Underwater Adventures in the Galapagos

As much fun as I was having hanging out with sea lions on the beach, as it turns out, they’re even MORE fun underwater!! On land, they just kind of lounge around on the beach, soaking up the sun (can you blame them!?) but underwater, they zip around like they own the ocean!

RAAWR!!

RAAWR!!

Check out my Youtube video if you’re still not convinced these kids are the sea’s royalty!

(Fun video fact: “High for This” was the #1 song choice when I googled “underwater songs”, which I found far too ironic to pass up.)

In review of the video, I got the chance to play with these beauties again on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Santiago islands. Of course, there were also tons of sea turtles, fish and even the occasional shark – despite what rumours seem to lead people to believe, the Galapagos sharks I encountered were actually kind of shy, hiding behind reefs. (While this could be shyness, it could also just be their crafty way of being a cunningly elusive hunter – bumbum BUUUUUM!)

Our dive spot in Santa Cruz was especially popular with the locals, as just as we were about to hop in the water, a pod of dolphins appeared out of nowhere! Squealing at impossibly high and loud octaves (I’m actually surprised any non-dogs could hear me), I sprang into the water and bolted after the pod at super speed (grateful to be putting by triathlon training to real-world dolphin chasing use)! For a while, I was surrounded by the pod, who seemed to be gracefully floating through the currents as I flailed to keep up.

Before I could reach for the “play” button on my GoPro, the group was gone. It was an amazing moment to be able to be a part of and though it was was fleeting, seemed to exist outside of time and isn’t something I’ll soon forget!

An Ode to the Galapagos Seal Lion (AKA my Spirit Animal)

Along my worldly travels, I’ve found that one thing people tend to get pretty passionate about is making sure you know the difference between certain types of animals. If you’re in northern Canada, don’t call the massive horned creatures Buffalo, they’re Bison. If you’re in the amazon, don’t scream “Leopard!!”, it’s a jaguar. If you’re in the Galapagos and lounging on the beach with a huge pinniped, it’s not a seal, it’s a sea lion.

I accidentally called this guy a seal and he RAAAAWR-ed at me..!

I accidentally called this guy a seal and he RAAAAWR-ed at me..!

Now, I’ve always thought both seals and sea lions were pretty freaking cute, but then again, I’d always kind of clumped them together as being kind of the same animal. I quickly learned however, that sea lions are far superior for several reasons:

  • Their hind-flippers are configured in a way that helps them maneuver on land so they can join you for a tanning session (seals are stuck just kind of flailing around)
  • They have full earflaps (instead of just holes), so you can whisper sweat little nothings back and forth
  • They swim the water with power and majesty using their strong front fins (seals front fins are weak and can only be used for steering)
  • They’re the LIONS of the sea! Were the other points really even necessary!?
Lounging like a BAWSE!

Lounging like a BAWSE!

I got to visit a number of beaches around the islands, and each of them seemed to be popular hangout spots for local sea lions. While they seemed pretty chilled out and relaxed on land, as soon as you hopped in the water with them, their energy levels seemed to burst into overdrive and I found myself being given ocean tours by big groups of them, bopping around and swimming circles around me.

Altogether, it seemed like a pretty sweet life and I decided that if I should ever get re-incarnated as an animal, a Galapagan sea lion seemed like a pretty solid way to go!

I'm basically one already!

I’m basically one already!

The Art and Science of the Middle of Nowhere (AKA The Galapagos Islands)

From Quito and the mainland, the Galapagos Islands are about 1,00km due west (or directly toward middle-of-nowhere, the Pacific Ocean). As some of the youngest landmasses on Earth, they were formed by a tectonic hot spot on the Earth’s Nazca plate. The hot spot stays in one place relative to the Earth’s core, but as the Nazca plate is slowing shifting southeast, new areas of surface ocean are always occupying the area over the hot spot, which resulted in the archipelago of islands the Galapagos is today (if you’re really keen you can check out some more info here: http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/galsite/research/projects/leonard/Geospot.htm).

The beginning of my trip brought me to one of the oldest islands of the bunch, San Cristobal (the patron saint of seafarers).

Each of the islands is home to some of the most unique collections of wildlife inhabitants on the face of the planet.

Where else would you find flying boobies!? (Seriously though, the birds are called red-footed boobies)

Where else would you find flying boobies!? (Seriously though, the birds are called red-footed boobies)

Since the islands were never connected to the main land at any point in history, all of the animals that currently reside there needed to have made the long 1000km on their own.

After the long 1000km journey, the animals are ready to just mess around apparently :P

After the long 1000km journey, the animals are ready to just mess around apparently :P

Birds flew and fish swam, but land animals like tortoises and iguanas has to put their hardy natures to creative use and float their way over (both tortoises and iguanas can survive for months on end without food and tortoises have enough air in their shells to keep them afloat).

The Art 7

(Not all of them may have made it)

(Not all of them may have made it, though this is likely to just be a skin shedding, don’t worry)

Since only a select few species of animals could pass the migration test required to call the Galapagos home, very few animals on the islands face threats from natural predators.

So basically all the animals except for this guy are pretty happy all the time!

So basically all the animals except for this guy are pretty happy all the time!

Just GalapaGO for it

As I noticed my recent trips to Pemberton and Seattle were starting to crescendo into a melodic masterpiece, I knew I had to end things off with a bang. With a seemingly endless array of bucket list destinations at my disposal, I had to compose the perfect grand finale for my piece.

After careful consideration (which may or may not have consisted of eeny-meenie-miney-moe-ing), I decided that it was off to Ecuador and the Galapagos for me! With all of my forward thinking and insightful planning, by the time I had decided where I wanted to go, I realized that I had about 6.73days to actually start planning my vacation before I would have to take off. Luckily, I’m also quite skilled in the art of Google-ing and magic-ed some last minute flights and a trip with G-Adventures together, no sweat.

With this as my motivation, I could make anything happen!

With this as my motivation, I could make anything happen!

One of the weird things about putting together big last minute trips for me is bringing it up in conversation to other people. Over the remaining 6.72days I had until I left, I had a lot of conversations that went something like:

Me: Hey buddy, what’s new?

Buddy: Not too much, just chillin. How about you?

Me: Ah, you know, the usual. Just booked a trip to the Galapagos next week.

Buddy: Cool- wait WHAT!?

(After some serious experimentation, I determined that there is no possible method to casually bring up the fact that you have decided to leave the hemisphere within the week.)

Just like that, my bags were packed and before I knew it, I was on a plan bound for Quito.

By the time I arrived, it was about 23:30 and I wanted nothing more than to hop on my transfer and catch a few Zs before by flight to San Cristobal the next morning. Clearly I should have known that this was too much to ask however. Somewhere along the line, my transfer booking had gotten miscommunicated and I was left stranded at the airport. Fortunately, I experienced pretty much the exact same scenario when I arrived in Peru, so instead of being scared to death of being stranded in a foreign country, I was simply annoyed at the bad connectivity of the phones at the airport and how rusty my Spanish had gotten.

In the end, I was finally able to arrange an alternate transfer to the hotel I was supposed to meet at in Quito, with just enough time to put my bags down before it was time to get up again to catch my next flight.

Good morning Quito ^_^

Good morning Quito ^_^

On the plus side though, I was in Ecuador and far too excited to sleep anyways!