Swimming between the dark crevice, we heard "Hammerhead! Right beneath us!" We looked down and saw the silhouette of at least eight hammerheads swimming along under us. For some seeing the sharks was a fear we had to face. Therefor, we took a big gasp of air and swam down to examine the sharks. Usually seeing sharks is something we swim away from, but in the Galapagos it was life changing to see them swimming in their natural element.
-Anne, Lindsey, Allie
Each morning we woke up to the Galapagos sunrise, lathered on sunscreen, boarded the zodiac bleary-eyed, and headed out for a nature walk. Around us flew Great Frigate birds and on nearby rocks the world's only marine iguanas soaked in the sun. Our guide discussed the fragile ecosystem and biodiversity, but the finer details went over our heads. Instead, we found ourselves engulfed by the magic of the Galapagos. The beauty and variety captivated us. Although scientific answers provided clarity, we were content with not knowing specific details and remaining open to the wonder and mystery that nature has offer. The Galapagos is as much a place of research and knowledge as it is a place of observation, taking in the views and becoming aware of the magic that surrounds us.
-Scout and Kate
We sought solace from the swarms of hammerhead sharks as we watched from atop a four by eight food inflatable raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With a half-complete understanding of our guide's Spanish instructions, we attempted navigating the zodiac in and out of water-filled caves and in sloppy circles in search of sea turtle silhouettes. Knowing that our guide might push us out of the raft at any time, we surrendered to being soaked, sunburned, and in a state of salty bliss under the vast Galapagos sky.
-Maisie, Susannah, and Alizah
The fierce current tugged us back, but we fought it in a desperate attempt to see more of the endless marine life. Our eyes darted in every direction trying to take in each detail of this hidden underwater world. On one side of the wide channel, a black tip reef shark drifted by, allowing te current to drag it away. On the other side, a sea turtle seemed to be stuck in slow motion, sweeping its broad flippers forwards and backward, but remaining suspended in the same place above the fine white sand. A spotted eagle ray then glided directly heath us, its menacing bar whipping behind it.
-Hannah, Erin, and Rebecca
"¿Podemos saltar?" We, the girls of the parent boat, eagerly asked our boat captain every afternoon. He always responded by yelling, "Geoffrey!" The first mate hustled up the three flights of stairs, running behind our trail of dripping bathing suits and sloppy footprints. Once he guided us across the slippery yacht roof, we almost regretted our original request as we peered over the boat's edge, down to the deep blue waters of the Galapagos thirty feet below. On the count of three, we all hurled ourselves off the boat, holding our breaths as we plummeted, waiting for the plunge to come.
-Feyza and Charlotte
I know that I'm on vacation when I lose track of what day it is. The Galapagos was my TTS vacation. In a place where you can snorkel, hike, see endemic wildlife, bask n the sun, swim with sea lions and watch the sunrise every morning, it is definitely a place for everyone's bucket list.
And more comprehensive update from Maisie:
Fresh off the bus that had carried us to various mind-blowing destinations throughout the Amazon Rainforest, we found ourselves decked out in dirtied life vests and neon-blue helmets on the edge of the Rio Hatunyaku. We were both anxious and psyched to conquer the rapids. After a bilingual safety speech and the presentation of our plastic paddles, we pushed off from the river's steep banks. Each boat held five girls and a teacher, all passionately working together when a guide shouted "Adelante!" Some waves were bigger than others, including a class four rapid cleverly hidden among the class threes. After every splash-filled jolt, shouts and giggles ensued. During the more subdued stretches, the silty, the Amazonian water filled with TTS23 girls floating alongside their rafts. Scout and Susannah could often be viewed floating feet-first, eyes closed, in complete relaxation while Sophie and Lena plunged off of a mid river boulder. In spite of our never wanting it to, the day inevitably came to an end. We stepped from the rafts sunburned, damp, looking to relive every second of our white water excursion with our 16 new sisters time and time again.
After a sun and movement filled week in the Galapagos Islands, the 27 hours rumbling down the coast of Ecuador over the gray deserts of Peru on cramped bus came as a mental and physical shock. One hour in, the floor of our moving classroom was filled with books, backpacks, and notes. At times, the narrow interior teemed with midterm stress, yet we managed to lift each other's spirits with bus-speed dating. The speed dating consisted of each girl stepping forward to the shaky front and presenting the rest of of us with a question that we answered and discussed with our seat partner. "If you were living in a tiny Japanese hotel room, what would you bring and why?" "If you could bring back any trend, what would it be?" "What is your favorite holiday memory?" Eventually, we reached Huaraz, Peru where we threw our tired bodies onto the beds of our next temporary home and campus.
One third of our way from the coastal city of Guayaquil to the mountainous city of Huaraz, we stumbled down the steps of the bus onto a sandy beach campsite in Mancora. Prior to tent set-up and dinner, we had the opportunity to enjoy the frothy waters of the Pacific. We washed off a long day of travel with laughter as the Peruvian sun bled over the horizon and pack mules trotted alongside the incoming tide.