Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
To my dear friends and fellow Galapagos explorers from Preserving Nature’s Wonders,
I can’t believe summer is over and it’s already been so long since our wonderful Galapagos adventure came to an end. As I’ve continued my travels through south and central America, I often find myself reminiscing and sharing (ok bragging) about our experience on the islands. This past summer, like the Galapagos, was truly unique and extraordinary; something I will always remember.
I still get excited (and make lots of excited noises) thinking about all the incredible animals we got to live and work besides – marine iguanas, sea turtles, sea lions, tortoises, flamingos, and so many more. I can’t believe we were walking and working amongst giant tortoises! However, the best part is knowing how much we helped those animals, and all the native species of the Galapagos, through our service work. With your help, by the end of the summer we were able to clear almost the entire tortoise enclosure at Campo Duro, giving the tortoises there the room they need to happily roam and graze. We also finished the baby tortoise enclosure, so Campo Duro can begin taking in younger tortoises! On San Cristóbal, we made great progress on the native tree nursery and built much of the framework for the greenhouse in the land that you cleared. We also set a lot of the table legs inside the green house, so all the native seeds you guys sorted will have somewhere to go once the greenhouse is complete. I also cannot believe how much mora and guava you guys were able to clear. Though the work was hard and sometimes tedious, we are now one step closer to getting native Galapagos species back in their native habitat. I know Wilfredo from Camp Duro, the school children on Isabela, and all the other locals we interacted with are grateful for your service and all that you did to help restore and preserve their beautiful home.
I want to take a moment to let you know how appreciative and grateful I am as well. Working with your group was truly amazing and inspiring. You are such strong, smart, fun, passionate, and aware individuals who can and will have such a positive influence on the world; you already do. I will always remember the breathtaking beauty of the the islands, whether it’s in the mangroves, below the surface of the ocean, or on top of Volcan Sierra Negra. I will always remember the taste of fresh, juicy oranges picked straight from the tree (and eaten Ecuadorian style of course). And I will always remember playing with sea lions literally inches away from me in the beautiful Galapagos waters. But mostly, I will always remember you guys, and the incredible impact you had on both the islands and me. I will remember your enthusiasm and passion, your extraordinary love and support for each other, and all the joy and excitement that we shared. Thank you for making this summer the most phenomenal summer I’ve ever had.
Here or some of my top recollections from our trip:
- When Hakan channeled his inner Thor and ran back to the bus with Emmit on his back, wearing no shoes
- When the whole group shared a moment of silence star gazing on San Cirostóbal
- Watching the blue footed boobies transform into torpedoes and dive on the wetland hike
- Laughing at the insane amount of maracuya you guys brought back for snack time at Campo Duro
- Watching everyone come together and support each other after crossing the line
- Che Che
- When I accidentally tackled Makena into a mora bush during ninja
- Seeing giant tortoises for the first time in my life
- Our last chow circle, when everyone couldn’t stop hugging each other (or crying), because you really had become a family
I wish you all the best, and really would love to hear from you,
Summer Blog Posts
Day One: Friday, June 17th
When arriving in Quito, Ecuador, the entire group was tired yet excited! When walking out of customs, we were greeted by fan girls who were waiting for the Ecuador boy band, CNCO (the equivalent to our One Direction). With police throughout the airport, there was a lot of commotion and screaming. Once we got through the mass of fan girls, we all called our parents to check in. We then took a 45 minute bus ride down the lush, winding road that led us to our hotel, Hotel Escandinavo. Ash and Sam (our mentors) welcomed us with a pizza party where we told jokes and got to know each other. We were assigned rooms, around 3 people per room, and then unpacked. After that, we walked to a local market a few blocks away where we bought snacks and chocolate. We learned that cars never stop for pedestrians, and also don’t use turn signals which is very confusing to Americans… So anyways, we had free time and then had dinner. Ash and Sam made everything, regarding food, easy to fit our dietary needs. We enjoyed spaghetti and veggies. Next, we hung out on the terrace and played cards and “ice breaker” games. It was an awesome end to our first day.
Day Two: Saturday, June 18th
Most of us got to sleep in until 8am because the last 4 people of our group had arrived late in the night. Our breakfast consisted of yogurt, cereal, toast, bread, scrambled eggs, and juice… YUM! We did some more ‘bonding games’ including fun facts, and favorite memories. We did that from breakfast to lunch… we are a pretty talkative bunch! For lunch we had chicken with rice, and some super sweet apples. For almost every meal, all of us seemed to switch who we were sitting by because it was fun to talk to new people. We packed our cameras and sunscreen, and headed out into the city of Quito. We started the city tour by bus, and were dropped off in Old Town Quito. We saw lots of different types of architecture, statues, and churches, and it was all jaw-dropping. We then drove to the highest point in Quito, and we could see for miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers). We climbed the stairs to the top of the statue and took pictures with amazing views. We returned back to Home Base, and had a little bit of down time before dinner, where we also packed for our flight the next morning. After dinner, we continued packing and hanging out, and tried to go to bed early because of our 4am wake up call the next morning. 🙁
Day Three: Sunday, June 19th
Happy Father’s Day!! To all of our fathers reading this, we are sorry we had to miss your special day, but we love and miss you lots! We reluctantly woke up to the sound of our alarms at 4am this morning. We ate a quick breakfast before leaving on our bus back to airport. We caught a 8am flight to Guayaquil, and then to the island of Santa Cruz
(Galapagos). We were all bursting with excitement because the Galapagos Islands are such an exciting place that not many people get to visit in their lifetime. Once we arrived, there was a lot of going on and off of boats and buses to get to Isabella Island at 5:30pm that evening (2 planes, 4 buses, and 4 boats). Unfortunately, everything did not go so smooth. With one missing bag, and one extreme motion sickness accident (both recovered!!), we finally made it to Hotel Sandrita. We took a trip to the beach, and along the way, ran into a horse race. We watched as one of
the riders had a mishap and was knocked off his horse. Fortunately, the rider was fine and they were able to re-race. We eventually made it down to the beach for the tail end of the sunset, where Hakan talked to us about environmental issues on the Islands. When finished, we took a quick dip in the water, and headed back for dinner which consisted of fish, rice, and veggies. After that, we had our first “Chow Circle” where we talked about upcoming events and gave recognition to people who deserved it. There were a few more announcements before we all showered and got for bed. Now we (Shannon and Madi) are currently sitting in the hammocks, overlooking the town of Isabella Island, we are writing this blog. So stay tuned for more about our upcoming adventures in the Galapagos Islands!
~<3~ Shannon and Madi
Day 4 – Monday, June 20th
In quite a cinmatic fashion, we awoke to the sound of a Rooster cock-a-doodle-doing. After an early morning chow circle, we headed to breakfast, cooked by none other than America (the name of our chef). Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with a choice of coffee, tea, or passion fruit juice.
Following breakfast we packed our things, filled our water bottles, and applied our sunscreen for our first adventure on the island of Isabela. Lead by our trusty guides, Cesar, Jorge, and Hakan (Locals) we started on our hike. Promptly, we were stopped at an iguana crossing, which is a daily routine for the reptiles, traveling from their resting area in the mainland, to the warm lava rocks at the beach. After the iguanas passed, a local waved us down to show us the micro habitat she had set up for the iguana hatchlings.
After our encounter with the marine iguanas, which are found solely in the Galapagos, we continued on our trek down the beach and with every new turn we spotted a brand new animal, all of which, most of us had never seen before; as well as an incredible amount of differing ecosystems.
Half an hour into our hike, our guides led us through a tunnel of mangrove branches to an astonishing and secluded emerald green pool where we all got our feet in the water. Some of us got more than our feet in the water, and swam through the mangroves. Immediatley following our dip in the pool we were stopped by some traffic on the path, it was our first encounter with the famous giant Galapagos Tortoise, as we walked by we frightened the tortoise and it quickly sucked itself into its shell.
We went on our way to a cove made of volcanic rock, in order to see some wildlife. First we saw a seal swimming in the waves stealing fish from a fisherman’s bait net. Soon after, we saw the infamous Blue Footed Booby, mid hunt. The bird dived deep down in the water to catch some lunch. After a while at the cove it was our turn for lunch. A nice walk back along the beach got us nice and hungry.
After lunch we refilled our waters, loaded up on the vans and were driven to our first service session at Campo Duro, a Turtle sanctuary. After being welcomed by the owner of the camp, we split into groups and instructions were given. One group was tasked with cleaning up the fence lining the sanctuary, while the other cleared the inside of the sanctuary, of invasive plant species that were suffocating the toroises food source. Working in such close conjuction with the tortoises it was not hard to be motivated, seeing as our reason for service was walking right beside us.
After 3 hours of service a couple of us went into the jungle to pick fresh fruit for the group. The fruit consisted of oranges, and passion fruit. After our snack we enjoyed a friendly match of Galapagos soccer to close up our day of service. We were all blown away by the fact that were were able to work so upclose and personal with such incredible Gentle Giants. We loaded up in the vans, drove home to our hostel Sandrita, met up as a group, and discussed our plans for the following day!
Emmit Flynn and Daniel Garza
Hey Family and Friends!
We’re blogging here from the hostel that we are staying at on Isabella Island! We started out the day with our daily “chow circle”. In the circle we give announcements, shout outs to different people, and go over the schedule for each day. In addition, we share the quote and Spanish word of the day. We gather in the “chow circle” before every breakfast and dinner.
We had an early breakfast before we departed for a morning of snorkeling and kayaking on a beach full of sea lions basking in the sun on the benches. The group split up into two halves. One group kayaked while the other one snorkeled and then we switched. While snorkeling, we all got to swim alongside sea turtles, sea lions, and unique fish as well as look at sea stars and interesting rock and coral formations. Penguins and blue footed boobies were sighted when everyone kayaked. For those who did not partake in the activities, they enjoyed time on the beach with the sea lions and even built sea lion shaped sand formations. Around lunch time we walked back to the hostel to change our clothes for our afternoon of service work.
The service work consisted of several different tasks that were a continuation of what we did at Campo Duro yesterday. These included splitting a fence, pulling weeds, and clearing trees from the fence around the tortoise captivity. For break,s we enjoyed freshly picked oranges, cut in the Ecuadorean style of eating the juice from the top first, and then the meats of the orange. In addition, several of us went into the “jungle” to pick everyone passion fruit. After we finished the service for the day, we all played soccer. The breaks with fresh fruit and soccer were well deserved given that the work was difficult yet very rewarding. Some got stung by wasps while others were attacked by fire ants or getting scrapped up and muddy from clearing deep-rooted plants.
We ended the day back at the hostel with “chow circle” before dinner. The dinner consisted of broccoli spinach soup with popcorn in it, a traditional Ecuadorean eating style as well as pasta with sauce and blackberry juice. Before bed we all played a fun game called Pterodactyl!
Sending love to our families,
Lindley Hall and Eliza Stackhouse
June 22, 2016
We started the morning with an early wake-up for breakfast at 7:30. The breakfast consisted of bread, crepes, banana, and papaya. We then went to a part of the wetlands to see flamingos in their natural habitat. After dozens of pictures and videos, we walked over to a tortoise breeding center. After learning that the tortoises get fed three times a week to teach them how to survive without food, we saw tortoises that were small, big, old, and young eating their food. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the beach to have a quick stroll and get ice cream when we spotted a tiny baby octopus. Lunch consisted of rice and beans with fish, and the local favorite of soup with popcorn in it. We then drove to the bottom of the Sierra Negra volcano for a hike. During which, we saw many lush green plants, volcano craters, and unforgettable views. After our majestic drive back to the hotel we ate a dinner that consisted of rice with vegetables,plantains, and soup. We ended the amazing day with having an hour or so of free time.
Written by Mia Rosenblatt and Kate Zacharias
We worked at the local school this morning to help improve the area around the school. For the local children, it is part of their environmental education to learn to live with the land and about sustainability.
Thursday morning began bright and early with a visit to an elementary school shortly after breakfast. Soon after arriving, we discovered that there were a total of ten students there, all eager to help and learn from those of us from another country. While we were there, we cleared a path for new plant growth so that they may act as a natural fence around the premises. In the process, we removed a significant amount of weeds, dead tree branches, and old barbed wire. GLA students additionally alternated chopping down large logs with machetes, especially McKenna, who worked tirelessly through the work period. This went on for about two hours until at last came time for us to sadly tell the kids goodbye. By then, Brooke, Shannon, and Natalie had spent some time teaching one of the older girls, Mariela, certain colors in English, such as “red,” “blue,” and “black.” It was difficult to leave them, but very rewarding to spend time with all of them. From there, we returned to the tortoise rescue just down the road. We collected oranges, passion fruit, papaya, and firewood, and from there began preparing them to be made into marmalade. While it was cooking, the staff prepared a delicious meal of shrimp or pork, or lentils for the vegetarians. After eating, we were awarded some much-needed free time, which some used to spend time at the beach, others used to souvenir shop, and still others decided to use to catch up on sleep. Those at the beach altered between swimming, taking photographs, tanning, playing volleyball, and watching the sunset. By the time 6:45 PM rolled around, everyone was rejuvenated from their afternoon off and was eager for dinner. From there, we began group activities, which ranged from telling partners childhood anecdotes, fictional stories, and of pivotal life moments, all within two uninterrupted minutes. We then returned to our rooms once we were dismissed, so we spent time packing, showering, and journaling. By bed time, we were all ready for sleep.
We reported for breakfast early on Friday after a 5:50 AM wakeup call. Before long, we were lugging our suitcases from bus to boat on our ride from Isabela to San Cristobal with a stop in Floreana. It took approximately two hours of riding through choppy waves on the way to our first stop. Exhausted, many slept on the way, though some chose instead to stare at the horizon line to combat motion sickness. In Floreana, we received the opportunity to snorkel again, so those who decided to go witnessed baby sea lions, several sea turtles, and a few urchins. Some who weren’t feeling well were meanwhile able to rest in hammocks under a shady tree on the beach, and still others also chose to free-swim instead. After that, we all enjoyed lunch together, which included a delicious desert of Galapagos-style flan. We returned to the boat promptly after eating to complete the last leg of the day’s journey. Most chose to listen to music on the way to San Cristobal, though many wound up asleep on each other’s shoulders. We finally departed from our last boat ride of our trip around 5:00 PM. We had the opportunity to shop for some more souvenirs and enjoy ice cream before leaving for the volunteer lodge where we would be spending the next few days. We spent dinner getting to know a local family and afterward had mentor group discussions. We were dismissed when the conversations commenced, leading everyone to enjoy one another’s company for a while and kindly escort some of the particularly large spiders outside. After a long day of travel, 10:00 bed time was warmly welcomed.
June 26, 2016
at La Loberia with Sea Turtles and Rays
June 27, 2016
work this morning
Teamwork makes the dreamwork