Planet Forward in the Galápagos: 2022

It was a trip two years in the making. At the end of January, four graduates who won Planet Forward Storyfest 2020 at long last boarded planes around the country to begin a storytelling adventure with Lindblad Expeditions. And what an adventure it was!

To get to the Galápagos — in the Pacific ocean a good distance west of Ecuador — first each of our U.S.-based travelers had to complete a series of what we’re going to call “side quests,” as that’s a bit more fun than the drudgery of pre-trip COVID tests, several flights, weather challenges, and extra long lines. But these quests were well worth it when we first saw the bright turquoise waters and rustic, almost desertlike landscapes — home to the incredible endemic and native species of the Galápagos.

Our intrepid storytellers — Deepti Bansal Gage, Jake Meyers, Cate Twining-Ward, and Avery Van Etten — spent a week exploring several islands in the Galápagos archipelago. Three were aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II, and Avery, who persevered through weather-related travel challenges, was aboard the National Geographic Islander.

The sights and experiences our team — and each of our ships and fellow guests — encountered were absolutely incredible. And one of the extremely memorable parts of that, beyond the obvious, is the food served on the ship.

Guests are treated to an amazing daily array of fresh foods — from local juices of fruits many of us were not familiar with, to super grains, salads, sustainable seafood, meat, vegetarian and vegan main courses, and desserts made from and highlighting tropical fruit (one dessert which was entitled "The Story of the Pineapple" will forever live in my mind, thank you!), and much more.

But, like everything else, Lindblad took care of our food guilt too, thanks to a farm-to-table program — just one of many initiatives Lindblad Expeditions participates in to support locals and their economy. Lindblad purchases "30-40 tons of local and organic produce annually" for its Galápagos ships, according to its website. That means money is invested directly in Galápagos farms and supports the people who live in the Galápagos — because there's more than just the incredible flora and fauna in the archipelago. There also are about 30,000 inhabitants on four islands.

On top of food for Lindblad's many guests, "100% of all other (non-produce) provisions are sourced either in the islands or from the mainland of Ecuador." All of which can provide a significant impact on the local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism and was hard hit when COVID ceased travel. The AFP reported that the Galápagos tourism chamber estimated that the economy lost out on $850 million from March 2020 to March 2021. Since reopening in July 2021 with relaxed restrictions, the Galápagos is working to rebuild — all while protecting what makes the islands unique.

You can learn more about the archipelago in the stories our team is sharing from their adventures. They cover everything from endemic species to the human inhabitants on the Galápagos, to changes in protected areas and a look at the evolution of a naturalist. Look for them coming soon on PlanetForward.org.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.