After spending the first day of our trip traveling and meeting with the rest of our tour group, we arrived in Quito, Ecuador late at night. We spent the second day of our trip touring and seeing the sights of Ecuador. The highlight of the day was a visit to a large church in the middle of downtown Quito. After walking around the outside for a few minutes, we set off into the Church, ready to explore the massive towers and hallways inside. After scaling a seemingly endless set of stairs and ladders, we were able to reach the roof of the structure. The view from the top left us all in awe.
After another day of sightseeing around urban Quito, we rode our bus to a more secluded spot. Here we were able to visit Ciudad Mitad. The main attraction here was the large monument constructed right on the Equator. After touring around the Equator, we went on a tour of the surrounding area, learning about the culture of the people that lived there for the last 500 years.
After our trip to the Equator, we took a flight to the Galapagos Islands. The first island we stopped at was San Cristobal. We were taken to a large national park and explored a naturally formed mile long cave. After exploring the cave, we had the opportunity to see the signature species of the Galapagos Islands: the giant tortoise.
On the seventh day of our trip, we went snorkeling. This was an amazing experience for our group, as we swam with all sorts of different species of animals. The highlight of our swim was the chance to swim with sea lions. Accustomed to humans thanks to the large number of tourists, the sea lions swam all around us, playfully spitting bubbles at us and swimming full speed directly at us, only to swerve suddenly and harmlessly brush by us. After an hour of swimming around with the native wildlife, we grudgingly got back into our boat and went back to shore.
After our snorkeling adventure, we said goodbye to San Cristobal and rode a boat to Isabela Island. After checking into our hotel, we went on a walk through a large swamp with walkways built on it to allow people the opportunity to explore. There we saw many exotic animals, including flamingoes.
On our first full day on Isabela Island, we had the opportunity to go snorkeling once again. This time, our tour guide told us, we would swim with sharks. Even though it would be a harmless species of shark, the thought of snorkeling with sharks was exciting. Expecting a large, open area with a handful of little sharks, our jaws dropped when we saw where we would be swimming. We would get off the boat and swim into a small channel. The channel was about 200 yards long, but no more than four feet wide and five feet deep. Covering the bottom of the channel like a carpet were dozens of sharks, ranging anywhere from four to six feet long. I swam through the channel, my brain consumed with terror but overwhelmed with excitement at the same time. It was a truly amazing experience, but the guide didn’t have to tell me twice to get back in the boat after our swim with sharks.
The next day we began our long journey home to San Francisco. While it’s true that there’s no place like home, there is also no place like the Galapagos Islands.
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