Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Exploring the Galápagos: Day 3

On the third day our plans changed to go to an island called Floreana, in the south. Our new guide, Javier, was friendly and told us all the things we would be able to see as we waited on the 2 hour boat ride. The seas were tough on Andrew and he got pretty sick for most of the ride. A lot of us were feeling ill but kept it together in whatever way we could. Once we got to Floreana we took a chiva bus ride for 20 minutes to go on a small walk. A few of us sat on the top of the bus, dodging branches and holding on as the bumps threw us around.

Only 120 people live on the island, and its had an interesting history. The first inhabitant was an Irish pirate who lived there by trading vegetables for rum. Then in the 20th century three German families settled there, but they eventually killed most of each other off in mysterious ways. Now, people come to the island every day to see tortoises that were brought to the island and aren't native to it. You can still see the volcanic cones, mostly blown out, which have now been overgrown with trees and vegetation. At the top of the hike we saw a stone statue of a head that someone had carved out at some point, leaving some plants to be the hair. It was oddly reminiscent of Easter Island.

Back down at the port we saw a couple of penguins quickly swimming by. I wasn't even aware that penguins lived there, but they weren't the kind that you would expect to see in Antarctica. Much smaller, they breezed through the water. Back in the boat we ate lunch and then moved on to snorkel. We were supposed to go in a beautiful area called "Devil's Crown," but the water was too rough so we moved on to another spot. The water was equally amazing, and as we jumped in we were able to see everything beneath us with clarity that could be described as High Definition.

We saw a school of sharks and moved closer. They weren't Great Whites, but rather small ones. Nonetheless, once a shark swims towards you, it can be nerve wracking. Later on in the boat Javier told us that someone must have been scared, because they can sense the fear and get curious so they swim towards you. I don't know if I believe that, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone was afraid of a shark coming right for you. At one point a shark was swimming close to me and my first thought was, "Oh crap!"

We moved on to a different area and there we swam with sea lions. Javier told us not to go towards them because it would be a threat to their territory. Instead, they would see us and come to us, which was true. When you clap, a sea lion will look up and follow the noise. With a universe of sea life below us, I even attempted diving, getting better each time. Though I could hold my breath a lot longer above water, with the pressure and exercise of swimming deep, I could only go a little below the surface. Trying to grab fish, it was a cat and mouse game to see who could hold their breath longer, and the fish always won. I was now very confident with the snorkeling, and was swimming around with ease.

A sea lion came out of no where and was right near my foot, which made me nervous that he would bite me, but he playfully moved along and up to the surface. The temperature was perfect and the water was as good as could be. We watched schools of fish, but some people were also stung by jellyfish. Once we got out we told different stories of all the things we'd seen and done. No matter how much SPF 50 I put on, I was still burning badly, and my shoulders and back were taking the brunt. I put my shirt back on and tried to stay covered. We started the 2 hour trek back, and Andrew continued to be sick over the side. It was a long and tiring day, but it was well worth it. We went to bed early that night, still feeling like we were on a boat. The next day would be a bit more relaxed.

Above: Devil's Crown, a sea lion yawning, a stone head sculpture in Floreana, a blown out volcano crater

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