It was June 21, 2008. For most people, it was a typical summer morning. For me and several of my peers, however, it was the beginning of an incredible experience that I will never forget. Thanks to EF Tours, 38 students and 3 staff members from my high school were about to embark on a journey to a place where very few in the world can set foot: the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
We were gone for nine memorable days. It was a little scary because it was the first time I had been separated from my parents for that long. With tears streaming down my mother’s face, I went through security, boarded the plane, and got whisked off to Quito, Ecuador for the night. Then we flew from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, where we stayed on Baltra Island at the Hotel Red Booby. We were in the Galapagos for three days and visited Floreana and Bartalome Islands. Then we flew back to Quito and checked back into the Hotel Quito for four more days. We did everything a typical tourist would do while visiting the islands. We visited the Charles Darwin Research Center, saw the rare, indigenous giant tortoises and blue footed boobies, straddled the equator in Quito, and bought a lot of souvenirs. Surprisingly, there were many other memories that made this trip one of the best vacations ever.
One of the most memorable experiences from that trip was our snorkeling expedition in Bartalome Island. We literally swam right next to the adorable Galapagos penguins, sea lions, blue footed boobies, and hundreds of species of fish. It was incredible and was an experience I know I will never forget.
This trip had so many funny moments as well (though scary at the time). First, after having lunch out in Quito, we were all catching taxis to head back to the hotel for the day. I personally wanted an adult in whichever cab I got in because I had never been in a cab before and was a little scared. Suddenly, before it registered what was going on, I was riding shotgun in the cab with my three friends in the back seat and the only adult—the driver! I was freaking out, as the photo so wonderfully depicts, but we got back to the hotel safely, though scarred for life.
Also in Quito, we stopped at an open flea market for some shopping. As we were heading out of the market to board the bus, an adorable little Ecuadorian girl stopped me on the sidewalk, asking me to buy the candy she was selling. I politely declined and attempted to keep walking, but she blocked me. She would not let me pass her. I noticed that she was eyeing my backpack, and was about to try and reach into it before human traffic pushed me past her. A few other students in my group were almost pickpocketed by this little girl also. Her mind was definitely not as adorable as her face.
This trip was a wonderful adventure that helped me grow as a person and a student, and let me experience the world outside my small-town bubble. My Spanish improved while interacting with the locals. I learned so many facts about the unique wildlife that call the Galapagos their home. I miss the Galapagos so much, and I really hope that one day I can go back there and explore even more of these fascinating islands.
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