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This year, after four decades in Galápagos, three of them with Lindblad, our beloved expedition leader Lynn Fowler is hanging up her walkie-talkie. Lynn was expedition leader on the inaugural voyage of National Geographic Islander, in December 2004 and the ship has been her exclusive home for the 15 years since.
Certified by the Galápagos National Park in 1978, Lynn was one of the first female guides (officially, naturalist #49). When her daughter Melina was just 8 weeks old, Lynn began working with Lindblad. And it’s been a family affair—Lynn’s ex-husband (and her children’s dad) Eduardo was Captain of our ship, the Isabella II, during that era, and is currently Captain of the National Geographic Endeavour II. Their son Elio is a third mate on the National Geographic Sea Bird. And while Melina doesn’t work for Lindblad she has another connection to her mom—she’s volunteering at the Charles Darwin Research Foundation where Lynn is a Governing Member of the General Assembly.
Growing up with her Uncle Jim—Emmy-award winning Jim Fowler of Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom fame—instilled in Lynn a love of nature, animals, and wild adventure. She had a roster of exotic pets as a child, from a cheetah to an Andean condor. In college she even kept a sparrow hawk on a perch in her closet and flew it daily on the athletic fields!
Lynn’s time in the wilds of Galápagos may be coming to an end but there will be no shortage of wildlife in her future. This December Lynn will retire to the 600-acre family farm in Georgia where in a large pasture dubbed Africa, eland, zebra, emu and ostriches freely roam. We recently caught up with Lynn while she was on the way to the farm to prep for two very special celebrations—Jim’s 89th birthday and the 100-year anniversary of the family’s ownership of the farm.
We’re sure it’s near impossible to pick, but could you name a few of your most memorable moments over the years?I would have to say any interactions with whales, and in particular the time I got to snorkel with sperm whales. A flotilla of about 40 of them went floating by one afternoon—this was years ago—and I immediately jumped in the water. That was just mind-blowing!
More recently, and it’s happened several times, we’ve had some incredible Zodiac rides alongside orcas. One of those times I was out with Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jacques’ son, who was on board the National Geographic Polaris for a TED Talk. It was just so amazing. There I am out at Fernandina Island with Jean-Michel and there’s an orca. We just rode around in the Zodiac and he got this incredible footage and he was just so excited. Orcas are shockingly beautiful. They just blow you away.Lynn working on sea turtle research with baby Melina at her side. What are you going to miss most?Snorkeling without a doubt. I’ll definitely miss going out around the islands and snorkeling in all those beautiful places, the far-off places. I’m also going to miss the companionship of the incredibly fun group that is the crew of the National Geographic Islander. I’ve worked with some of them since my daughter was born and she’s now 30!Taking in the view during her time studying tortoises on Volcan Alcedo on Isabela Island.
You must be excited about your well-deserved retirement. What are you most looking forward to?Spending time on our family farm in Georgia. About 20 of my family members are involved with the farm and we recently got funding to help with the restoration of our longline pine habitat. A long history of land-use practices like logging, farming, and fire exclusion have drastically reduced this once-widespread eco-system, so it's a very important one that needs restoring.
Also being able to finally take slow showers! That’s the only thing I hated. You’d go snorkeling and then you’d have to rush to get ready for Recap or the next activity.If forced to choose what would you say is your favorite Galápagos animal and why?Well, first I have to say giant tortoises because I studied them for so long. But then it would be my favorite little bird, the large-billed flycatcher. It’s this tiny little thing but it just wows our guests. It’s so cute, curious and charming. It will come land on camera lenses, on people’s heads, on a stick if you hold it up. They are just amazing.
Spending time with her Uncle Jim Fowler's reticulated giraffe, Reggie.What do you want people to know about Galápagos?It’s a really magical place full of surprises and even after going around for 40 years here I still see something amazing I’ve never seen before almost every single week. I’ve never tired of the unique and fearless wildlife, the opportunity to watch behavior from just feet away, the remarkable experience of snorkeling with dolphin, or the chance to watch a booby being incubated, then hatched, fed and ultimately, fledged! These islands just get under your skin and you realize they are a paradise on our planet that we absolutely must save to the best of our ability.