There are no words or photos that can possibly due justice to the Galapagos experience. Of course, I´m still going to try to tell you about this magical week that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I nearly cried this morning when it was time to depart.
I don´t have the time or energy right now to tell you everything, but I hope to backfill more stories when I get home. For now I´ll just give you the highlights.
Every day in The Galapagos you do or see at least one amazing thing that you would only do once every few months or maybe only once a year at home. Even those on my boat who´d been traveling for months found this to be the most amazing part of their journey. One reason is because there are many species and things about the Galapagos that exist absolutely nowhere else in the world, and they are all incredible.
Here´s my list of most amazing moments in no particular order:
Swimming with a Marine Iguana
The Galapagos has the only swimming iguana in the world. While snorkeling the other day, one jumped off the rock where he was sunning himself, and zipped by, spikes and all, propelled by just his tail.
Snorkeling with a Sea Lion
Sea lions here are tame, curious and playful. A young sea lion performed a water ballet all around me to get a good look. I was just as curious about him, but far more akward. So I floated while he swam within five inches, close enough for me to see his teeth! But he was just playing.
Mating Dance of the Waved Albatross
Up, down, back and forth, the albatrosses face one another and click their beaks together in a funny but touching display of affection.
I´m always falling behind the group during snorkeling because I want to see everything, and I like to be away from the crowd. So I was a bit isolated when a four-foot long white-tipped shark went gliding by below me, close enough to very clearly see the white tips even in somewhat murky water. When I called out to the others to find out if they´d seen it, they were coming towards me, following the shark to have another look. Now with companions, I felt braver, and went along for another look. There were four in all.
Sunset From the Volcano Atop Bartolomé Island
Although this is volcano is less than 1,000 feet, the view is spectacular. Lava craters as big as a house, stark volcanic landscape that looks like it could be the moon, the isthmus of the island with Pinnacle Rock, the most photographed part of the islands.
Water Bottle Rescue
One day someone dropped their water bottle getting back into the panga (dinghy) that took us on our excursions. Our driver stretched out over the water in a Herculean effort to retrieve it. Everyone watched as if it were the ninth inning with the bases loaded, waiting in anticipation, hoping he´d beat the currents. The entire boat erupted in cheers when he grabbed the wandering rubbish and brought it safely back where it belonged. In this pristine environment, you see the water bottle floating in the water for what it truly is - an assault on the planet. If only we took so much care to the rest of our world.
Blue and Red-Footed Boobies
One of the most extraordinary-looking creatures on the planet, boobies are named thus because they look silly, or so my guide tells me. He says this is a form of sexual selection (there´s lots of Darwinian talk in the Galapagos), so theoretically the first boobies to have colored feet must have scored a lot more than the plain boobies, and now they are their own species, unique to the Galapagos.
Glittering Swarms of Yellow-Tail Surgeon Fish
I have dived on the Great Barrier Reef, in the Maldives and many other world-class destinations, but nothing surpasses the richness of marine life in The Galapagos. Hundreds of these light blue fish with bright yellow tails move as one undulating body, swarming to all feed on a spot of coral, then gliding off into the distance.
Giant Tortoises in the Wild
On Santa Cruz Island, there are places where the giant tortoises for which the islands are named ramble along in their natural habitit. To look off into the brush and see a tortoise just as I might see a coyote, racoon or rabbit at home, just seems weird in a wonderful way.
Fending off Seasickness by Light of the Full Moon
One of the first nights I made the mistake of showering after we started sailing. Fresh air is the antidote to all motion sickness, so I went up top and propped myself up on the most comfy cushions. All alone, I focused on the glorious rising of a full moon against the dark, empty sea and sky.
Cliffs Off One of the Las Plazas Islands
High above the sea, waves crashing against the sharp black rocks, with absolutely no human habitation in sight.
Quiet of the Ocean Under Sail Power
The day we traveled from one side of Española Island to the other, we put up the sails and shut off the engine. Just the wind, islands and vast expanse of sea that belongs only to the fish and birds and creatures who claim these islands as their only home.
Pristine Beaches of Many Colors
From soft white that would make the Carribean jealous to green tinted with olivine to chocoate brown to chai tea, The Galapagos has it all. Floreana Island is brown and olivine from volcanic material on one side and white from coral and shells on the other.
Lava Tunnel on Santa Cruz Island
I felt like Indiana Jones crawling over fallen rocks in the dimly lit tunnel. It was about 20 or more feet high in most places, until the end, when I had to crawl on my belly to get out.
Lava Flows and Ash Layers of Santiago Island
Now set as stone, the volcanic terror created a geological masterpiece. It´s also a playground for sea lions pups who swim in an aquamarine natural pool with a rock bridge, and where the tide fills water holes that rise and fall as much as four feet with each wave of the ocean.
The Bishop Natural Statue on Santiago Island
An extraordinary geological structure in a corkscrew shape, this natural statue in Buccaneer´s Cove also resembles a chess piece. The locals say it is named for a famous bishop, but I was so busy staring at it and taking pictures of it, I didn´t get the whole story on who he was.
There is something different in the Galapagos at every time of the year, but I was fortunate to be there for many babies or babies-in-the-making. Nursing sea lions, fluffy frigate bird babies tended by mom and dad, Nazca boobies gathering twigs to build nests together, frigate birds offering twigs as a matrimonial promise, love calls and responses, the mating dance of a flock of flamingoes stepping back and forth in unison.
Booby Feeding Frenzy
Up at dawn in search of marine turtles in the mangroves on Santa Cruz Island, we watched in awe as thousands of blue-footed boobies descended on the lagoon and collectively crashed into the water. Then they all took to the sky again, circled the lagoon and together hit the water like bombs dropping from the sky. A final extraordinary experience on the last excursion of the trip. Just when I thought it couldn´t get any more amazing.