The trip to the Galapagos Islands has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
Working in such a unique place together with the local researchers, and helping them out with their studies, was equally fascinating as it was inspiring. We got to do and see so many incredible things, I can’t even list them all.
From snorkelling to trips to the highlands, from bird ringing to working on invasive plants, there was something new to experience every day. Even during our free time, it was impossible to forget what a unique and beautiful place we were visiting.
When you first arrive on San Cristobal island, you immediately notice the sea lions. They are really hard to miss! You would think you get used to them, but in all honesty, you don’t. Even though we shared a beach with them every day, their presence never got boring or old, especially not all the pups! The same thing goes for the marine iguanas! It was like seeing a celebrity in real life. You honestly do feel a little starstruck seeing a creature in front of you, that you’ve only ever seen on a screen. Unlike any other place I’ve been to, the wildlife on the Galapagos islands aren’t scared to approach you. As a matter of fact, they seem like they couldn’t care less about you, which was incredible, although it means that sometimes, we are the ones having to avoid getting too close to them- such as the finches, who even tried to sit on your plate as you ate. Even the animals that didn’t get so close were still all around you, like the frigate birds, which with their wingspan of about 2m had an incredible presence in the sky.
Moving on from the wildlife, our stay with host families was just as enjoyable. Experiencing the culture through them, who live their lives on the islands, rather than staying and observing them as an outsider, allowed us to see a different side of the islands. Although I was worried a bit about my non-existent Spanish skills, living with them went surprisingly well. Even if communication required some help from google translate and gesturing, in the end, everything I wanted to say got across.
Besides these things we got to explore on our own, the time spent in the program allowed us to learn so much more than we would have alone. Andy, Camille and the local team who helped organise this trip did a fantastic job in finding the perfect balance between work and more relaxing activities, such as the snorkelling trip or the guided tours and visit to the tortoise sanctuary. Honestly though, the work we did was so exciting, it didn’t even feel like we were working. Mist netting Darwin’s finches? Collecting data on invasive plant species? Our own research projects? These are just examples of the things we got to do, which if you kept up with this blog already know. Even the guest lectures we received were so interesting, it was impossible not to listen and learn.
I could go on and on forever about all the species we got to see, from the diverse marine life to all the bird species present all around you, but then this post would never end. All in all, I have to admit that there is literally nothing bad I can say about this trip, except maybe everyone’s sunburns.
Thank you Galapagos, thank you University of Exeter and thank you, everyone, who was involved in creating this amazing trip for all of us to experience.
Written by Diba Sharafi, a third year Zoology student at the University of Exeter
am769 January 29th, 2018 Galapagos