Volunteering in the Galapagos
03.31.2013 93 °F
Armed with only a machete and half of a fence post hole digger we combed the highlands of San Cristobal in search of invasive blackberries (‘mora’ in Spanish). The battle between native plants and blackberries is easily being won by the blackberries. However, places like Hacienda Esperanza are clearing large areas of blackberries and replanting the native species to then hand over the groomed land back to the giant tortoises (tortugas).
We initially wanted to volunteer as a way to offset the environmental stress that we cause as tourists in the Galapagos, but then realized that it was much more of a learning experience for us. Our week in the highlands gave us a chance to experience real country life in the Galapagos far from the travel agencies and restaurants. Each day we awoke to roosters at 6am, had breakfast, then hiked for 45 minutes to the top of the mountain for a grueling day of mountain gardening. Our evenings were spent tagging along with Jose and his family’s activities, including soccer with the neighborhood, his 5 year old nephew’s bautizo, and harvesting food for us and the tortoises from his brother’s plantation.
Jose’s nephew, Dyana, acted as our tour guide one day taking us to Puerto Chino and Largo Junco. It was a great way to practice our Spanish and learn a few things about the giant tortoises.
In the rest of our time off, we explored the tourist sites of San Cristobal including swimming with the marine iguanas and having our first glimpse of the infamous blue footed boobies…
…and deep water snorkeling with sharks at Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock)!