It has been over two weeks now since we returned from what will probably be our last trip for a very long time. While we have been sheltering in place, my feelings have alternated between gratitude for my safe, comfortable life at home with time to work on projects and freedom from many responsibilities, and deep sadness over the suffering the COVID-19 is causing everywhere. To escape, I returned to the glorious underwater world of the Galapagos, editing the beautiful footage shot by our guide, Paola Sangolqui and putting it to muic. I invite you to escape with Paola and the turtles, rays, sharks and many other wonderful creatures of the sea in the pristine water of the Galapagos Islands.
How I love snorkeling! The snorkeling, sometimes twice a day, has been quite marvelous along rocky ledges and over sandy bottoms. Sturdy ladders on the dinghies have made it fairly easy to climb out of the water.
The water is warm, and sometimes crystal clear. Today was the best, and a dive I had rather feared. We would be swimming with sharks! The destination was Kicker Rock off San Cristobal, a monolith jutting straight out of the water, perhaps 200 feet high. We swam through a crack in the rock, along straight walls. thick with corals and barnacles and other growths, colorful in the sunshine. Parrot fish and others nibbled along the wall. In the center of the channel the water was deep blue, with no visible bottom. There we saw a green Pacific turtle, swimming in a relaxed manner, just like us, and then suddenly far below, we saw the distinctively shaped hammerhead sharks. They paid us no attention, which helped me stay calm.
We saw white-tipped reef sharks and turtles on the darker shady side of the rock, and several other quite large sharks as well. There were also puffer fish and beautiful eagle spotted rays, at one point two swimming in a dance together.
Once Kent and I looked down into the deep and to see perhaps three Galapagos and three Hammerheads circling below us.
Later, just before we got into the dinghy, dozens of sharks circled below us.
I don’t know why I didn’t think about an underwater camera! Paola used a go-pro in a plastic case on a wand, and got some wonderful videos.
Thursday: today we snorkeled in deep water around some rocks off Floreana. The water felt cold. I swam above a shark or two, and then a huge form approached on my left—it was a sea lion! . In shallower and warmer water I was delighted to see many brilliant blue starfish on the bottom as well as some unusual large mounded gray-colored shapes with many sides— perhaps also starfish? (I think chocolate chip sea stars with five sides).
This is where I also saw a long thin fish, like a trumpet fish, but almost transparent—ill look it up.
Friday: Our last snorkel. There were only Kent, me and Margaret, and one of the crew members— the captain of the ship! Again, we snorkeled along a rocky shore. Paola was in the dinghy, but didn’t snorkel with us. We saw nothing new, but as we entered the water, sea lions leaped and dived beside us, almost close enough to touch—i tried, but could not quite reach one that almost swam into me.
I was the last out of the water: I didn’t want to leave.
After visiting the famous post office box, where we left a postcard addressed to ourselves, and picked up several addressed to Albuquerque residents, some of us visited a lava tube. Larry and Margaret backed out after the first two ladders down, but Linda, Ed, Kent, and I continued with Paola and Juan Carlo to the end of the tube, where we waded in darkness in cold salt water that came above our knees.
I’ll admit, I found it a bit scary. I don’t really like dark holes in the ground. But it was an interesting experience, and climbing out was easier than going down when my Teva sandals slipped on the gravel.
I was surprised and happy to see the bright light of day pouring down from the opening, sooner than I’d expected it.
We also had the opportunity to swim at the beach near the “post office,” but the water over the brown sand was murky, and as I was about to wade in I spied numerous sting-rays swimming in clusters along the water’s edge. I decided to wait for a better opportunity to swim!
I’m lying on the bed in our air-conditioned room, taking a few minutes to write. We have been here less than 24 hours, and already I am loving these islands.
We have just returned from a walk over lava at Sullivan’s Bay, which, as our guide Paola said, was mostly about landscape, but we also saw penguins: the first a juvénile perched alone in a rocky cove, and later many swimming near the rocks where we landed and the sandy beach from which we returned.
The lava was varied, with some organic-looking curving swirls and balls, and rope-like twisted forms.
Other bits were jagged and sharp, and cracked with sometimes deep fissures, oxidized red. Large and small red cinder cones from older eruptions loomed in the background.
We were transported between boat and shore via Zodiacs.
The water is crystal clear and turquoise blue.
I awoke before 6 this morning to see a glowing sky behind mountains. I grabbed the camera, and dashed out in my Mexican dress. In just minutes the sky had faded.
Some of us sat on the sun deck as the sun rose. A frigate bird perched on the roof, and sharks circled in the water with surgeon fish. I tried doing some yoga stretches, and realized how stiff and out of shape I am.
We will meet shortly to learn about the Galapagos finches. There are other boats anchored here. An Xploration catamaran and a much larger Silver Sea cruise ship. Kent tells me that several others have since come. We are still quite close to the main island of Santa Cruz, which our guide Paola’s home.
I snapped pictures of a few islands as we flew over them, including the airport and Mosquera Island — a interesting spit Of sand and black rock, where we were to walk later.
After Paola met us at the airport, we took a bus to a pier, then Zodiac to our ship Galaxy, where we were given our cabins, and served lunch.
After a bit of rest, the first expedition was a snorkel trip. I think we were all a bit nervous. I know it has been several years since Kent and I have snorkeled. We first had to find masks and fins that fit, and I had to struggle to get into my bathing suit.
But once in the water, it all comeback to me. There was a bit of swell as we swam along a rocky edge. I saw surgeon fish, parrot fish, and a Moorish Idol. And many others. Kent spied a shark, and others a spotted eagle ray. I relaxed among the beauty of the fish, but eventually., as the sunlight came at lower angles and clouds also loomed, I was ready to get out, and managed to navigate the ladder into the boat without too much difficulty after removing my fins in the water.
We were greeted in the Zodiacs with outdoor towels, and back on the ship, with hot sweet tea.
Our first challenge successfully completed!
A bit later, dressed in dry clothes, we walked on Mosquera Island, after a wet landing in surging waves that made it even later than we’d expected. I had a plastic bag over camera with big lens.
We saw many sea lions, pelicans, and black iguanas, all of which seemed quite unafraid.
The sun was dipping low as we braved rough seas again, back to the boat. I was so tired at dinner, I could hardly stay awake.
I slept long and soundly, rocked in the cradle of the sea.