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The Galapagos Islands — an amazing place

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Over the spring break, 17 Bermuda High School Year 7 and 8 students had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands.Photographed Lucy Benson.

Eight and a half hours flying time away from Bermuda is another group of islands isolated out in the ocean, but this group of islands is on the Equator, off of the coast of Ecuador, sitting in the cool ocean currents of the Pacific Ocean. Over the spring break, 17 Bermuda High School Year 7 and 8 students had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands.

“Galapagos is an amazing place. It feels like you have gone back in time a million years ago when there were no other people, because the animals act as if they have never seen people; they come very close to you so you can experience things which you will probably never experience again,” said Abigail Brewer. And she’s right! The Galapagos Islands are incredible for their beauty and the tameness of their wildlife, but they have felt the impact of humans. Like Bermuda, some of their endemic species have been wiped out by animals and plants brought in by humans. The Ecuadorean government is working hard to limit the impact of humans. Only three percent of the total land mass is permitted to be used by people; the rest is national park land.

Much as they enjoyed their time in Galapagos, the students did acknowledge the impact of tourists like them. Harlee Purvey said, “I think tourism is the biggest problem there, because if they do not keep it minimal, the environment will get damaged and it will not be able to be fixed.” To keep the impact from tourists to a minimum most of them are housed on board adventure yachts that tour among the islands, visiting different sites daily. The BHS group climbed up active volcanoes, peered into collapsed magma chambers, explored empty lava tubes and swam in the cool clear waters with sharks, sea lions, rays and pelicans. The theme for all excursions off the boat was definitely “look but don’t touch!”

Isabella Wright stated, “The most interesting thing was swimming with the sea lions and sea turtles, despite the cold water.” The abundance of marine life around the islands is stunning. Peering over the side of the boat, there are sharks, mola-mola, turtles and hieroglyphic fish to be seen. Although the islands are on the Equator, the water is cool. A cool, deep sea current, that wells up against the side of the undersea mounts of the Galapagos, is responsible for the abundance of life on the islands. Every time the girls donned their wet suits and jumped into the clear waters, there was plenty to be seen: rays, turtles, sharks, sea lions, countless fish, green sea urchins, flightless cormorants and so much more.

The purpose of the trip was to raise environmental awareness. While in the Galapagos, the tour was accompanied by two knowledgeable guides, Enriqué and David. Visitors are not allowed in the park lands without a guide. In keeping with being environmentally friendly, the fruit and vegetables on board were mostly grown on the island. The Galapagos Islands are able to grow enough produce to feed the native population and the tourists that visit. Delicious meals were cooked by Chef Bueno in a minute galley kitchen, and Cerra Simmons said, “It would be an insult not to eat everything on your plate.” The boat was equipped with comfortable rooms and an attentive staff. There were skilled zodiac drivers to take the group on tours to see the flightless cormorants, blue footed boobies and pelicans up close on the cliff faces.

Despite some initial seasickness, after a week on the boat, all were sad to bid farewell to the Galapagos Islands. Alyssa Paynter claimed, “I really enjoyed seeing the rays and the sea turtles. If I had a choice, I would definitely go again. I would recommend this trip to anyone.”

(L-R) Sarah Gladwin, Harlee Purvey, Charlotte Frumkin and Alyssa Paynter