In 2003, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) invited me to visit the opening of a new college campus on San Cristobal Island – in the Galapagos!

I didn't waste any time in booking the flight to Quito, Ecuador, to meet the staff who were developing the facility and study program.

Although the rooms were not yet open to the public, they sent me anyway, and I was among the very first to stay at the new campus.

Galapagos Research with Study Abroad Journal in 2003

Map of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador [click to enlarge]

Arriving in San Cristobal, administrative capital

Welcome to San Cristobal, national park headquarters

GAIAS USFQ campus – San Cristobal island

What I found was way beyond my expectations – a new college campus built directly in front of a world-class surfing beach!

Today the USFQ facility in the Galapagos has grown to include a scientific research center developed in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

Below are a few photos taken in 2003 when the original community college opened to offer students on the island an opportunity to study locally.

The newly-opened GAIAS campus in 2003

Stepping from class onto the beach

University housing with wet paint still on the walls

Evolution in theory and practice

Having the opportunity to visit this amazing place, following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, was a truly life-changing experience. Iguanas swimming in the sea, seals of many different types, colors, shapes and sizes, the incredible variety of birdlife, dolphins, sharks and giant tortoises all combine to make this one of the most incredible places on Earth.

I called home to the US from a payphone right on the beach, and agreed to sell my stake in our surfing school in Hawaii to my business partner. With that cash, I was free to attend graduate school and begin to realize my dream of starting the Study Abroad Journal.

Galapagos tortoise

Galapagos brown pelican

Galapagos marine iguana

Galapagos Islands seal

Seals resting on the beach

Frigatebird at Crater Lagoon

The landscape at San Cristobal

Rich and diverse natural environment

The Galapagos provides a natural canvas

View of the San Cristobal landscape

Around San Cristobal

Easy-going local shopkeeper

San Cristobal Galapagos Community College

Swimming at the pier

The San Cristobal navy base

Fishers at the pier

Surf at the navy base

Hello from San Cristobal

Unloading at the San Cristobal Pier

Fisher working on his boat

Thank you for visiting my Galapagos photo journal page.

Steven A. Martin