Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In the Galápagos: Day 2
We woke up tired but excited on Saturday morning, ready for a day on the sea. First we had to take the 40 minute drive back up to the top of Santa Cruz to the ferry station, where we waited for a boat. A gentle rain started to fall, but it felt good and we didn't care. And soon enough it stopped anyway. We got on our boat packed with about 15 people and headed off for about 30-45 minutes towards Islas Daphne, an uninhabited volcanic island that is home to sea lions, crabs, and a number of birds.
There at Islas Daphne we went snorkeling for the first time. To rent the snorkeling gear it was $2.50 for the mask and air tube or $5 to include flippers. I didn't think I would need the flippers, but it was a mistake because it would have made a big difference. As everyone jumped in I soon remembered just what a lousy swimmer I am. One year at summer camp I went from being a Level 4 swimmer to a Level 3, and rough seas were not a good way to ease into it.
I immediately struggled and doggy paddled as hard as I could to stay afloat as the boat drifted away and the rest of the group moved closer to the rocks. I was alone and the waves were crashing over me. I tried to use the breathing tube but it was hard to get used to it, especially while freaking out and trying to stay above the water, so I was breathing too hard and struggling badly. I was first trying to make it towards my friends, but after a couple of minutes I was only trying to make it back towards the boat.
I couldn't see anything and was getting a little nervous. I swallowed more and more salt water and just barely made it back as my muscles were exhausted. As hard as I was paddling, I couldn't move at all. I could have been in a strong current, but it could also just have been that I'm a terrible swimmer. When I got back on the boat the captain asked what happened and I said I couldn't swim well, and in about two minutes I started puking off the side of the boat. I think it might have had to do with swallowing the water and my heart rate going to crazy from the stress of it.
I sat on the edge of the boat drying off and watching the other swim, upset and uneasy. I was a little scared that the whole trip would be thrown off because I couldn't really swim well. Once everyone got back on I heard about all the amazing things they saw--sharks, sea lions, and schools of fish. Kristine was inches from a sea lion and wanted to touch it but pulled back, luckily because they usually bite if you're too close. My friends were sympathetic and said they would try to help me swim next time.
We moved on back to Baltra, but this time to a small beach with just a few feet of sand before reaching bushes that we weren't able to explore because there were tortoise nests. On the way to the beach we actually saw two sea turtles mating in the water and stopped to watch for a couple of minutes. As we all snapped photos, I asked Andrew if he thought aliens watched us mating with the same intrigue.
At the next beach the water was clear and calm, so I tried to swim again. With Kristine's help, I was able to figure out how to breath well and figured out how to snorkel and just float with the current. It was harder without the flippers, but at least I was able to do it. The water was turquoise and blue, and we were able to see schools of fish and large exotic ones with amazing color patterns. It was a big rush to see it all and I was glad that I was able to do it. The current would move the fish and I to the left, then back to the right, up and to the left again, dangerously close to a rock. Suddenly I would turn around and realize I was right in the middle of a huge school of small fish.
When we got back on the boat we had lunch and headed back to Puerto Ayoro. We walked around the town for the rest of the day and went out dancing with the Chileans for a little bit later that night. But we knew we had a big day ahead of us, so we got ready for it. Instead of going to Tortuga Bay, a popular beach, we paid $50 extra to change our plans and go to Floreana, an island about 2 hours away.
Above: images from Islas Daphne, the beach in Baltra, a view from the captain's seat