If I were to choose a colour symbolic of the Galapagos archipelago it would undoubtedly be blue. On approach to these islands, as far as the eye can see there are vast turquoise waters: the second largest marine protected area in the world. After spending only a few days with the community of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz it became evident to me that it wasn’t just I that felt a spiritual connection to the ocean. The Galapagos archipelago is made up of three inhabited volcanic islands surrounded by many uninhabited oases for wildlife – with only 3% of all of the land mass belonging to humans.
The Galapagos marine reserve is a no take zone – no fishermen here, thank you. This is why the islands are such a haven for marine life, and their presence is felt by the community. The surfers on Isabela, the divers on Santa Cruz, the researchers on San Cristobal; they all feel the connection to the ocean, which I have been privileged to experience first-hand.
Many a wise marine biologist have said that ‘the sign of a heathy ocean is an ocean full of sharks’ – on entering the water, it’s clear that sharks own these islands. During my time island hopping around the archipelago, I have been blessed with the company of over fifty scalloped hammerheads and eagle rays each time I take the plunge into the deep. As a cohort we have experienced not only hammerheads, but Galapagos sharks, whitetips and blacktips too, as well as frankly ridiculous numbers of turtles and jazzy reef fishes (we have been spoilt rotten).
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, locals tell me Asian fishing vessels creep into the reserve, and plastics carried with ocean currents know no boundaries. Our actions all over the globe impact marine life, even in this so carefully protected marine reserve. During our time spent on San Cristobal with USFQ, we have been exposed to the amazing work carried out by plastic researcher JP, turtle biologger Dani, shark researcher Dianne – and so many more. These islands are truly saturated with those who only want to protect these islands and its waters, which is incredibly inspiring to be a part of.
The passion for conservation is contagious and the spiritual connection the people have to the ocean is palpable – and that’s why I believe the Galapagos archipelago is truly a special place.
Next up: ‘It’s a Man’s world’ – watch this space.
By Jade Getliff
Marine Biology student, conservationist, blogger.