04 May 2008
We had already gone to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, now it was time to go to our second tour of the day, which would be held in a glass bottom boat. When we arrived at the wooden docks we searched for our tour guides. After five minutes of searching we found that our guides and glass bottom boat were directly in front of us.
"Hi." We said as we stepped past the captain and into the boat. There were American people onboard and we were quite excited. "Well hello!" Said a frizzy-haired woman with a Southern accent. "Hi" Waved another woman sitting next to her. After meeting the two women we asked where they were from. "Florida." Said the one with the Southern accent. "South Africa" Said the other. Just then another woman and a man joined us. They told us that they were from France and that they were here studying the plants.
"You'd think that I'd be used to the heat here 'cause I'm from Florida, but no. You see, in the summertime we Floridians lock ourselves in our houses, crank up the A.C. and don't come out until the wintertime." Said the Southern woman. I looked at her quizzically for a moment then asked, "like a hibernation?" She looked at me with wide eyes. "Exactly! That's a perfect way of puttin' it. We Floridians hibernate!" The engines of the glass bottom boat sputtered to a start and so did our adventure.
Well, our adventure didn't get too far; just two minutes after we left the docks we stopped. "Wait! Wait for me!" Cried a man on a water taxi. Apparently we had left one of the tourists behind because he was late. "Phew. That was a close one!" Said the man in an Australian accent. "I thought I was going to be left behind!" The man told us that he was visiting Chile and knew that he would probably never be this close to Galapagos again. He ended up hopping on a plane and just got to Galapagos that morning and decided to take a tour last minute.
After we got to a small Island, one of the guides told us to move our feet. After we did, he opened up the floor and we could see through the small panels of glass. I expected it to be an amazing view, but the reality was that algae had grown on the sides of the glass panels (which were about the size of a loaf of bread) and our necks hurt from looking down at nothing for ten minutes. The guides must have sensed this because they closed the floor up after a few minutes and instructed us to get our snorkel gear on.
This is what I was waiting for. I truly believe that the only way to enjoy the wonders of ocean life is to swim with it. And that is exactly what we did, but not before a lecture in half-English half-Spanish about the strong currents and undertows. We were supposed to keep with the group and not touch the wildlife. The guides went down the list of rules (some incredibly ridiculous) that they were required to recite, but knew we wouldn't follow.
With a splash I was immersed in the comfortable waters of Galapagos. The refreshing water was a light teal color and was perfectly clear. Like swimming in a pool, I thought. Below me were thousands of fish that were bright colors. I dove down to get a closer look and then felt the strong undertow. That didn't bother me though. I just swayed back and forth with the fish as I watched them. I heard the clicking sound of Parrot Fish nipping the algae off the rocks and then I heard another strange sound. "Ar! Ar! Ar!" A sea lion! I knew it. Only a sea lion would make that noise! I rushed to the surface and gulped in the fresh sea air before I looked around.
"Ar! Ar! Ar!" The sound of the sea lion came again. This time, to my dismay, I found the source. It was our guide. I swam over to my mom. "What is he doing?!" I whispered. My mom was watching him intently and didn't even look up at me when she said, "he says he's calling the sea lions over for us to watch." I looked over at our guide "Ar! Ar! Ar!" He cried as he slapped his hands together.
I can honestly say that I was skeptical. After all, wasn't "calling" animals reserved for the movies? I guess not, because soon two sea lions we shooting past us. They got so close to us that we could have touched them. But we didn't because that would contradict rule #685 and the sea lions looked like they would bite your hand off. Maybe rule #685 made sense after all.
The whole group surrounded the two playful sea lions that swooshed through the water with their powerful bodies. We all gazed at them in wonder. In fact, we were all so absorbed in the sea lions that we all forgot about the strong undertow that was slowly bringing us to the jagged volcanic rocks on shore. The waves were actually breaking on the rocks, so if you were crashed down on them you'd crash hard and get seriously hurt.
Suddenly the guide told us to swim the other way. We all snapped back into reality and noticed the strong currents. I was so close to the rocks that I saw the waves crashing on them from underwater. In just a few seconds an explosion of little white bubbles obscured my vision. I am a pretty strong swimmer, but the current was just as strong. I seemed to stay in the same spot as I tried to swam away from the rocks. I kicked as hard as I could and soon, to my surprise, was out of the way of the crashing waves unhurt. I sighed, relieved that I didn't kill myself.
My head popped out of the water and I looked around. Everyone was talking about the strong current. "I almost got pounded by those waves!" I heard somebody say. I thought everybody was safe and accounted for until I noticed one person was missing. Where was the woman with the Southern accent? I looked around but didn't see her anywhere.
Then I saw her, our guide was trying to help the woman off the rocks. When they got out of the waves, the guide helped her over to the group. "Are you ok?" I asked. "I saw you out there by the rocks!" The woman didn't seem hurt at all and said in her Southern accent, "Ah I'm fine. Just looking for more ways to kill myself, that's all." She laughed, but I think I saw her wince a few times.
After a few more minutes of snorkeling, we were called back to the tiny glass bottom boat. Our guide, an incredibly tan man around 30, helped us aboard. When we were all in and the engines were started our attentions came to the woman with the Southern accent. Her pale legs had long bloody scratches all over them. The guide got a cotton ball and some iodine and rubbed it on them. But the woman didn't seem deterred in the slightest. She seemed intent on having a wonderful vacation. "It's all about the story." She told Casey and me. "By the time I get back to Florida I'll have cooked up the greatest story about how I fought off three Bull Sharks and saved all the people on this tour." We all laughed at this and admired her tenacity. The woman seemed to force a relaxed sigh. "Does that hurt?" Asked Casey, eyeing the iodine soaked cotton ball that the guide was rubbing on her scrapes. "Oh yea" said the woman painfully through gritted teeth.
The drone of the engines was constant as we all got to know each other. We all said a little about ourselves. I've noticed that people are always a little nicer to us when we tell them that we live on a boat. I think it makes them happier to know that they are on a boat with people that are travelers than with people that are just going to Galapagos and then going back to their little comfortable, air-conditioned home. It turned out that most all of us aboard were travelers. We had a lot to talk about.
When we reached another Island we got off on land. This time we were hiking over lava rocks, tall yellow grass, and around small pools of water. We hiked for about ten minutes until we arrived at a giant gorge. Two incredibly tall cliffs rested on either side of a crystal-clear river. Our guide surprised us by climbing down one of the cliffs and getting ready to dive. The woman with the southern accent looked astonished. "Is he really going to jump?" she asked us. Then she yelled to the guide "You don't have to do it! You don't have to prove anything! Oh, I think he's going to do it. Oh, he is!"
She then realized that he was going to jump no matter what she said. She peered over the edge of the cliff. "You think it's deep enough?" Our guide smiled and then cried "one... two... three!" Then he dove. A huge splash came and we waited for him to come up. Five second went by. "Where is he!" came the panicked voice of the Floridian woman. When he surfaced, a sigh of relief came from everyone. The Australian man, my dad, and I even ended up trying it. It was really scary.
As the captain drove us back to our boat we were wished fair weather and calm seas by the other passengers. I certainly hoped that our next trip to the marquises Islands would be a good one. This tour had been one of the best that we'd been on. On top of that we met some great people. Like the Australian man, who gave us information on Australia, a place where we are going on our boat and maybe even moving. Even the man and woman from France who showed us the specimens that they collected when we were there made the trip much more fun. This was by far the best tour we had in Galapagos.