The Galapagos up Close

Abby LaRiviere, Student Writer

This past June/July, I had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador on a school trip. This ten-day trip changed my life and my perspective in countless ways. You always hear about the Galapagos Islands in association with Charles Darwin, the naturalist best known for his studies on evolution and natural selection. He discovered that the species native to the islands were similar, but that they each had small characteristics that were adapted to their specific island and the food it provided for them. Being able to see what he saw so long ago in real life was a dream come true for me.

On this trip, I was able to do things I would have never imagined doing. I saw species I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. I learned something new every day. We spent about seven days on the islands and three in Ecuador. The three days we were in Ecuador, we explored its capital, Quito, the second-highest capital in the world with an elevation of 9,350 feet. We shopped locally on top of visiting some well-known places, like the beautiful La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus). The church’s completely golden interior was absolutely breathtaking. One of my favorite things we did in Ecuador was visiting the equator, the middle of the world. I was able to put one foot on each hemisphere and take a really cool picture. 

During our time on the islands, we met our wonderful tour guides who were able to show us around and teach us about the local species and how to safely interact with them. I saw species as small as lava lizards and as large as tortoises! One of the coolest species we spotted was the blue-footed booby bird. This bird has vibrant blue feet, thus the name. Three of our days on the islands included different snorkeling experiences. Swimming up close with giant sea turtles had to have been the most magical experience I’ve ever had. They are such large creatures that move so slowly and gracefully in the water. I also had the opportunity to swim with sharks! The islands are filled with sea lions that are very friendly, they even love to swim with the sharks. 

I am so lucky to have been able to experience such a special place. I have also learned how important it is to keep the islands safe and clean so that we can enjoy its beauty for years to come.