The Galapagos Islands. November 2014. I never planned, imagined or envisaged myself being here. At this age, at this stage in my life. How it has just come upon my travels and how grateful and glad I am for digging deep for such a trip. I tell you now this won’t be the last time to these precious and much sought for islands. This isn’t a backpacker route. This is for the ones who want it. The ones who want to see, feel and experience this earths finest untouched lands with the most peculiar and interesting creatures on these parts. The land also. It’s like a historic land, un moved by earths evolution, its mystic presence is coupled with its variety of surfaces. From rocky ash grounds to tropical surroundings. The volcanos that these parts were developed at different stages, from lush forestry to dark, grey ash debris.
This is easily by far my favourite and best experience to see the things in the world that most do not. To see wildlife at its most natural and primitive state. To be able to be in such a location where there are no passengers, no people passing through or people there for the sake of it, it’s a place that travellers come with real purpose. It has a good mix of all variety of travellers, from mid 20’s to retiree’s. The ocean and land, it has it all. From breathtaking viewpoints, to arrays of sea life, to curious and not afraid animals pondering your presence. The Galapagos has it all. We travel to see something new. These islands, are something unique. I can’t explain enough how awesome it is to have been there. Everyday was a journey, an adventure, a wake-up call.
People will look at the pictures and think ‘ I want to see that’, or ‘You are lucky’, or even show some form of jealousy. However these islands I truly believe are for the people who want it the most. There is a certain attitude I take when visiting somewhere unique, off the beaten track, special, precious. There is a mature attitude and appreciation that is needed. And you get that here at the Galapagos.
My friend who is half Ecuadorian, when she visited for the first time, she landed from the aeroplane, and looked around her and cried. That’s the sort of appreciation you want to see. It’s not a place where you look and think ‘I’ll pop there’. That’s the beginning of any location being ruined by too much tourism, people going for the sake of it, or for worse, for the ego boosting pictures. If any young travellers who think that ‘oh its just another place’ then bless them. There naivety still shows despite where there feet have landed. Just because you have been somewhere doesn’t mean you have been somewhere. You know? But like I said, this place is special. And everyone is there to see as much as they can. However hard, difficult or nervous they get. You have to earn this place with experience, skill and your own determined and curiosity.
In my life, since I was 6 years old, I’ve always new this world was destined for bigger things for me. I knew I’d travel and leave. And it wouldn’t be an experience thing, it would be my life. But even myself, knowing that I’m destined to see more amazing things this world has to offer, is still thrown back at how privileged I am to visit here. And to see the things I saw.
Day One – After frantically arranging some trips to do over my short time here, I managed to arranged something through a friend. I got a good deal and managed to be doing something everyday. I didn’t want no rest days nor wasted days. This place is too precious for that.
We went via boat to Daphne. Daphne is an area with two rocks in the middle of nowhere. One small rock in the ocean with a few Boobie birds and Sea Lions. We snorkelled around this island for about 1 hour. Free diving most of the time, we managed to see:
White Tip Sharks – When I first seen them, the fear that is installed in us from news and TV programs across the world, came about. Sharks. There cunning eyes and sharp bodies. However, I knew that it wouldn’t be nothing really to worry about, given these trips are common. The White Tips huddled in a cave which was below the rock we were circling. Any form of us getting closer to them for our own exploration reasons, to get a better look, to get a better photo, they quickly moved away. They seemed pissed off, disturbed, but not in a way that was worrying. They were literally like a big fish just a bit more stationed than what most fish do and swim around aimlessly. They were beautiful. Not huge in size but amazing to get up close.
Sea Lions came next – There was only a few. These are known to play with divers, check them out. They can bite but generally are just as curious of us as we are of them. At one point, towards the end of the first skin dive, I was looking left, I turned my head and Sea Lion swam and swirled right between me and another diver, from under us. It gave me a smiling kind of shock. So up close to this beautiful, gliding mammal.
We dived the second time around another location, this time skin diving close to the wall of the rock, which was much bigger. We seen similar things again, This was more of a shorter dive. However we managed to spot a giant Stingray and also a Sea Turtle. I was overjoyed at seeing the latter. Especially intrigued by their tropical appearance and how they are represented across the world. It was a personal success to see one. They floated with great ease and fluidity.
After we skin dived, we sailed to a deserted white sand beach and turquoise sea shore. After a bit of a rest and scenery picture taking, we left for the day. We even saw a baby whale shark at the surface on our return, ever so briefly.
Day Two – Up early at 630am, bodies tired from our first day excursions, it was now time to go deeper in the ocean, and get our tanks on. Scuba Diving was up.
We headed to North Seymour and Mosqueras dive spots. We done a check dive first to enable we were okay to be responsible for ourselves. Which was a bit of an annoyance but worked well in the end. It was the best dive I’ve done for actually being free and I felt in charge of my own dive and equipment.
The ocean bed was beautiful, the dive itself was one of the best. The water’s visibility was really good despite being down nearly 20m. The ocean bed was generally flat, so no weaving in and out of rocks. It was fairly easy to spot things there. We first seen more White Tips. In packs of 3 and 4. They lay peacefully on the ground. We could swim around them and just watch there mysterious statures. We saw a huge sea turtle sleeping. Just lied there, like a rock unawakened. I got close, as we all did, but with still respect to the animal. I love watching them, just looking at every aspect of its creation. Just a beautiful unusual species. And a gentle presence too.
The best part of this dive came all so natural. Everyone keen on seeing sharks. And by now we had seen a mammoth Galapagos Shark. So cool and oozing power, it’s alot bigger than the white tip. It dominates these waters to an extent, however still generally okay to swim with. It skimmed through the water which made me just watch with awe and to be honesty a little fear. It was boss. Soon after watching a couple of these muscle there way around close to the ocean bed, again turning to my right presented a moment of smiling joy. A flock of Eagle Spotted Rays, in almost a diamond formation of 4, 2 at the top 2 at the bottom, 1.5 metres apart from one another, natural floated past us. It was like one of them moments you see on the National Geographic, or Attenborough’s Planet Earth documentaries. The clips where they have been filming for hours just to get a video worth showing. Well, this came after 20 minutes. They were so fluid and so naturally inline with one another. Almost ignorant in a sense of just passing by, like not a care in the world. It was beautiful and a remarkable site. The visibility was awesome so the turquoise ocean was still reflecting all around our eyes, which made there colours and features even more detailed. After being in complete admiration for 30 seconds to a minute, I wanted to be apart of this. I signalled to our instructor to get his camera ready. I powered towards these rays with some powerful kicks which made my thighs tense up. I managed to get a few good ones, albeit still far away from these flying Rays.
For me this was the most natural moment I’ve witnessed whilst diving. And the best.
Our two dives consisted of the same species. We eventually seen Hammerheads from a distance. So beautifully peculiar with there nose structures. So odd but a delight to see. Something all divers want to see and we did with ease. Towards the end of our last dive, we had seen a lot. Even puffer fish, box fish and scorpion fish we among us. We managed to find some more white tips and get some close up photos. At first, our instructor scared them away, but by my own judgement, they swam off cautiously rather frantically, giving me the impression they would be landing again nearby. I signalled to the instructor to follow them, slowly and gently, which he didn’t want. But my assumptions were right, I quietly followed them again and slowly landed on the bed with my knees far apart, slowly clambering closer. I got real close and the rest of the divers, 5 in total followed by. We got some close up photos of these delights, which may not happen again anytime soon.
Day Three – After two days in the water, it was time for some land exploration. We had arranged to visit the Tortoise Farm, Charles Darwin Centre and a boat to Isabella Island in preparations for activities there.
Seeing Tortoises or Turtles has been a small dream of mine. I attempted to in Guyana a few months back but to no avail. All of my dives or snorkel adventures apart from recently had came up short. However seeing Tortoises on land, the gigantic, 100 year old ones, well this was the time. We got to the farm and there was a clan full of these huge, hard shelled creatures. They looked like rocks from a distance, scattered in the green fields as like they had their own territory of land. They hissed with fear and observance as we walked amongst them. It felt like I was in times of the Dinosaurs and co. The huge creatures that roamed the earth. Billions of years ago, everything was of a larger size. And it felt to me that these slow, un-bothered creatures were the only ones to survive. Still. They gave an impression of just getting on with life, not bothering or trying to be king. Just existing to live. Watching their eating abilities, there movements, them sleeping, them watching us – it was incredible. Titanic in anything I’ve seen of the same family in the world, I lied next to one. I’m pretty much not towering these creatures but matching them. It was surreal.
After being amongst these tortoise monsters, we headed to the Charles Darwin Centre. Seeing things in a Zoo or Research Facility wasn’t as mesmerizing as seeing them in natural, open surroundings. The highlight was seeing how unafraid your everyday birds were of mounting you. Looking for food or to take a peck of what you are. I had birds on my legs after I sprinkled some crumbs of crackers nearby. I felt like mother bird. I was astonished at their curiosity and no fear of something so much larger than them.
We ended the third day by getting on a evening boat to Isabella. It was very choppy and for 2.5 hours on a small boat, even the strongest stomachs couldn’t handle that.
A perfect example of a journey that people who do not travel or backpack don’t realise or see. The bits in between are the parts where make your final destination even more satisfactory.
Day Four – Making it to Isabella, I had a choice of hiking 16km to Volcano top viewpoints or going to some Lava Tunnels for more skin diving and snorkelling. Initially I wanted to do something different, but after getting some advice, I chose the latter. And boy I was happy about that.
The Lava Tunnels, probably my favourite activity throughout my time in the Galapagos. The beautiful miniature lands almost, crossing over shallow turquoise, aqua life filled waters, on a drop back from the open, big break ocean was a real gem of a place. The tunnels were cute and adventurous. Going wild into my imagination, almost a small land that Hobbits or Elf could occupy. Or somewhere close. They were ash sharp rocky formations with gaps to swim in and out of and even to wander around on top of. The scenery was so picturesque, postcard like. The water was shallow ish and varied, and also a little bit less daunting too. Not in the open, open ocean with currents or small waves pushing you by, the waters here were still and easy to glide through. You had the safe thought of stopping at a rock if absolutely necessary. It was a easy ride.
If I ever wanted to see turtles in their abundance, here was it. We saw more than any other animal. Huge ones and smaller ones, Moms and Kids. We were first getting off the boat, when I saw a Sea Turtle, fly by under the water. It was going hysterically fast and looked so un-natural to me. I never knew, or had seen that they could move so fast. It was one of them moments where your head is on a constant turn to keep up it. We snorkelled peacefully through the waters, seeing Sea Lions diving down, Turtles lay at the bottom, Stingrays hide in rocks and even some more White Tips in the distance. I ventured under tunnels free diving down, moving through obstacles and coming back up the other side. I practiced my free diving techniques whilst seeing an array of things around me. The sun was shining brightly, the waters glorified as if they had been edited on Instagram, the rocks peeking out of the sea as if it was a old ancient city in its decline beneath the waters.
The second skin dive we moved to another location, off the shore of the land, it was almost like a swamp. Green moss covered the beds, with rocky rocks and formations in our way that we had to use our hands and leverage to swim passed. This was one of the weirdest moments however. We were maximum 1.5metres deep. We weren’t swimming we were standing. We peek our heads into the water, and there a flurry of White Tips next to us. Loads of them. Not even beneath us. It was so shallow and odd to see an open water species in such swamp like and unusual waters to them. It was actually a little scary. To know that there is no room to manoeuvre, to where to run, that we are in this tight space together. We living things. Yet, like previously, the White Tips were smaller and more scared of us.
After we swam through some more tunnels but more swamp like conditions making visibility harder. I felt like I was a Marine or a Man of the Army swimming in the lakes of Vietnam. It was exhilarating and got my mind fluctuating. God experience to and different from clear waters. More of a adventure rather than what we saw.
Day Five – After that I travelled back to Santa Cruz, where we had started to do another dive in the Island of Floreana. I hadn’t originally planned on diving again, but the variety of things I saw, I wanted to be under the water again. To obtain my watery freedom once more.
Floreana was 2 hours away. This was a long day. Up at 6am. Boat riding a choppy ocean and at one point unreliable boat. Heading to the island of Floreana, diving twice,, and then heading back. In the hot sun, the open ocean. This was a 12 hour day. Pictures may look great, but get there was tougher than what they represent. We managed to see Dolphins close to our dive spot, jumping in and out of the water from a distance and close up.
The water was shallow as we dived in. A lot colder than Seymour, we descended down fairly quickly. We swam through the waters which a few times brought on FREEZING cold currents which we had to endure, my face felt frozen at one point. It felt like I was swimming into a pile of urine (given its warmth when released in the water) when we mustered out of the current and continued our path. Luckily I was at the front of the group with the Instructor. We seen a flock of Rays again, but just in the middle was a Shark. I thought it was a White or Black Tip, but the instructor turned and signalled for a Hammerhead. The signal is basically your fists closed and at each side of your temple of your head. We swam through and seen Stingrays come towards us, Turtles, and a new species for me, a Bat Fish. On the boat our instructor had prepped us that Bat Fish we may see, but sometimes can be rare. The Bat fish was the same colour, shape and figure as the rock it lay on. A creamy, white with blisters of brown formations. It had fins like a Bat, wings attached each side which let it flap and glide lowly at the bottom of the sea bed.
Our second dive was the best though. We dived at Champion rock, with a slow current swirling us around. It wasn’t for the Sharks or other bigger things in the ocean to witness this time, it was for the tornado of fish that swirled above us. Thousands of fish just twirling, each one in aligned with each other in a swirled shape. They were spinning off the rock, like its own vortex. To get inside, below or close to that was insane. I’d never seen anything like it before. Plus, there wasn’t one, but two, this time of Barracuda. I don’t know how else to describe such a sight. I guess, being in awe of something, just staring and admiring that you are there.
We all came up together but not before a couple of sea lions decided to place with us. I managed to get close to one and get some snaps with it. It was a baby and was playing with us like a small puppy would. What a great end to my diving adventures in the Galapagos. So friendly and natural they bop up and down below, happily enjoying their ability to be free.
We headed back, not before the ocean at times turning into a velvet carpet of a surface. Typically blue, not too light or dark, no chop or breaks, the sun was setting, it was a perfect way to end the day.
Day Six – My last day really. I had a flight after lunch. I had done alot, something everyday, but I felt that my time is unfinished here.
And my time is still very much unfinished here.
I made an early uprise and travelled to the iconic and wonderful, what is Tortuga Bay A white sand beach, which has smothers of Black Marina Iguanas. I love these. I watched an Attenborough documentary before and that’s how he opened the scene, sat next to one, with hundreds behind him, sleeping on the rocks by the ocean, bathing from the sun. They are effectively smaller Godzilla’s. They are cautious but slithery, they sleep with there heads buried in the sand. They spit out salt water, which almost comes across as being rude, but its just their natural habit. Tortuga bay was so peaceful, especially in the morning. Waling there, on a narrow path with lizards, smaller iguanas and birds watching your every move, it felt like some sort of slow Zen experience. It prompted me to hear the ocean and clear my mind, to which I then wrote a short poem called Tortuga Bay. It was that kind of place. Only minutes from the Santa Cruz noises of cars and people, it was such a contrast. It wasn’t heavily tourist yet this time, which is what i loved. Not too many sun hat wearing, tourists, coming in flocks from their respective tours, overshadowing its existence. I made it at the right time. Before 8am.
As I knew the minutes were ticking by for me to head back and get to the airport, a beach that mirrored the ocean was tucked behind the green trees’. It wasn’t sacred nor a secret, but it could be. It was like a Lagoon beach, white sand but with forestry surrounding it. There was no end that you could see, but the water was clear and relaxed, with not a ripple in sight. However, as I walked slowly on the beach, a grey Stingray jumped up and dived back into the water. I sat there in my own thoughts, no noise but of the ocean behind me, thinking of how I needed to be here longer. How this place was so special, despite how long its been open to people. How this island wasn’t like ANY other I had set foot on. The beach itself was so peaceful, the energy was Zen-like again.
I left after 6 days of seeing some of what this place has to offer. However, nowhere near enough. I didn’t mention, but asoon as I landed when I first got here, I didn’t cry, but I knew, that this wasn’t going to be last time I would be here. Many come once, but I had a gut feeling that I would definitely return.
People say, what is life? Myself included. The closest answer I can give you is Freedom. However, the Galapagos is the home of life.