiet time. So far our time in the Galápagos has been great and I can’t wait for more experiences to come.
Welcome to Ecuador!
The majority of our group met up in Miami airport and took the same plane to Quito, where we met the rest in Quito airport. We have a very positive and high energy group, it seems like keeping motivated is going to be a breeze! Liz and Crystal took us to our hotel that we’ll be in for two nights. After our last fast food meal, pizza, our group quickly fell asleep. This morning we were up bright and early at 7:30 and got to know each other over name games. Shortly, a bus took us to the equator and the equator monuments where we did a few experiments and learned a little about the indigenous peoples of Ecuador. Team building games lasted us till lunch which consisted of crunchy empanadas, grilled chicken, fries, and corn unlike any of us have had before. The equator monument was a beautiful building that contained a small museum and information on the Galápagos Islands, which made us all anxious to fly out tomorrow morning. Souvenir shopping was next, some of us had difficulty bartering but the handmade articles made paying full price completely worth it.
Now we’re headed back to our hotel to pack for our early flight tomorrow! We’ll be traveling all day tomorrow until our arrival at Isabela island.
All students have arrived in country and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!