Lifelong Learning in the Galapagos

Columnist and world traveler Cheryl Cashman, of Port Townsend, founder of Adventure Artisans travel concierge services and friend of Centrum, tells us about a truly special place for lifelong learning.

Educational family trips that are multi-generational may be difficult to find, but a trip to the islands where Charles Darwin’s famous theory evolved in the mid-1800s is one that everyone in a family can enjoy. There’s no place on Earth quite like the Galápagos.

My personal goal in the Galápagos was to swim with penguins. I know, penguins live in frozen Antarctica, who would ever get a chance to actually swim with them, right? But the Galápagos Islands are home to a very small, endangered colony of penguins who rode the Humboldt current up from the Antarctic and manage to survive in equatorial waters. Your only chance of seeing one would be on Fernandina or Isabela, two of the 19 islands and 40 islets that make up the archipelago.

On Day 1, my first question to our naturalist guide was, “Will I be able to swim with penguins?” He paused, scratched his scraggly, grey-flecked beard and said, “Hmmm … possibly.”

Near the end of our 7-day, island-hopping cruise, we were snorkeling in the warm water off Isabela. Swirling around my facemask were hundreds of tiny fish darting around in a disorganized school. In the distance, I suddenly caught sight of something larger coming in at high speed – something streamlined, beaked and wearing a tuxedo.

How thrilled I was when my dream came true! The penguin seemed unconcerned about human snorkelers in the water and swam all around us for several minutes, snapping after the fish. He was so close I could have touched him. My husband had his underwater GoPro going and got lots of video of the penguin swimming around us and our traveling companions. The penguin even paused for a close-up, just inches in front of the camera.

Then a sea lion joined the penguin, and although their high-speed water acrobatics looked like play, I’m sure they were just after a nice seafood lunch.

We worked our way back to the pure white, sandy beach and stood in waist deep water, talking about how lucky we were to experience this. Then someone pointed and shouted, “Penguin!” As if he were bidding us farewell, the penguin was swimming rapidly around our ankles. A true lifetime memory.

Bring a good video and/or still camera and be prepared to move. You might be hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and riding on small, motor-driven, inflatable dinghies they call pangas. The trips here are definitely considered “active.”

You could enjoy the islands as a solo traveler, a couple, with friends, or as part of a multi-generational family group. I recommend children be at least 12 years of age and reasonably good swimmers so they can take in all that a Galapagos expedition has to offer. They will come home with travel adventure memories to last the rest of their lives.

If you want to travel to the Galapagos or want other ideas for multi-generational family trips For you may contact travel consultants Cheryl and Susan at 844-554-6161 or online at www.adventureartisans.com

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