The Clay Coyote Travel Tray (the mug had to stay at home) was back at it again on it’s next adventure to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands! I had the amazing opportunity to take a tropical biology course through the University of Southern Mississippi over winter break for 12 days. I decided to bring along a piece of home to share my adventures with and add another country to the Clay Coyote Map.
Let me start off by telling you a little bit about the islands and the culture before I start getting into my itinerary for the trip. The islands are oceanic, meaning they were made by volcanic eruptions and were never previously attached to a continent. Because of this, many of the animals and plants that are present on the islands are native and endemic species. There are quite a few birds, marine life, and reptiles, with very few amphibians and mammals because they had no way to get there. Only 4 of the 19 islands are inhabited by people and you can only live there if you were born there.
I don’t know what I expected when I got there, but the Galapagos Islands are very similar to developing countries. Fresh water has to be brought in, electricity and phone reception isn’t great, they don’t have much of a sewage system so toilet paper is not allowed to be flushed. They don’t have any chain companies or franchises; you work for yourself and most of their storefronts or restaurants are attached to their homes. They only had about two models of cars or drove mopeds, and let me tell you the driving and safety laws were practically non-existent. This was definitely a culture shock to me, but I actually really enjoyed it.
They had a lot of fresh produce and seafood available to eat, they always made fresh fruit juices, and their yogurt was a consistency that you could drink. Before every meal they served you a bowl of soup to which you used popcorn instead of crackers to put in it. And the portion sizes were actually normal, healthy sizes rather than supersized like in America.
In order to preserve the ecosystem, they recycle practically everything and have compost bins next to their recycling bins. Everything comes in glass bottles and if you return the empty bottles you usually get 25-50 cents back. Also, the biosecurity when moving from island to island is extremely strict. We always were having our luggage checked and had to wash our shoes before leaving an island. I really support all the efforts the Galapagos is doing to preserve their extremely unique ecosystem. I don’t understand why America can’t figure this out…but I digress.
Well, now that you know a little bit about the islands, it’s finally time for what you’ve all been waiting for: trip details!
My days consisted of waking up bright and early to start the days activities. We usually had 14-16 hour days of hiking up volcanoes and snorkeling in the crystal clear blue ocean. We stayed on three different islands during our time there: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. In total, we visited five islands. This trip definitely pushed my body and mind to the limits, but what came out of it was extraordinary. We saw many of the world’s wonders in terms of plant and animal life. We saw blue-footed boobies, sea turtles, flamingos, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, rays, sharks, frigatebirds, sea lions, and penguins. All the fish were vibrantly colored and sea lions and crabs lined the beaches. Flocks of beautiful birds were always flying overhead as we moved from island to island. It was truly magical to see creatures found nowhere else in the world. Hiking was absolutely intense, but the views we were able to see once we reached our destination were breathtaking. It felt like I was on top of the world. This was my first time traveling internationally, and I will definitely never forget this wonderful experience!
To wrap up, I can’t say this enough: this was the absolute trip of a lifetime. It was so incredibly amazing and I will never forget what I saw, learned, and felt. I grew so much from this trip and realized how much I am capable of and how much I have accomplished in my life. This trip really heightened my travel knack, and so now I just want to plan tons more adventures! I want to spend my time and money on adventures and immersing myself in new cultures, rather than on materialistic things. Life is too short not to take ahold of every opportunity and see the world. You learn so many new things about the world and yourself when you do this. And it’s just good for the soul.
If you ever get the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos, TAKE IT. It truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many scientists that study phenomenons best seen in the Galapagos will never even make it there. Be sure to book your entire trip through a guide service, otherwise you will not be able to go to many of the sites in the Galapagos because only tour guides are authorized to take groups there.
Go check out the Clay Coyote Travel Map to see all the wonderful places the mug and tray have traveled! Are you traveling soon? Take a piece of home with you by taking a Clay Coyote mug or tray and send us your travel pictures to add your location to the map!