Photo by Page Keeley

Page Keeley and Joyce Tugel Recount Their Recent Galápagos Trip with Science Educators

Page Keeley and Joyce Tugel Recount Their Recent Galápagos Trip with Science Educators

Sep 9, 2021|Holbrook in the FieldWhere we travel| by Holbrook Travel
Back from the Field: Page Keeley and Joyce Tugel recount their recent Galápagos trip with science educators

“The best trip ever!”

Holbrook caught up with Page Keeley and Joyce Tugel, nationally known leaders in science education and professional development. Keeley and Tugel recently took 11 curious, adventurous, and COVID-vaccinated nature enthusiasts to the Galápagos in July 2021. Keeley’s numerous science publications (including two books co-authored with Tugel) are used in schools throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Q: Page, this was your ninth trip leading a group of science educators. Why did you choose the Galápagos for this trip?

Keeley: I was there in 1997 and I wanted to go back and see how it had changed or hopefully not changed. I also wanted to go with a group of science educators this time. Because my background is in biology, that's what drew me to the Galápagos. It's just so rich in biology and the phenomena are just amazing. It's sort of a biologist dream destination. This was our best trip ever.

Q: What was it like traveling during the pandemic? Specifically, how did the country adopt safety protocols where you traveled?

Keeley: When we arrived in Ecuador, it was very evident they take this very seriously. Masks were a requirement when you were around groups of people, so we always had our face coverings on in crowded situations. But they also recognize that when you're away from other people, you can take a mask break.

Tugel: To build on what Page said, the guides were very good at letting us know when and where we should be wearing masks. And they have mask monitors in any crowded areas, something I’d never seen before which made you feel safe. And then, coming back into the U.S., they made sure we all had our proper PCR tests. We all came back negative and happy.

Keeley: I actually felt safer in the Galápagos than here at home because they take it so seriously, plus we were outdoors so much of the time in open spaces.

Q: What were you hoping to discover on this trip and how did it live up to your expectations?

Tugel: I thought I’d be seeing some big tortoises and a few birds. I had no idea what a rich diversity I was going to encounter in the Galápagos and how deep that experience was going to be. We started a species list of all the plants and animals we saw, including underwater marine organisms. That list is now five pages long! So it certainly exceeded my expectations.

Q: Can you describe the trip itinerary and which islands you visited?

Keeley: In the Galápagos, we started in Santa Cruz and went to Santiago Island. Then most of our time was spent around Isabela, which is a very large island, going around the northern and western part of Isabela. We also went across the channel to Fernandina, the youngest island, then back to Santa Cruz.

Q: The Galápagos has so many unique, endemic species. Which ones captivated you most?

Tugel: Page and I both became captivated by those Blue-footed Boobies. But I think, for me, my favorites were in the water. It was my first time ever snorkeling and I was blown away by swimming alongside the sea turtles, the Galápagos Penguins, and the sea lions. I just can't even put into words how thrilling that was.

Keeley: In addition to the Blue-footed Boobies, I think probably for me were the marine iguanas. It was just fascinating to watch them snort the salt after they come out of the water. Every time I looked at them they're so fascinating. The comparison between marine iguanas and land iguanas is interesting, to see all these evolutionary changes.

Q: Your interest in Blue-footed Boobies led to supporting the Blue Feet Foundation. How did that come about?

Keeley: I came across the Blue Feet Foundation and contacted the founders, teenage brothers Matt and Will Gladstone, to let them know that we were going to the Galápagos with a group of science educators. They had learned about Blue-footed Boobies from their 5th grade science class teacher and wanted to do something to protect them by raising money for research by selling blue socks. They’ve raised a significant amount of money all over the world selling these special socks. So one night during the trip, we surprised our group with the socks for us to wear. It’s a story of how a teacher can really make a difference in a child's life.

Q: What was it like for the local people and guides to have you there?

Keeley: I think it meant a lot. They were so happy to see us. We heard they have essentially been out of work for an entire year or so. And of course we were very happy to be with them, but it was kind of a sad story to hear how this has affected them economically being out of work for so long.

Tugel: One of the reasons we became a family to the crew is because of our guide, Lulu. She was like our mother hen, watching over us, and sharing her enthusiasm and her passion and deep, deep understanding of the environment of the Galápagos. We would see her face light up, and you knew you were about to look at something really exciting and she would just laugh. I think we'll all be thankful for her enthusiasm for years to come.

Q: Were there any memorable experiences that you want to share?

Keeley: Speaking of our guide, Lulu, I love how she had us take solitary reflective moments. We would be hiking and she would have us all sit down, put our cameras away, put our phones away, no talking—just sit and pensively take in the beauty of this extraordinary place for 10 minutes. We did that, I think, about three or four times and that was really special.

Q: How important is it to experience firsthand other parts of the world, their natural science and educational systems?

Keeley: One of the hallmarks of education is to give students and teachers firsthand experiences with phenomena. For instance, in the Galápagos you're not just reading about natural selection, you're right there where it's happening. You're seeing the effects of natural selection. So it was just an amazing firsthand experience, rather than something that you could experience through video or through books. I think that's important for anyone to have that experience. For classroom teachers, it’s exciting to go back and be able to share this experience with students.

Tugel: Another piece that's valuable in experiencing these other parts of the world is to come home and start making connections to phenomena that are taking place in your own backyard and to the greater planet.

Q: What would you tell others about whether they should travel now?

Tugel: I would start by giving this advice: Make sure you have travel insurance and make sure you're traveling with the help of an organization that can help guide you through the uncertainties. But go for it!

Keeley: Yeah, and look for experiences that keep you outside. That felt much safer to me. If I would recommend any kind of travel right now, I would recommend that people look for travel experiences where they're doing things outside in nature.

To read more about the group's Galápagos experience, visit Page Keeley's blog at All photos courtesy of Page Keeley and Joyce Tugel.


Trips you may like

Join Waitlist
From $4,975

Natural History

Iceland | Journey Through the Icelandic Countryside

May 17, 2023 - May 26, 2023