Top 10 Travel Stories #8: Galapagos!

The unique landscape of the Galapagos Islands
The unique landscape of the Galapagos Islands

It was June of 2008 and I has just finished my tour of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of Peru and arrived in the Galapagos. Thanks to being a solo traveler I got the last, single bunk on a small boat that was touring around the islands for a week. On one of our shore expeditions I went out into the crystal clear waters to snorkel. I was still very close to shore when I encountered sting rays, sea turtles, and numerous fish.

Afternoon snooze
Afternoon snooze

Sea lions were sunning themselves on the rocks nearby. I came across a 6-foot white tip reef shark and followed it for a while at a pretty close distance, almost close enough to touch. All of a sudden, I heard splashing around me and I turned around to come face to face with…a bird underwater. It was a blue-footed booby, diving in to catch some fish. It was fascinating to watch them diving in and thrusting with their necks and wings to go deeper to catch fish. I was preoccupied with watching them when a small, black object zipped past my head at terrific speed. I looked around and a few seconds later, another something came swimming by like a bullet: it was a penguin! I let out a bubbly gasp into my snorkel tube. How amazing was this?! Swimming with all these animals and then penguins to top it all.

Swim with penguins!
Swim with penguins!

That afternoon, back on the boat we had a few cocktails as we watched the sun slowly set. My fellow passenger Alex and I were taking turns diving in off the top deck in the twilight. No sooner than we came out of the water for the last time, an 8-foot Galapagos shark emerged and followed the lights on our boat for a while.

A Galapagos shark swims near the boat
A Galapagos shark swims near the boat

After dinner, I went back out to the aft deck, where to my surprise a whole new show was just getting started. Baby sea turtles, the lucky ones who had hatched and made it to the surf, were swimming around the boat, attracted by the lights in the water. Joining them were small flying fish, their “wings” lit up green by the lights as they flew about. The commotion had attracted a trio of sea lions. They were keeping busy chasing the flying fish to eat, and playing with the baby sea turtles, tossing them out of the water and into the air using their noses. The turtles didn’t seem to mind, flapping around the water, so full of life.

After a few minutes of observing them in silence, I ran back into the cabin to alert my fellow passengers to the magic show unfolding out back. I climbed up to the top deck and lay down looking up at the stars and breathed in the ocean breeze. All that could be heard was the hum of the generator and the murmurs of my travel companions below.

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