Stories from the Galapagos Islands

  • group of flamingos feeding in the water
    Flamingos feed in a coastal lagoon in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

    There is No Place Like the Galapagos Islands

    Far out in the Pacific Ocean about 563 miles from the coast of Ecuador lies the Galapagos Islands, a group of islands like none other.

    A special ocean current called the Humboldt flows northward along the western coast of South America from Chili to Peru and then into the Pacific Ocean.

    In the pathway of this rich and nutrient-filled ocean current, lava has bubbled to the surface from a hot spot in the earth's crust. Thus, the Galapagos Islands were formed and continue to be formed as the Nazca Plate acts like a conveyor belt and pulls the volcanoes to the east. The Nazca Plate, named after the Nazca region of southern Peru, is an oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin off the western coast of South America.

    In addition to having an extra special location, the Galapagos Islands lie on the equator where the sun shines 12 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    It also is a remote place and magical if you love animals.

    The animals of the Galapagos Islands evolved without predators. This means they have no real fear of humans, which offers an extraordinary opportunity to view them in their world.

    blue footed boobie and flamingo
    A blue-footed boobie and it's chick (left).
    Flamingo feeding in a lagoon (right).

    As my plane flew from the mainland of Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, I was as giddy as a small child. Eleven years ago I sailed through these islands.

    Now, I was returning to one of the few places I had visited before and had dreams to see again. This is the kind of impact the islands have had regarding my curiosity to learn more.

    My friend, Marisa Endara, who lives I Ecuador, helped arrange a trip for me on a boat called the Samba.

    "This is a family-owned boat. It's personal and the naturalist guide is one of the best in the islands," Endara explained.

    I loved the idea of hanging out with a naturalist. For me, it would be like returning to Wayne State College and studying biology. The opportunity to spend time with people who have a love and reverence of nature was exciting.

    sea lion on the beach
    The Galapagos Sea Lion is the largest animal found on land in the islands.

    My trip was schedule to last eight days on the Samba, which is a sailing vessel originally from Holland that has been converted to an explorer's yacht. As the plane landed on the island of Balta, I pressed my face against the window. I had forgotten how dry it can be on the Galapagos Islands. Outside the window, the landscape was brown with cactuses spread across the open space.

    Juan Salcedo greeted me when I walked from the airport. He is a naturalist and the owner of the Samba.

    "Welcome to the Galapagos Islands. We are excited to have you as a guest and look forward to sharing these special islands with you," Salcedo said.

    "I'm excited to be here," I replied. "Let's go explore."

    frigate bird
    A male frigrate bird soars through the sky above the Galapagos Islands.

    Fremont Tribune

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