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Hokule‘a visits Galapagos, where wildlife reigns

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    In the Galapagos Islands, where the Hokule‘a crew is spending a week, wildlife conservation is a way of life. Seabirds, iguanas and crabs share the rocky shoreline.

Crews of the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a are wrapping up their first stop back in Pacific Ocean waters on their worldwide sail: an approximately weeklong stay in the Galapagos Islands.

Almost the entire archipelago, part of the South American nation of Ecuador, is a national park or marine preserve. Crew members on the latest Malama Honua (“Care for the Earth”) leg said they marveled at the strong local effort to conserve natural resources there, which fits into the mission of the canoe’s global voyage.

Crews also said they encountered a diverse array of sea life on dives offshore — sharks, rays and “huge” parrotfish.

“I think there’s a lot of amazing lessons to be learned here,” Miki Tomita, director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Learning Center, said via phone from the Galapagos on Friday.

“This is a place where everyone but the humans have the right of way,” Tomita quipped, describing iguanas walking across the floor and sea lions lounging nearby.

Nearby humans have to give those animals and others a wide berth based on local guidelines, she said.

“It’s a lot of island lifestyle in the best kind of way,” with “a very conscious effort to minimize impacts on the natural environment,” Tomita said.

Hokule‘a crews were joined in the Galapagos by their latest student delegation, featuring kids from Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School, Kamehameha Schools and Castle High School, Tomita said. The students studied the islands’ signature giant tortoises at the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, according to a release from the society.

Now crews are preparing to depart in the next couple of days on an approximately 2,200-mile sail to Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui. Finding that remote speck of land in the vast Pacific remains one of the toughest challenges for any traditional navigator, voyagers say.

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