Q&A: Encounters with Wildlife on Galapagos Islands

Megan Koelemay July 31, 2009 0
WWF's Eunice Park on Galapagos

A close-up encounter with the fearless but gentle wildlife of Galapagos. © Eunice Park/WWF-US

Eunice Park, a member of World Wildlife Fund‘s communications team, visited the Galápagos Islands recently, when the Baltra Island fuel-handling facility received its environmental certification. Here is Eunice’s take on this otherworldly wildlife destination.

What surprised you about the Galápagos?
I had read a lot about the Galápagos and watched a lot of videos beforehand, but I was really struck by how unique each island was. One was a mangrove haven, one was volcanic, one was all sand. Unlike Hawaii where the islands look similar—the Galápagos developed into such different places!

How was the snorkeling?
I had never snorkeled before; it was amazing. I could see clear to the bottom and all the beautiful coral life clinging to the cliffs. The sea lions played tag with me, and I saw a giant sea turtle swimming under me, which was incredible. I feel kind of spoiled for any future dives because it was unbelievable.

What was your favorite animal?
The Galápagos penguin. It was small but majestic and unafraid. Plus it’s a penguin in Ecuador, which is pretty unique.

What is your favorite memory from the trip?
Frigate bird parents leave their young on land while they get food, and the baby bird has to stay exactly where it is for the parents to find it again. So you would see a fluffy bird standing by itself in the middle of nowhere, and it wouldn’t budge. They weren’t afraid of us, they just stood their ground. It was really cute.

What did you take away from your trip?
The fact that there is a place on this earth where animals are unafraid of humans. I really felt a sense of stewardship. One time a mother sea lion dropped her pups right in front of me while she went into the water to fish. The pups were totally unafraid and wanted to play with me. I knew I couldn’t touch them, but I was in awe that they were so trusting. I had never seen anything like that in my life or felt so proud of protecting this very special, very rare relationship between animals and people.

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