The sea lion barely opened an eye as I walked past him, snoozing in the middle of the sidewalk. He was drunk on salt water and fish. Only in Galápagos. Ten meters down, I jumped over the endemic marine iguana, bathing in the Galápagos inferno. I breathed in the fresh sea breeze, and took in the sun of the equator. Our five day cruise was starting tomorrow.We’d be visiting lots of islands, snorkeling, and staying on a five star luxury boat. Only in Galápagos.
My family, Mom mom and Pots (our grandparents) and I joined the rest of the group on the boat. There were sixteen of us. The boat was a huge, 105 foot catamaran. There were three floors. On the first floor was the living room, the dining room, and the rooms where we slept. On the second, a bar and a jacuzzi. And on the third floor, a sun deck. It could not have been any more luxurious: a big bed to myself, hot chocolate waiting for me when I returned from snorkeling, a trained chef preparing exquisite meals, time to sunbathe, cocktails every night, and nine crew members there to meet my satisfaction. This was the life. How much better could it get?
The five days to follow were the most amazing of my life. At every island were hundreds of species of animals and plants. From the terrestrial orange iguanas eating the dry cactus, to the sea lions wrestling on the rocks, all so close you could touch them. Above were frigid birds, pelicans, nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, many types of finches, the albatross, and many more birds. The landscape varied from arid desert, to wet beach, to mountains of volcanic rock, to forests of green vegetation. Giant tortoises sat like boulders in the horizon. Marine iguanas piled on top of each other, spitting out the salt from their previous swim in the Pacific.
Blue footed boobies danced, putting their bright, intense blue feet in the air, waddling to impress the female. What other bird has pure, BLUE feet? They may have waddled on the ground, but in the air, they were aerodynamic hunters. They were missiles launched at the fish below. The blue-footed boobie tucked his wings, his slender, pointy beak facing down, and dove like a comet into the water. Three short seconds later, he surfaced. The blue-footed boobie is endemic to Ecuador, meaning that it is only found in Isla de la Plata and Galápagos.
Still, the main entertainer of the trip was the sea lion. Everywhere we went, they laid on beaches. They played together like puppies. On land they were clumsy, yet satisfied. In the water they were agile and limitless; full of energy, curious, playful. My most memorable time of the whole trip might have been with a sea lion. We were snorkeling, swimming past sharks and manta rays, and the water was clear as glass. I swam closer towards the shoreline cliff, where there were brilliant parrotfish, garden eels, and of course, sea lions. Suddenly, a sea lion (or sea dog, shall I say) plummeted into the water right next to me. He glided effortlessly between rocks and plants in the water, while doing flips and turns at the same time. Then he saw me.
He swam closer to me, interested. Then he twirled around me, his big brown eyes on me, almost smiling. He charged right at me, then, at the last moment, he whizzed under me, and his tail brushed my arm. He expected me to chase him. Fair enough, doing my best, I followed him around. The sea dogs’ game. After he found out I wasn’t as good a swimmer as he was, he chased me. I held my breath and dove down, swimming as quickly as I could between the volcanic rock beneath the surface. He cruised around me in circles, leaving me with a dizzy feeling of excitement. That moment, for me, was the peak of awesomeness. The sea lions… sea dogs.
Back on the archipelago, the hot, ancient terrain was desert-like in this area, yet full of life. A bright orangish pink flamingo flew overhead. It landed near us, and drank from the pond. On the other side of the pond, the gigantic tortoises slowly gulped down their evening drink. Iguanas were scattered throughout the landscape. A hawk perched, waiting for dinner. The land was cracked from the the boiling equatorial sun. The sixteen of us headed back to our cruise boat, which was waiting for us with hot pizza as a snack. Pots put his arm over me, and we admired the beautiful view in front of us, more beautiful than anything. Only in Galápagos.