Sunday, June 17, 2012

Goodbye Quito, Hello Galapagos!!

Today was our travel day and our first day on the beautiful Galapagos Islands. After getting an early start, saying goodbye to our wonderful guide Connie, catching our flight, and feeling the anticipation build during two quick layovers, we finally arrived at San Cristobal Island. Here we met our Galapagos guide Whitman Cox, a third generation Galapagonian, who led us to our beautiful hotel, the Casa Blanca.

After a quick change and application of sunscreen, the group met in front of the hotel where we were immediately distracted by one of the many sea lions in the area who had chosen to take a nap on one of the boardwalk benches. We had a briefing from Whitman about the rest of the day and then headed over to his house for a quick snack and to pick out some snorkeling equipment. Yes that’s right, today many of us, including myself, had our first snorkeling experience!

The distracting sea lion (lobo marino)
The mine we passed on the way to the beach
Before I delve into the details of that adventure, I first want to share some of the hidden learning we had today. I call it hidden because unlike in Costa Rica where we spent hours every day in a UPEACE classroom, and unlike Quito where we had many guest lecturers and visits to various institutions, our learning in the Galapagos will include some class time, but is largely mixed in with getting to know the islands. For example, one of the themes we find studying international environmental politics is the clash between human development and the conservation of the environment. On our walk to the beach where we snorkeled, we passed a mine, the airport, the soccer arena, and more litter than I had expected to see. San Cristobal is one of the four inhabited Galapagos islands and has a population of approximately 7 thousand who are concentrated in the main town. In Quito we learned about the many initiatives, laws, and organizations that focus on preserving the biodiversity of the Galapagos and negotiating with the local people, but once here we see the development and the potential difficulty of implementing protectionist projects. We can see on this island the clear signs of a clash between human economic interest and the protection of the environment.

Global Scholars in La Loberia
We also got a peek into the biodiversity that environmental politics are trying to protect when we went snorkeling in La Loberia (Sea Lion Reserve). There we saw respect between people and the sea lions when the animals were given about half of the beach while the humans kept their distance. We saw volcanic rock, a seemingly undisturbed Pacific Ocean, and giant sea lizards. Laughter filled the air as we watched each other try to navigate the beach with flippers, but sound dropped away to a dim and soothing roar as we dived into the water with our masks and snorkels allowing us to see the plethora of tropical fish sharing the water with us. Using our flippers to head out a bit deeper, we encountered a sea turtle resting on the ocean floor and floated in awe above it until it decided it had business elsewhere. We had some free time to snorkel and explore and contemplate that we are really in the Galapagos Islands.

Our day finished up with a group dinner of melon juice, vegetable soup, delicious fish or chicken, and peaches at Whitman’s restaurant, La Playa. Afterwards we leisurely walked back to our hotel and my roommate and I enjoyed writing our journals and working on our reading on the balcony watching the sunset over our first day in the Galapagos.

A wonderful place to journal about our first day in the Galapagos :)

No comments:

Post a Comment