Grosvenor Teacher Goes To Galapagos

Latest update December 3, 2018 Started on November 27, 2018
sea

I am a Special Education Teacher from a PreK through 8 school in Connecticut off to explore the Galapagos through a National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow!


Join me as I explore and expand my knowledge of this region and further develop my Explorer's Mindset!

November 27, 2018
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In The Field

Our second event of the day was also on Espinola Island, but instead we now were at Suarez Point.
Here we did a dry landing onto the island. We were met by more sea lions, red Sally Lightfoot crabs, and marine iguanas! The shore was comprised of boulders and black volcanic rocks.

On this expedition we were going on a 1.75 mile trail made up mostly of boulders and rocks, so it was a good test of balance! But the pay off was this island has abundant wildlife!

The marine iguanas here are black, but switch their colors to red and green, earning them the name of Christmas Iguanas! And with Christmas only a few weeks away from us, this was appropriate. These iguanas resemble dragons with their claws and their scales and neck, but mostly because in order to get salt out of their system they frequently spray it out of their nostrils! Its pretty cool to watch I have to say!

Another interesting sight here was the number of baby sea lions we saw among the rocks on the shore. We came upon several that were just hanging out waiting for parents to come! They made a higher pitched bleat/bark sound as they called to each other or tried to find their mother. It appeared at times as though the area was a nursery, with the mothers out finding food to bring back to the babies hanging out on the shore.

After some time spent admiring the shore, we made our way along the path and were thrilled to come upon a brown, fluffy, baby waved albatross!!! This bird was sitting patiently in the nest right in the middle of the path, and sat there unalarmed as we all gathered around it!

Soon we came upon a pair of adult waved albatrosses and they were kind enough to show some of their mating dances, clacking their bright yellow bills together. These albatrosses only come ashore to mate and have their young, then they can go out to sea for years!

We also were happy to see a Galapagos Hawk along our journey. And the cliffs were really quite stunning.

Also on this trip we saw Nazca boobies.They are the largest of the three species of boobies that live in the Galápagos. They make their nests on the cliffs. An interesting fact is that they often lay two eggs. We saw several of these nests. But in the first two weeks after the eggs hatch, the baby that hatched first will push the second one out of the nest to then die of neglect and starvation! Truly a species focused on survival of the fittest!

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Today I was up early and saw a beautiful sunrise from the observation deck! A frigate bird sat above me on top of the ship! And we were anchored in Gardener Bay off Espanola Island. This is the beach that you are likely to see in any videos about the Galápagos and sea lions! We had a few very exciting adventures today!
We were very excited when we donned our shortie wetsuits, our life jackets, and climbed aboard the zodiacs for the short ride to Isla Espanola!!

This was our first snorkeling opportunity. And to do it with sea lions languishing on the beach, or swimming nonchalantly by was surreal!! I had a little difficulty with my mask initially, but with the patience and help of a very knowledgeable National Geographic Naturalist Salvador, I was soon enjoying the snorkeling on this pristine beach.

But the highlight was truly being next to the sea lions! To see family groups laying around the sand, or going for a swim without being bothered by all of us clicking our cameras was super amazing. The sounds they made barking to one another was terrific to hear. Time flew as we moved around them and wandered up and down this idyllic beach! A juvenile Galápagos hawk flew over us while we were exploring the beach. I brought my mascot Paws ashore so that he too posed in a photo. There was even a mocking bird that explored him!

The temperature was a really nice high seventies, low eighties in degrees Fahrenheit. The water was not that cold when wearing a wet suit, plus the excitement made it impossible to worry about that! This was a day I truly will not forget!! I am forever grateful to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for this life changing opportunity!

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Saturday morning was an early start with us up at dawn, what would soon become the typical start of our day on this expedition! After a quick breakfast and smooth check out, I got on the Lindblad Expeditions bus with the others in the group, heading to the airport for the flight from the mainland to the islands!
The Galápagos islands are approximately 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the South Pacific Ocean. Our initial destination was on the island of San Cristobal. Upon boarding the plane I was thrilled to finally meet up with my cabin mate and the other Grosvenor Teacher Fellow on this expedition, Kat Golden! We had met only during the initial training session in Washington DC back in March so it had been months of waiting since then! Our flight took approximately one hour. Upon landing we were efficiently escorted through customs, collected our luggage and were off for our adventure!

First we took a short bus ride through the streets and walked a block to the dock. It was so exciting to see the shops, the cobblestones, and the new environment. And the weather was a lot warmer than what I had left behind! Everyone was excited and eager to see and learn new sights!

When we got to the docks we saw our first endemic species! Greeting us on a sunny rock were marine iguanas! They are black with red and green colorings. They truly resemble dragons with their spiky tails, claws, and their ability to spray salt out through their noses! Also on display for us were the red/orange Sally Lightfoot crabs. So colorful against the black stones. And then we also saw our first sea lions, basking on the rocks, the sand and gliding through the water! This was so incredible as it was the first time I could not only see these but also be so close to these animals!! After exploring the dock area, it was time to go on our first zodiac ride to the ship!

Sitting with my colleague Kat as we bounced out to the ship, was an incredible feeling! I will be forever grateful to National Geographic Education and Lindblad Expeditions for selecting me as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow! We exited the zodiacs through a side entry door onto the National Geographic Endeavour II, being greeted by the captain and assembled staff! This was surreal! Going upstairs we found the reception area which included posted biographies of all of the staff and crew. It was humbling to see my photo and bio on the wall with such distinguished company. From there we found our snug cabin 227 which would be our home for the next week. Next up, the adventure begins!

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And I’m off! With luggage in hand the expedition begins! An early morning flight to Miami is followed by a second flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador!
It is as I gather my luggage and pass through Customs that I begin to see other passengers who will be exploring with me!

It’s strange to me to be traveling solo as most people are in pairs of some sort. We can pick each other out at the baggage claim as we see blue and yellow ribbons and Lindblad/National Geographic luggage tags on bags! Everyone is eager to begin! We gather bags and head to Customs. Spanish is of course the primary language so announcements and signs fly by us! I cleared Customs and took the next step! After customs we are met by representatives and taken outside in the warm evening weather, putting our bigger luggage in a truck that seemed way to tiny but worked! We all got on a bus and were greeted by Francisco, our tour guide for this city who outlined our next steps.

Guayaquil is a large city with a port and a population of over 4 million. I later learned that among other things, bananas and roses are shipped from here in mass quantities to the USA. The bustling traffic and unfamiliar sights were stimulating and exciting to see!

Check in to the Hilton Hotel Colon was smooth. I soon learned that this group’s travel is very organized.

It was already a bit late in the day for me so I was content to rest in my room.

Wake up call at 6:00 with our luggage due outside at 6:15 so time to rest before the flight out to the Galápagos Islands tomorrow!! Eek! How exciting!

I brought my school mascot stuffed Paws with me. Paws will show up in some places wearing my Grosvenor Teacher Fellow hat to give a sense of scale and bring a bit of my school with me! I will meet my shipmate tomorrow on the flight to the Galápagos as she is coming from a different route. Hope you enjoy my journey !

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Preparation

It is so hard to believe it is almost time to go! I have been waiting since February to go!! Over the past few months I have been working on developing a better understanding of all the Galapagos has to offer. As part of that I have acquired several books, watched the BBC series on NetFlix, and created a school flag to bring with me! I have also decided to pack the school mascot stuffed animal from my classroom. My school mascot is The Wolves, so my stuffed animal Paws is stowing away in my suitcase! I hope to use him for cameo appearances to help develop a sense of place and togetherness with my students!
My students are excited for me and we have read several books together and used MapMaker Interactive to strengthen their geographic awareness and appreciation of my upcoming expedition. Ironically i have a student who has family in the Galapagos and has visited there herself! And amazingly enough her parents will be visiting the same week I am there! We hope to be able to see each other there - how cool is that???

Now I am down to the final day! Finishing lesson plans! Packing my bag! Checking in for my incredibly early flight! I've not flown out of the country by myself before so that is a new experience for me. I'm sure it will be fine but its the first of many new ways I think I will be expanding my knowledge and going outside my comfort zone. It's really happening! I look forward to sharing photos and this fabulous experience with my students and any of you who choose to follow along! Thank you National Geographic Education and Lindblad Expeditions for this dream come true!

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Expedition Background

Early this year I was selected as a National Geographic Lindblad Expeditions Grosvenor Teacher Fellow! I went to Washington D.C. in March with all of the other 2018 Fellows and was overwhelmed and honored with the amount of information that they provided to us! During this time I met my soon to be shipmate and amazing educator, Katherine Golden from St. Louis.
On November 30th, I will leave on this amazing professional development opportunity of of a lifetime! I will fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador and then out to the Galapagos. There I will board the National Geographic Endeavour II and spend a week exploring the islands and recording information regarding the endemic species and plants there! My goal is to come back with videos and photos displaying this amazing area and sharing it with my Special Education students as well as their peers, to aide them in their geographic awareness and encourage them to further develop their view of themselves as explorers

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