Sea Lions, Tortoises and Iguanas...Oh My!
By Justine Seligson
A few weeks ago I had my first real cruise experience. It was in the Galápagos Islands off the coast of mainland Ecuador.
This was my first time on a ship longer than eight hours or so. And though it was just a small expedition ship, it was the biggest thing I’ve been on that can float. I had never slept with water below me before. That was a dramatic change at first but strangely I got use to it. I also got used to the tiny shower, the purring of the engine and the rocking of the boat. In fact, I got so used to it that when the trip was over I felt like I still rocking; it was creepy, but cool. I liked that there were lots of things to do on board. There were great decks, a hot tub, a game room and a small boutique to explore. But I also loved just chilling in our stateroom with its porthole windows.
Each day, we visited a different island which we reached by panga, which is a motorized inflatable boat (like a Zodiac®). I loved that each island was different from the next. Some were mountainous, others were flat as pancakes. Some had fields of hardened black lava (eerie), others had lots of vegetation (including cacti). Most days we were surrounded by nothing but nature except for one day when we visited Puerto Ayora, a port town. Like most teens, I don’t like being away from the internet for too long. But thankfully there was a cyber café which worked really well and satisfied my appetite for the electronic world.
I’ll never forget the wildlife in Galápagos: the iguanas, the turtles, and the birds. One of the birds, the blue-footed booby, got lots of attention not only for its un-natural looking blue feet, but it’s phenomenal dive-bombs into the water. Like torpedos, these birds drop at seemingly super-sonic speeds into the surf. All the animals were so friendly you could get up real close to them, and they wouldn’t run away. I would have to say that my favorite of all were the sea lions. Not only were they cute-looking, but they were a riot to watch, waddling about the sand, over rocks, even on stone steps we were trying to disembark on once (they simply would not move!). The biggest surprise were the tree lions we came across. They’re almost exactly the same as sea lions except for the fact that they sleep in the mangrove trees. I have no idea how they get up there; I don’t think they have claws.
Besides the animals, another thing I’ll remember about the trip was our fellow travelers. The people I met on the boat were literally from all over the world. There was a young couple from China, a family from the South of France and even a family from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I suppose the Galápagos are to the Quito family what New York City is to me. A world-famous attraction not far from home. Huge difference though—New York is crowded with people. The Galápagos Islands are teeming with wildlife.
Just-Teens Travel is written by Justine Seligson, who at the time of this writing, was a middle school student.