Over spring school vacation, April 19 to 23, a Camden father, son and grandfather flew to Ecuador and then visited the Galapagos Islands aboard a chartered 90-foot catamaran.

Camden Hills Regional High School student Vinny Kwiatkowski, along with his father, Marc Kwiatkowski, and his grandfather, David Bush, of Manchester-By-The-Sea, Mass., toured Santa Cruz, Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay, Santa Fe, South Plazas and North Seymour Islands, learning about the indigenous wildlife of the volcanic islands that lie on the equator approximately 600 miles west of the South American coast in the Pacific Ocean.

The Galapagos are volcanic, like Hawaii, the Azores, and Reunion, and considered to be the product of mantle plume, which according to the geology department at Cornell University, are columns of hot rock that rise from deep within the earth. Life on the Galapagos is unique, as animals there have adapted to a hostile environment, and have been much studied, beginning with the visit of Charles Darwin in 1835.

The Galapagos are otherwise known as the Enchanted Islands, and draw visitors and scientists from around the world. In order to tour in the Galapagos one must be accompanied by a certified national parks island guide.

“A visiting tourist can circumvent this by taking the guide course themselves, which very few do, and opt to go on an escorted tour instead or have one travel with you as we did,” said Marc Kwiatkowski. “This requirement helps ensure minimal contact with and impact on the animals and allows them to be viewed in as natural an environment as possible.”

According to Kwiatkowski, humans are not allowed to touch or feed the animals.

“If they come to you then you can interact with them on their terms, but at no time are you to pursue them,” he said. “Any real economic development on the majority of the islands is almost nonexistent, with the exception we saw being Santa Cruz, and there are others but none we personally visited. They really try to limit the footprint of man on the majority of the islands.”