Exploring the Galapagos Islands

Smile for the camera, Mr. Sea Lion!

By Josie, 4th grade

This summer my parents and I went on a trip to the Galapagos Islands. My mom has always wanted to see the giant tortoises that live there.  She said going to the Galapagos was one of her childhood dreams. I didn’t know what to expect so I was a little nervous. But I love animals so I was excited that I would see animals that only live on these islands.  


The Galapagos Islands are located in the red square

The Galapagos Islands are in the Pacific Ocean and are on the Equator. They are part of the country Ecuador. One reason the Galapagos Islands are so special is that they are very isolated from other parts of the world. There are animals that live on the islands that do not exist anywhere else on Earth. Most of these unique animals are related to animals that live in other places but over thousands of years they have changed so they could live in the Galapagos environment. 

We stayed on a small cruise ship while we toured the islands. We would explore part of an island in the morning then go back to the ship for lunch. While we were eating lunch the ship would take us to a different part of the island or sometimes a different island.  Then in the afternoon we would explore the new place.

To get from the cruise ship to the islands we had to go in big rubber boats with motors on them called zodiacs. I  was a little scared riding in them at first but I got used to it and liked going in the zodiac. Sometimes we would climb out of the zodiac onto land and other times we had to get off the zodiac in the water and walk up the beach. 

A Galapagos penguin

I was surprised that the water around the Galapagos Islands was cold.  I thought the water would be really warm because we were on the Equator. The guide said there were cold currents from Alaska and Antarctica that meet at the Galapagos so the water is colder. There are even penguins in the Galapagos!  

To explore the Galapagos Islands you have to go with a guide who is a naturalist.  These people are specially trained to know about all the animals and the environment on the islands. Our guides actually live on the cruise ship most of the year.

Look closely! All those rocky looking bumps are marine iguanas!

I thought the most interesting and unusual animal was the Galapagos marine iguana. It is the only lizard that goes into the ocean to feed.  They jump off the rocks into the ocean to get food and then crawl back out and soak up the sun on the rocks.  They eat plants.  Hundreds of marine iguanas hang out together on the rocks. They don’t live as families or herds but they put up with each other. 

The marine iguanas didn’t move away from us if we went close to them.  They just laid there.  In some places there were so many iguanas that you had to be careful not to step on them. Usually I don’t like reptiles that much but these iguanas were really cool.  

A land iguana

The naturalist said the marine iguanas adapted from land iguanas. The land iguanas are brown which matches the color of the dirt on some of the islands. It is believed that some land iguanas got swept off their island and floated over to other islands that don’t have much dirt or plants.

Those islands were mostly lava rocks. The lava rocks are black and dark gray and those are the colors the iguanas changed to so they could blend in with their environment.  Because the lava rocks didn’t have plants growing on them the land iguanas didn’t have anything to eat.  So the land iguanas learned to get their food in the ocean and they became marine iguanas.

Baby Galapagos sea lion

My favorite animal was the Galapagos sea lion.  They had no fear of people and would sometimes swim up to snorkelers.   One sea lion came out of the ocean right behind me when my dad was taking a picture!  They seemed very playful and curious.  We were not allowed to touch the animals but I wish I could have pet the sea lions. 

We also saw a baby sea lion that the naturalist said was only a few weeks old.  Mother sea lions leave their babies on the land while she gets food in the ocean.  None of the animals on the island  bother the baby while the mom is away.  The sea lions and the marine iguanas even hang out together.


120-year-old Galapagos tortoise

On our last day in the Galapagos Islands we saw  giant tortoises. They were huge! The naturalist said the one in this picture is probably 125 years old and 200 pounds. I think the tortoises look like dinosaurs. My mom was so happy that she got to see the giant tortoises.

I would love to go back to the Galapagos Islands one day. It was a really fun adventure and the animals were amazing.


Parents: For recommended books and DVDs on the Galapagos Islands check out our Resources page in the For Parents section.