Reeves '25 Explores the Galápagos Islands

Elle Reeves ‘25 reflects on the two weeks she spent on the Woodberry in the Galápagos trip, a co-educational opportunity for high school students that introduces them to the islands and focuses on natural history.
“This June, I had the opportunity to travel with Woodberry Forest School to the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. It was truly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. If you are ever offered an opportunity like this one, take it. 

When Mr. Mills and Mr. Tisch first came to present the trip to Chatham Hall students in November of last year, I knew right away that I wanted to go. This trip seemed so extraordinary and a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I didn’t want to pass it by. Since I’m a rising junior and taking biology this school year, I thought this trip would also be a great introduction to the class. During our travels to the Galápagos islands and Ecuador, our studies were mainly focused on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. 

After staying the night at Woodberry with the 13 other students on the trip, we headed to the airport to start our journey to Ecuador. Once we arrived in Quito, Ecuador, we stayed in a hotel for the night before leaving the next morning to go to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, where we stayed in a treehouse for two nights. While we were in the Cloud Forest, we went on many hikes, night walks, and learned a lot about the native plants and animals that live there. My favorite activity in the Cloud Forest was the five-hour hike we went on to a waterfall! We had to hike up a river to get there and the water was surprisingly super cold. It was crazy to see that the animals were not scared of humans at all. We had lots of opportunities to feed hummingbirds, and they would come so close to us and even land on us! 

After three days in the Cloud Forest, we went back to Quito to catch our flight to the Galápagos Islands the next day. We flew from Quito to San Cristóbal Island. Once we landed, we went on a short tour of the city and then we went to a Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and saw lots of tortoises, young and old. A Galápagos giant tortoise can live for up to 175 years! The full grown ones were massive. The Galápagos giant tortoises are a very endangered species and that’s why there are so many reserves for them in the Galápagos Islands. They are trying to save this amazing species before it is too late.

That night we stayed on San Cristóbal and the next day we headed to the Aida Maria, which was the yacht that we would stay on for the next eight days. Over the course of eight days we traveled to Santa Fé Island, South Plaza Island, Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, Santiago Island, Rabida Island, North Seymour Island, and Baltra Island. The first day on the yacht we went snorkeling on San Cristóbal and had Galápagos sea lions swimming with us! During our stay on the Aida Maria, we did lots of snorkeling, went on many hikes, visited small towns on the islands with populations, and had a great time. 

While visiting the Galápagos Islands, we saw many animals including blue-footed boobies, land and marine iguanas, magnificent frigate birds, bottlenose dolphins, sharks, fur seals, sea turtles, penguins, and Sally LightFoot crabs. It was amazing to see so many species that I’ve never seen before and that only live in the Galápagos. My favorite activity over the course of the whole trip was snorkeling, especially when we saw so many white-tip and Galápagos sharks! Before coming back to the U.S., we stopped in Quito to explore the city. After two weeks in the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador, we headed back home. 

Global travel is important to me and other students my age. It shows us different perspectives and cultures. It is a more in-depth way of learning about the world, and gives us experiences like no other. I’m so grateful that I got to go on this trip and make memories that I will treasure forever.”
800 Chatham Hall Circle  •  Chatham, VA 24531
+1 434.432.2941  •
Day and boarding school for girls grades 9-12 in the Episcopal tradition.

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