01 Dec 2005

Exploring the Galápagos

The evolution of an HBS Alumni Travel trip
by Ted A. Adams


“Marty should be here for this; this is what he came here for,” Esther Flashner laments to our Galápagos National Park guide, as a dozen of us stroll the sandy beach of Darwin Bay on the island of Genovesa. We are improbably close to nesting sea birds, four species of which are endemic to the Galápagos Islands. Cameras are pointed at blue beaks and red gullet sacks, inflated like birthday balloons.

Unfortunately, Martin Marks (MBA 6/’47), Esther’s companion of 25 years and an avid birder, is back on the ship, resting. It’s Day Four of a seven-day cruise through the legendary Galápagos Islands, and already we’ve seen more wildlife unique to the islands than we ever could have dreamed. At what point does one rest on a trip like this? How many boobies, iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, sea turtles, penguins, sharks, whales, and dolphins are enough?

Our guide radios the ship’s captain, and ten minutes later Marty, with life vest on, is aboard a panga (dinghy) approaching Darwin Bay for a “wet landing.”

Last summer, HBS Alumni Travel took a group of nineteen, ages 14–87, on a trip that can only be described as fantastic. With Quito, Ecuador, as the initial and terminal point of our trip, we flew 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galápagos. After a quick visit to the local natural history museum, we board pangas to reach our home for the next seven days and 528 nautical miles — the MV Evolution. It is aboard that we will eat and sleep, calm seas permitting. And it is aboard where we will be schooled in herpetology, ornithology, and vulcanology, and be offered a taste of the theory of evolution.

With our appetites whetted by science lessons, the real learning comes on the islands and in the water. Each day begins with a nature walk on a different island. Each island offers something unique, from the blue-footed boobies performing mating dances to the lounging marine iguanas expelling salt from their nostrils like geysers. The afternoons give us a chance to stroll with giant tortoises or contemplate life with a sea lion and her newborn pup. In addition, each day has an option of kayaking or snorkeling (with sea turtles, penguins, sea lions, or sharks). It is the kind of monotony one could get used to, but never does.

Our trip is capped with a dinner hosted by Quito alumni at an Ecuadorian restaurant. After our meal, Esther stands and speaks for us all. “I’ve never been so cared for in my life,” she says. “I don’t know how I can go home.”

— Ted A. Adams


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