Cesar chats with our main man in South America, "Galapagos" Pete!
Q: Can you give me a summary of what the trip's all about?
A: Galapagos Islands are one of the most incredible wonders in the world. What makes it special is being able to see and interact with species unique to the region. And the animals have never learned to be scared of humans because humans haven't been around long enough. Sea lions, marine iguanas, tortoises, flamingoes - it's a natural laboratory for visitors to understand the process of evolution. Darwin's history is well-known. Evolution happens so quickly you can actually see it in sometimes as little as a few years and can show students how that works.
Q: What are the students' and teachers' favorite parts of the trip?
A: The trip isn't just experiential learning - although there's plenty of that. It's also tons of outdoor adventure: snorkeling, beaches, hiking. The islands are stunning. One of the hikes is to Sierra Negra, the second biggest volcanic crater in the world. It gives students an idea of how old the earth is and gives relativity for our lives. They love that hike.
The teachers like seeing the giant tortoise breeding and reintroduction program. The tortoises are bred in captivity and the eggs are incubated and reintroduced into the wild. Humans bringing invasive species has hurt some native species. Teachers like using the examples to educate their students. The teachers can discuss solutions to this problem and educate their students on it.
Q: The hike to the volcano is a long one but there's beach time afterwards, right?
A: Yes, that's a great day the groups love. There's a nice balance of education, adventure, eco-tourism, and relaxation and fun on the itinerary. We've tweaked it over the years and we really have it near perfect.
Q: What's your favorite portion?
A: Snorkeling. I'm an avid scuba diver. Galapagos has some of the best diving and you can get a glimpse of this through snorkeling. You can see hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, sea lions, fish, choral, manta rays, sea horses, and more! Sometimes penguins will jet right by you when you're snorkeling. It's one of the best places in the world to view marine life.
I've lived in Ecuador for over 20 years, originally from Vermont. The snorkeling and diving never gets old though.
Q: Any tips for those watching about the trip?
A: Yes. The most important thing is to follow the packing list we send you. It's exactly what you need - no more, no less. However, many people don't pay attention to it and bring way too much stuff we don't want or need. There are no porters here! You're on planes, buses, and boats. It's a lot of travel and having too much will be a burden.
The second piece of advice is to come with an open heart and open mind. Immerse yourself in the different customs and culture. Ecuador has it's own sense of time. In the U.S. if you're supposed to be somewhere at 9 am, and it's 9:01, people think you're late. In Ecuador, if they say to do something at 9 am it means anytime between 9 am - 10 am. There's a window. That's normal here. It's Ecuador time - relax!
Q: What's changed due to COVID-19?
We're open and receiving commercial flights after closing for a while. Tourism is starting to ramp up again. Currently, you need to arrive with a test showing your COVID-negative within the last 10 days. That may change by the time a group comes. You have to wear a mask in public places. Restaurants and many business are only open to partial capacity, including public transportation. Things have been strict and intensely enforced since the virus began and that's made it feel safe. But tourists are coming back and we're happy to have them.