One Last Hurrah

View of Santa Fe Island in Galápagos, those specs on the shore are sleeping sea lions

A blog post on Medium says “Tell your story…” before you start writing, and I think that’s quite the way to open up a page to your blog. We’re not being asked to be concise with thoughts, perfect with grammar, or flawless in execution. “Tell your story…” means to take this blank canvas and create something, tell your story in any format that you want, tell your story with as few or as many words as you’d like. How convenient that life is exactly like this, there is no blueprint to life or a manual on how to maneuver each day, instead we wake up and live, never really knowing what’s going to happen. For the sake of this blog post, last Thursday morning is where the story begins.

I woke up at 5 in the morning which had to be the most pleasant 5 AM wake ups I’ve had in my life. Quickly I rushed to the airport and arrived around 7:30 to make sure and catch my 9:30 flight to one of the most unique places in the world, the Galápagos Islands.

Sleeping sea lion on a park bench on Santa Cruz

Around 12 on Thursday I arrived to the airport on Baltra Island, but after 2 hours, 2 bus rides, and a boat ride, I was in the town of Puerta Ayora in Santa Cruz, the main place to be in Galápagos. From this point, I looked for a hostel and a place to have lunch and then a tour agency to book my time in the Galápagos. The deal I found was a $400 gig and took up everyday except 1 I had in Galápagos.

Friday morning began my adventures, with a two hour boat ride to Isabela which is the largest island in the archipelago. In Isabela I met a woman from China that knew absolutely no Spanish, so I unknowingly assigned myself to translator duties the rest of Friday. Although, in staying with the woman, Frances, I found that I had someone to share the experience with it. Our first trip was out to the flamingos, which are incredibly interesting creatures seen in their natural habitat as opposed to a zoo. After the flamingos, we had an opportunity to go out to Isla Tintoreras (Tintoreras are a type of shark with a white-tipped tail). In the island we had the opportunity to see the blue-footed boobies, the Galápagos Penguins, an insane amount of iguanas, a sea turtle, and of course the sharks. Walking around this island was incredible, but the snorkeling afterwards may have been better than the island. We snorkeled off the coast of the island, and this was an incredible experience for my first time snorkeling. About 3 minutes in, we saw a sea turtle just swimming around below us and it was one of the most graceful things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Two Galápagos Penguins!

After the snorkeling, we returned back to Isabela and took it easy the rest of the evening. I became friends with the waiter at the restaurant Frances and I had dinner in. The waiter and I talked a lot about how it is to live on the Islands, and I even hung out with him for a few hours that night. It was a cool experience to meet a local and really get to see the Islands from more of an authentic point-of-view.

On Saturday I spent the day by myself, and I was able to have another hour or so of snorkeling in the morning. The difficult thing about snorkeling on my own was the fact I actually am a terrible swimmer, and without a life vest it was a bit of a problem to get the full effect. Although, on Saturday I still got to see iguanas swimming through the water as well as some insanely colorful fish that I had never seen before. After this, I returned in boat to Santa Cruz, a ride that proved difficult given the harshness of the sea. I was okay on the way back, but there were many that weren’t enjoying what was happening…

Saturday night was anticlimactic, but Sunday was the best day of the trip, therefore I was satisfied.

Cactus growing on a rock in the middle of the ocean, with a Blue-Footed Boobie perched

Sunday morning our boat departed at 9 for a day full of adventures! We arrived to our first snorkeling site around 9:45 and began. The first time on Sunday was fun because there were so many schools of fish swimming around, big fish, small fish, red fish, blue fish (hah!). Also the baby sea lions were around here. If you’ve never seen a picture, please Google a picture right now of baby sea lions, they may be the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen in your life. The second snorkeling site will always be one of the coolest experiences of my life. We had been in the water for a few minutes when I saw a few sharks resting on ground just below me. Immediately after, I saw two sharks off to my side swimming around. I freaked out to be truthful, I had never been in the same body of water as sharks and the idea was so crazy. Although, I heard the day before that these sharks are super calm and not likely to go after humans, hence why we were in the same area as the sharks I’m guessing. After some time, we packed up and got back on the boat. From here we cast out some reels to fish…

Fishing in the Galápagos!

We cast out the reels and sat in the stench of sun screen (not mine, I forgot to use sun screen the entire trip!) for some time. We finally got a bite, and it happened to be one of the largest tuna I’ve seen in my life, and they just left in the back of the boat. I thought they’d take it back and have it for dinner, but I was very wrong. Our next site was a place where we got to sit along the coast in the white sand, where you could see the ocean floor for as far as the eye could see. It was quite the place to be, and it was nice to just sit and breathe and listen to the waves crash in for a while.

Getting back into the boat, our guides surprised us with fresh fish! The tuna they caught, well they cut it up and served it to is. We were eating raw tuna, but I swear I ate half of what they offered our group of 12. The fish was amazing and I just couldn’t stop. This was the last exciting part of our trip, from here we took ourselves back to the shore and thus ended the best experience I had in Galápagos. The rest of the night, I rode a bike around Santa Cruz and really got to see a lot more of it.

Monday morning in Tortuga Bay, I had a stranger grab a few pictures!

Monday was my day off. I had the day free to explore, and I had heard of a few places I needed to visit. Thus in Monday I began my journey, my first stop was a beach on Santa Cruz called Tortuga Bay. Of course, I thought I was going to get to see some turtles swimming around, but I came to find out that this was just a place to sit and relax. The area was absolutely gorgeous, and worth the 50 minute walk to get out there. For the sake of making good time, I didn’t spend much time here and went on to my next place. The Charles Darwin Research Station was my next stop, and surprisingly underwhelming in all if I’m being honest! The area was mostly empty, and the visitors center didn’t consist of much more than a gift shop and a display room for some pictures. Although, I did learn a lot more about some sustainable practices the Galápagos is using to be hospitable to the fragile populations that live within the ecosystem. The dedication that the employees have in the station to maintaining the delicate ecosystem is inspiring!

Las Grietas, a 100 foot hole in-between two rocks, in which 50 feet have water.

The next place I took myself out to is called Las Grietas, which is a hole in the land. This hole has a 50-foot swimming pool more or less in the bottom, and people can swim in the middle for a while. Again, I was alone and can’t swim very well, so I did have to skip this attraction, but getting out to see it was definitely something I’m glad I was able to do. The rest of the night I spend wandering around, sitting on the dock, and enjoying the last night I had in Galápagos before returning to Quito.

Tuesday morning I was up and ready to go, but not ready to leave Galápagos. I hopped in my taxi at 9 to go see a few more sites! The coolest place between Monday and Tuesday had to be Rancho El Chato 2, and this was because of the insane amount of tortoises I saw on the ranch! I got to take some selfies with the tortoises, and they even had display shells for us to crawl into and take pictures, of course I did that.

What I would look like as a tortoise.

This was my last stop before heading on to the airport in Galápagos and sitting around for a bit until my flight left on Tuesday afternoon. The trip as an entirety was an incredible experience, and I got to learn I’m not a big fan of traveling by myself. Although, I made friends along the way I will never forget and that’s hard to do in a group. I loved the scenery of Galápagos and being able to experience such an incredibly unique place in the word. I’m thankful to various people such as my lovely girlfriend. You see, I ran out of money after booking the $400 tour which I didn’t realize. On Saturday I looked at bank account to see a balance of $27, and my girlfriend immediately offered to help me out as well as my parents. I actually might not have made it home without the support of some amazing people.

I wrote what I wrote in the beginning of this blog post to be able to say, I had no idea how my trip to Galápagos would go. I had no plans before leaving Quito and kind of made plans as they arose in Galápagos and went with the flow as much as I could. We don’t know how each day is going to go, but we do our best to remember every moment that we’re able. I only have another 8 days before I’m at the airport in Quito to fly home to the States. The time here has flown, and I’m thankful for every second, but I’m also thankful to be able to return to my family and friends at home.

Thank you all for reading, I appreciate it so much! My next blog post will actually be after I get home, next Friday it should be. I’ll be reflecting on my study abroad as a whole and speaking on lessons learned.

Until next time,
Sam

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