Raising awareness in the Galapagos
Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world.
Who: Claudia Gretter (the author) of Baltimore; her mother, Susy Gretter; her father, Carlo Gretter; and her sister, Jessica Gretter, all of Boca Raton, Fla.; and her boyfriend, Matthew Saltzman of New York City.
Where, when, why: We went to the Galapagos Islands, a province of Ecuador, and stayed at the eco-friendly, sustainable Pikaia Lodge for three days in July. We planned our visit around seeing sea lions but got so much more out of the trip.
Highlights and high points: On the first day, we took a bike ride around the hotel grounds. Not even five minutes into our trip, we saw a giant tortoise up close and picked a passion fruit right off the vine. Later, we saw sea lions, giant tortoises and so much untouched natural beauty.
Cultural connection or disconnect: We got lucky: The Swedish ambassador to Ecuador was visiting the hotel at the same time as we were. Because all excursions are planned by Pikaia Lodge, we were able to enjoy a whole day together exploring the sights. He shared great stories about moving from Switzerland to Ecuador, and it was awesome to get to explore the Galapagos with him during our first visit there.
Biggest laugh or cry: While visiting the sea lions, we noticed one pup (about 3 weeks old) making its way around the beach. Unfortunately, each sea lion he approached barked at him. It turned out that he had lost his mother and was trying to get the other mothers to nurse him. The little sea lion without his mother would die very soon of starvation.
How unexpected: I have lived in Baltimore for the past few years while attending college and haven’t had much opportunity to see the nearby natural attractions. But the sights of the Galapagos Islands were breathtaking and now I am extra motivated to do so. I was shocked by how wellprotected the environment was and by the importance placed on preserving it.
Favorite memento or memory: The greatest gift I left with was a heightened awareness of the importance and necessity of nature conservation. I realized that the islands could be seriously damaged without proper stewardship.
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TOP: From left, Matthew Saltzman, the author, Jessica Gretter, Susy Gretter and Carlo Gretter commune with the sea lions in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. ABOVE: Behind the pool at Pikaia Lodge, the Pacific Ocean looms in the distance.