The Galapagos Islands are a world renowned, isolated island chain where a wide diversity of endemic species have had the chance to evolve independent of human intervention. Though a small population of only around 25,000 people live on the Galapagos Islands today, the archipelago remain heavily protected due to the great ecological and biological uniqueness it encompasses. Adventurous high school students who are interested in both natural and environmental sciences will find an incredible journey awaits them in the Galapagos Islands.
High School in the Galapagos
Adventure Travel and ecotourism are both especially popular forms of high school programs in the Galapagos Islands. Students will be able to learn all about environmental and wildlife preservation while also having the opportunity to interact closely with animals and partake in a wide range of fun activities. This type of high school program often incorporates volunteer opportunities across a variety of community service projects. Many of the islands’ inhabitants lack access to basic resources, so students can leave behind a positive impact on both the environmental and the local people by lending a helping hand.
Language Immersion is another common type of high school program in the Galapagos Islands. As a territory of Ecuador, Spanish is the most common language spoken throughout the Galapagos, making it a fun and enriching destination for students to take their Spanish fluency to the next level. Generally, Spanish language programs consist of morning and/or afternoon classes every weekday, with plenty of fun extracurricular activities thrown in to sweeten the pot.
Many high school programs in the Galapagos Islands will include additional travel to several other places in Ecuador, including the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest. If you want to see the Galapagos Islands, but you are interested in expanding your South American adventure beyond this infamous island chain, then exploration programs may be just right for you!
Life in the Galapagos Islands
Living on the Galapagos Islands might seem quite different at first from life on the mainland. For example, because the entire island chain is protected as both a national park and a biosphere reserve, there are fairly strict regulations about what you can and cannot do. Environmental sustainability is a mutual effort and students should make their utmost effort to embrace the cause during any high school program in the Galapagos.
Apart from the biological uniqueness and incumbent regulations, life will come to seem fairly normal during high school programs in the Galapagos Islands. Only five of the 18 major islands are inhabited by humans at all, Baltra, Floreana, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. There are two big towns on the islands; roughly 15,000 people live in Puerto Aroya and roughly 8,000 live in Puerto Baquerino Moreno. Students should expect certain commodities and utilities to be less accessible than on the mainland, but apart from this the towns are fully functioning and have plenty of things to do.
One other factor to consider is the distinct climate of the Galapagos. Located exactly on the equator, the islands are usually covered by a dense layer of fog, with cold winds during June to November, the season known as garua. From December to May the weather is much better, though erratic rains still often visit the islands.
Scholarships & Costs
High school programs abroad can be fairly expensive, and programs in the Galapagos are certainly no exception. Since the islands are a very popular travel destination, home to a very fragile ecosystem, and have most goods imported, the costs of living in the Galapagos will be markedly higher than on mainland Ecuador. Fear not though; by taking advantage of available resources, such as scholarships and fundraising opportunities, your dream trip to the Galapagos might be closer than you think.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays and group living are the typical types of accommodation offered by high school programs in the Galapagos Islands. Depending on the specific program type, you may or may not have the opportunity to decide between which form of housing you prefer. Also, bear in mind that living conditions might be markedly simpler outside of the large towns of Puerto Aroya and Puerto Baquerino Moreno.
In most cases, you will be able to obtain the proper visa documentation upon arrival in Ecuador; however, this could turn out not to be the case, depending on your home country and the length of your program. All high school students should confirm visa requirements with their provider before booking flights, in order to get the proper documentation. Students can also check out GoAbroad’s Ecuadorian Embassy Directory for more information in the meantime.
Benefits & Challenges
Go Naturalist. Visiting the land that infamously inspired Charles Darwin’s theories about evolution, you might just develop a keen fascination with the diversity of these endemic species yourself. From marine iguanas to Galapagos penguins, the distinct species you will see in the Galapagos cannot help but inspire awe.
Escape the Mainland. Life on the Galapagos will prove to be much simpler than the complexities of modern society on the mainland. It is a great opportunity to have an experience that is completely different and gain valuable perspective in return.
Think Ahead. You should be going abroad for the experience itself, but a high school program in the Galapagos Islands certainly won’t look bad on college applications either. The trip will make you stand out as an ambitious and bold prospective student.