By Hailey Abdilla
The Galapagos Islands were put on the map in 1835 by Charles Darwin due to his groundbreaking studies on evolution using Galapagos finches. Today, the islands are a sanctuary for animals and wildlife, with strict regulations and only a mere 25,000 people living there. Visiting this rocky archipelago is like stepping into a time machine, as you’re transported to a place that really hasn’t been disturbed by humans. However, getting to the Galapagos is no easy feat. My travel day was about 48 hours, starting with a flight into Quito, Ecuador. Following our first flight, we took two smaller ones to get to an old air force base that was built among the islands. We then took more bus rides and boat rides than I could count, until we finally found ourselves on the most densely populated island of the Galapagos (and the only one with hotels), Santa Cruz. Exploring the islands is sure to leave you breathless, the creatures roaming about look like something out of Jurassic Park and you better watch your step because iguanas are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Between the blue-footed boobies and the iguanas that swim in the ocean, your mind will be blown at every turn. Most of the animals and plants living in the Galapagos have no natural predators, which has led to some pretty neat adaptations. For example, cacti on the islands don’t have real spikes because they don’t need to protect themselves from anything and the sea lions love people, one even stole my fin while snorkeling because he wanted me to chase him. Despite the island’s close proximity to the equator, the ocean surrounding the islands is a tide that comes from the arctic, so the water is frigid. Regardless of the freezing temperatures, braving the cold is well worth it, from playful sea lions to massive starfish and even a six-foot black-tipped shark, you are sure to get the most out of your snorkeling experience in the Galapagos. The islands are some of this world’s best kept secrets, with beautiful scenery essentially untouched by humans. While traveling to the islands can be difficult and quite pricey, you will leave with a newfound appreciation for your surroundings, and truly, a new love for the only planet we have.