Eight-year-old Sophie Lenoir took a Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic trip to the Galápagos islands with her family aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour II. She wrote this essay about her experience.
I have been all over the world to places like Hong Kong, Morocco and the Arctic Circle, but my mother knows how much I love animals and protecting the planet and that I love to explore, so we traveled to the Galápagos Islands in August.
During our trip on the National Geographic Endeavor II, I participated in the National Geographic Global Explorers Program. It was cool: I learned a lot about the diff erent animals. I also met children from other countries, like Germany, Japan and India, and we played together. We could ask the naturalists any question we wanted, and they explained everything. Every Global Explorer got a Field Notebook, and we had group sessions every day, where we wrote stories about the animals we had seen. I also learned a bit of Spanish.
We did so many activities. I loved hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. Even though I didn’t know how to snorkel, the naturalists taught me. The water was so cold, so we went out in a glass-bottom boat instead and saw thousands of fish and chocolate chips, which are starfish with spikes on top of them. I learned how to drive a Zodiac and even got my license. It went so fast around the ship and everyone screamed. We spotted a hammerhead shark very close by, too.
It was amazing because there were so many animals. Everywhere I looked in the Galápagos I saw animals I have never seen before, like giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, fur seals, golden stingrays, penguins and even a humpback whale. I was shocked at how big he was. He did so many jumps and flapped his tail. The naturalist told me they’re called the clowns of the sea, since they like playing around. One of the best things I saw were the red-footed boobies: They have blue beaks and red feet, and look so funny.
We visited a school and went to Post Office Bay on Floreana Island. It has a funny name because it is where the first ever post office was in the Galápagos. You can leave mail with no stamp in a very old mailbox on the beach for people to deliver by hand. I mailed some postcards I had written to friends back home. I wonder if they will get there?
There were huge waved albatrosses and sea lions on the beach on Española — they honk a lot — and flightless cormorants on Isabela Island (also called Seahorse Island because it’s shaped like a seahorse).
I loved the photography hike we went on, as they showed me how to take wildlife pictures, and we saw pink flamingos. I liked watching them fly, because you can see black tips at the ends of their feathers.
One of my favorite things we did was visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where they do conservation work. I loved the Galápagos tortoises we saw there because they were so big and seemed so friendly, but I was super, super sad to see Lonesome George, the stuff ed Pinta tortoise. I can’t believe he was the last one from Pinta Island, and they are now extinct, because 112 humans wanted their shells to sell and their meat to eat. Afterwards we went on a hike in the highlands, where there were lots of wild giant tortoises, and that was amazing.
I went up to the bridge every day to speak to Captain Neira and his crew. They taught me how to navigate, and I even got to drive the ship. One evening, I was so excited because my parents let me stay up until 10:15 p.m. to drive our ship across the equator. It was very bumpy as we crossed it, but then it became calm, which surprised me.
While on the ship, I got to try food from the Galápagos, like fish and yummy yucca bread with cheese inside. If you go there, you have to try some. I loved the pizza and movie night, too. (It was for kids only, so I told Mommy she wasn’t invited.)
I was sad to leave the National Geographic Endeavour II and the Galápagos, but after the cruise, we got to do some fun trips on mainland Ecuador. We visited a cacao plantation, a market and a rose farm in Otavalo. All animals are precious, and our planet is beautiful, so we should protect them. I would like to help. When I grow up, my wish is to be a National Geographic Explorer, wildlife biologist and also volunteer at the Charles Darwin Research Station because they get to work with animals and teach people how to protect the planet.
One thing is for sure: The Galápagos will stay in my heart forever.”
Getting There: Lindblad–National Geographic sails in the Galápagos year-round. Free airfare from Miami is offered on select departures through December 2018 aboard National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander.
When to Go: The Galápagos are a year-round destination, thanks to consistent temperatures.
How to Book: Lindblad Expeditions.