GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS – SUMMER 2022: Tortuga Bay and Isabela Island

Day 5:

Microplastics activity – All of the microplastics we found in small groups

Today we ventured to Tortuga Bay to learn about microplastics and their impact on the environment. We were divided into four groups and assigned a 2ft x 2ft area to sift for microplastics; there were different types we were categorizing pellets, fibers, and fragments.

A question I had while preparing for our activity was…

  • How much plastic is actually able to be found within these small boxed-off areas?

My friends Lauren and Jamie were in my group and we took turns sifting through the sand and rinsing our samples to separate the plastics from the natural objects.

Our individual group number of microplastics were…

  • 79 fragments
  • 27 pellets
  • 2 fibers

It was sad to think that was only a small portion of such a large beach and there was already quite a bit of plastic found. A lot of this plastic was suspected to not be only from littering on the beach but coming with the wave currents and washing up on shore. This activity has made me more conscious of the impacts we have on areas that aren’t in our immediate living areas.

Giant green sea turtle in Tortuga Bay!

It was crazy to see the difference in how the wildlife in this area acts. They are so unafraid of humans because they are respected. We were snorkeling and looking at the fish swimming around and suddenly this huge turtle swam right below me.

It was amazing to be so close to one of my favorite animals I couldn’t stop smiling! We saw a total of about 6 of them all swimming near the shore, I thought they were rocks at first they were so large!

This was a photo taken by my friend at the same moment my video was, showing how close it came to me.

There was so much life to be seen in this area! There was a sea lion sleeping on the beach and so many marine iguanas also swimming alongside us!

Marine Iguana swimming into the ocean

We ended this day with a boat ride back to our hotel. It was such an amazing first day of snorkeling!

Day 6:

Most of this morning was spent on a 2.5-hour boat ride, and oh my gosh was it rough. I was sitting on the inside of the boat and not being able to see the horizon or the water was rough. It was our journey from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island and our hotel was adorable when we arrived. I took a nap as soon as we checked in to the hotel cause trying not to get sick and taking Dramamine took a lot out of me haha!

We had penguins painted on our walls!
We had a cute courtyard! Our room was number 8.

Part of our course involved us coming up with our own questions and then researching them in small groups. I worked with my friends Gavin, Lauren, and Hailey; Our focus was observing marine iguanas and how they are able to hang on vertical surfaces for long periods of time. We watched these iguanas lay flat along the walls and stretch out their arms like a starfish and then they would just hang. Our observations led us to believe they use these vertical surfaces as another place to increase their surface area for sun exposure to warm up.

Day 7:

TODAY WAS AMAZING!!!!

We got to take a boat tour to Tintoreras islet and on the way, we saw a Galapagos penguin hunting! One of the students in my group was hoping to see a penguin and she lit up when we saw one. It was amazing to watch her go starry-eyed at the sight of her favorite animal. We arrived to the island and got to walk on one of the most preserved islands in the world. Along the way, we saw baby marine iguanas that kept running over our feet when we stood still, baby sea lions, and some white-tipped sharks!

One question I had for the baby sea lions…

  • There was a lot of eye discharge present, is that a way for the sea lions to flush out their eyes from the ocean?

After talking with my professor I learned that to be true.

One of the baby sea lions

After exploring the island we went out onto the boat to start snorkeling! The whole experience was so surreal. We had sea lions playing around us when we blew bubbles, a sea turtle swim right by us, various reef fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and we swam over 28 sharks!

White-tipped sharks!

Sea turtle!

Sea lion!

After returning back to the hotel we went to the tortoise breeding center on Isabela, the path to the breeding center was a beautiful boardwalk.

When we got to the breeding center we saw some large males and tiny babies!

On the walk back we saw some ducks, more marine iguanas, and a black-necked stilt.

A group of us went out to explore the lava rocks nearby to see if we could find anything fun in the tidepools. We took some photos out by the ocean and it was so pretty!

Today was amazing! I absolutely loved being able to have the opportunity to swim so close to the animals I care deeply about! I have always learned about how our daily actions can impact wildlife such as these but being able to swim with them so close gave me a new appreciation and desire to protect these individuals. I really hope I am able to help protect these species and give them the lives they deserve.

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