Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We have just had the experience of a lifetime. Last Sat. Barry decided that we should take a boat tour of the Galapagos. It is very strictly controlled area and we are not allowed to sail around in our boat and stop anywhere, you have to have a guide or take a tour. We chose to take a 4 day, 3 night tour on a motorized yacht. We visited 5 of the Galapagos Islands and had an absolutely wonderful time. Each island was a unique experience, different in a geological, botanical and animal perspective. Every place we stopped was super.
In one spot we had the best snorkel of our lives. We got to swim with PENGUINS!!!!! Penguins are known to frequent the area but the guide said that in the 3 years that he had been guiding he had never had an experience like we did. Usually he would catch just a brief glimpse while a penguin was swimming and then off they would go; but the penguins were feeding around us. When we were there we watched them fish for over half an hour. It was amazing; they would dart back and forth, turning at a 90 degree angle, on a dime, while chasing down some lunch, a tasty morsel about 3 inches long. The whole group watched in awe as they pursued the fish. When the penguins needed a breath they would zip up to the surface. They didn’t seem to care that we were there and I had several surface directly in front of my face and then I was looking her or him right in the eye. WOW, it never gets any better than this.
On the same dive we saw sharks (yes, you read it correctly, sharks) they were white tipped sharks and they would stay on the bottom and lurk about. The sharks were about 2 meters long and it was quite thrilling to see them. I was swimming after one thinking it was really exciting to see it and it was just casually moving about and then I tried to get close to it. The shark flicked his tail really, really fast and I was so scared I screamed into my mask
This snorkel was incredible. We spotted a manta ray; it was huge; a big black shape resting on the ocean floor. Then there was the sea turtle that went gliding through the group. There were also a great variety of fish. There were parrot fish, yellow tails, damsel fish, angel fish, wrasse and schools of tiny fish as well as schools of fish about 8 to 10 inches long, amazing. That was just one snorkel; we got two snorkels each day we were on the boat.
Each island we visited was very different from the others. On one we climbed a large volcanic hill; on one side there was a lunar landscape, while on the other there was a beautiful vista of sandy beaches and a striking pinnacle rock. Another island was a spot where marine iguanas hung out. We saw them swimming through the surf and swarming on to the rocks. In that area there were also fantastic rock bridges with the waves rushing back and forth through the narrow openings. Each island had a different colour of sand, on one it was white, the other red, the other a sandy brown colour. We saw lots of different types of birds, including the famous blue footed boobies. They are fantastic, diving from about 50 feet in the air. The water is so clear that you can see their path as they shoot down into the water after the fish. The guide informed us that once the boobies get older they start to loose their sight from the repeated impact in the water.
While we were on the boat we really enjoyed meeting the other members of the tour. Not one of them was the typical North American tourist, here for a week or two and then back home. There was a Dutch couple that was on a six month vacation, they had been touring South America. There were three members that had just come from six months of working in Antarctica. The Australian couple was on an extended tour in Central America and had spent two months learning Spanish in Guatemala. A 40 year old fellow of Korean descent was from Chicago and he had sold his successful dry cleaning business and headed out to Africa, England, Germany and South America. While in Africa he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and he had run the Munich Marathon when he was in Germany. A Canadian man was there with his teenage daughter, they had started their trip by volunteering in an orphanage in Ecuador. A young girl who had this killer English accent was actually Swedish; she had spent some time in England learned her trade and was headed back to Sweden to go to school. This eclectic mix of people made for interesting and stimulating conversation. We had a lot of fun getting to know these folks and pulling stunts such as diving off the bow sprit, which was about 15 feet above the water.
We are so glad that we decided to stop here and would encourage anyone that is thinking of taking a vacation to come here. The diversity and the uniqueness of the area would be hard to match anywhere in the world.