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Making our own way

Paul 2006-12-29

Despite being awed by our first days in the Galapagos on Santa Cruz Island (the main tourist hub) and Seymore Island (where we scuba dove), these were just the beginning of an unfolding adventure that took us deeper into the rawness of the Galapagos Islands.

We were somewhat trepidatious about our decision to go our own way rather than join a four or eight day cruise, which is the typical way to "do the Galapagos". Bah humbug! We imagined how we'd feel during a highly structured cruise: "You have 30 minutes at this island, then you must be back to the boat for lunch, then we take you to ..." Being herded is not our thing in the least.

Armed with a spirit of independent discovery, we knew we'd prefer to make our own way, stumbling into our own unique adventure. And what an adventure it's been...

After hearing from other travelers of the extraordinary beauty of Bartolome Island, we decided to find a boat, which could take us there for a day trip. After a calm and introspective two and a half hours standing at the front of the boat, we found ourselves at a maturing volcanic island with two outstanding fine white sand beaches.

We climbed to the summit of the main volcano to catch the 360 degree vista of this island and a handful of nearby ones. Along the curving horizon, the silhouettes of the further away islands were set against the almost glowing azul sea. Postcard gorgeous! Literally, the famous Pinnacle Rock of the Galapagos is in the foreground.

It's easy to be impressed by how all that surrounded us was a result of millions of years of ocean floor volcanic eruptions, which gradually brought the accumulated pile of lava above sea level. Even more impressive is how all the endemic (only found here) and native (not introduced by man) plants and animals had to float at least 1000 km from the nearest land to establish themselves on the islands. How unlikely that there should be such biological richness here.

Bartolome offered me a lucky chance encounter with a curious and playful sea lion. After sensing her interest in some interaction, I'd dolphin dive in succession, and she would mimic. She'd zigzag underwater and I'd follow suit, or I'd spiral through the water and she'd in turn. Wow!

But that was the icing on the cake after walking on the shore watching a dozen white-tipped reef sharks (beautiful and graceful, not at all scary) and many swimming sea tortoises. Two almost meter-long tortoises were mating right in front of us - it takes an hour, then the male hops off and another who's been patiently watching hops on for his hour of glory, and so on until she's had all of her 250 eggs fertilized.

And then there was the snorkeling with the male sea lion (maybe time and a half bigger than I, my heart leapt when he swam by unexpectedly, but ultimately, we shared a rock in the middle of the water to soak in some sun!), penguins (adorable standing on the rocks, fast and nimble like darts underwater), a stingray, sally light footed crabs, starfish and dozens of colorful fish species, including barracuda, angelfish and a moray eel.

We shared some rich and engrossing conversation with a British couple, Edward and Joanna living in Bermuda on the boat ride back. Seeing that the enjoyment was four-way, we invited them to join us for Christmas Eve dinner, where we had, of all things, sushi and wine until the wee hours of the morning.

On Christmas day, we hopped on a 2.5 hour boat ride to the almost undeveloped Isabella Island, where we were planning four days. We're loving it so much that we've decided to stay another week. Aaaah.

Look for a post from Jo with a few Isabella tidbits...

In the meantime, the waves that have been calling me for an hour will finally get a visit. My sandy butt is going for a swim with the pelicans and sea lions...


Permalink by Gug   |  December 29, 2006 01:38 PM

Now that is Paradise! Almost too much to be able to imagine. Now I am jealous :)

Permalink by Christian Berlin   |  December 30, 2006 09:26 AM

Hello, U 2 jungle experts! I wish You a very happy and exiting new year 2007. Btw: I love to see more of the mighty jungle. So please keep going sending us phantastic photos!

Have a good time.

Bye bye,
Chris from Berlin

Permalink by Edward & Joanna (the British couple from Bermuda!)   |  December 31, 2006 09:45 AM

Hello Paul & Joanne! Your web site is amazing, even more so seeing as you are creating it from a tiny cellphone/pocket-pc - we can only dream of being so tech-savvy. It was wonderful meeting you both and thank you for mentioning us in your diary. We are still thinking about all the fascinating chats we had together, and the unique way we saw in Christmas Day. Happy New Year! Lots of love, Edward & Joanna

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