Raising aware­ness in the Gala­pa­gos

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - Travel@wash­post.com

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.

To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­post.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite pho­tos.

CLAU­DIA GRET­TER

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.

COUR­TESY OF CLAU­DIA GRET­TER

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