The Nina sailed onto Gardner Bay after completion of our early morning exploration of Española Island. We were eating lunch and I believe it was during this quick intermission between adventures that a smile was permanently sewn into my face for the remainder of the voyage (minus one unfortunate evening//night that you’ll read about in an upcoming chapter) because my expectations of the Galapagos Islands had already been surpassed. In just one morning – not even a full day – I had seen the rest of the animals that I wanted to see while island hopping. The landscapes reminded me of home, as well as my favorite t.v. show Xena: Warrior Princess. In other words, I could have left after this day and been a happy camper. I didn’t know how much better it could get – or even if it was possible – but it was.
Tour Guide George came to the dining room and told us to get prepared for a wet landing on the beach of Gardner Bay. We could bring our snorkeling gear if we wanted or our towels to sun-bathe for a bit. It was early enough in the afternoon that we would have time to relax on the soft, white-sand beach. After putting on our swimming suits and layering our bodies with sunscreen, we boarded the zodiacs once more, but this time with no shoes. One by one we properly swung our legs over the side of the zodiac, letting our feet touch the cool water for the first time on our voyage, and walked ashore. Instantly, we were greeted with the sight of crowds and crowds of sea lions.
After the group had gathered ashore, tour guide George told us we had free time to sun-bathe with the sea lions, swim with the sea lions in the bay, snorkel with the sea turtles and explore the bay area as far as the group of rocks down the shoreline. My friend and I placed our bags near some logs and took off walking to get some shots with the sea lions that were just cuddled up in the sand, letting the sum warm them. A few were swimming along the beach, playing with each other – mainly mums and their babies. It amused me that they let the waves just roll them around as they crashed upon the sand. It was as if they preferred that area, letting their bodies swirl with the current.
Once our stroll along the bay’s beach ended at the rocky point, we turned around and met up with our Norwegian friend who decided to smooth out her towel on the soft, white sand and take out her book. I went over to my backpack leaning against the log and pulled out my towel to join her. My friend shared half the towel with me after stripping down to her bathing suit to sun-tan. It wasn’t long before I got distracted by the sea lions and decided to go play with them.
At first, it was merely a picture-taking opportunity. I wanted to see how close I could get to posing with them and ended up being snorted at by a playful sea lion. It scared me a bit, because we had been almost nose-to-nose but then it started to wander away. I followed along, pretending to be a sea lion to amuse my friends before going back to the yellow towel to relax a bit. I still can’t get over the fact that we were sun-bathing with sea lions in the Galapaos Islands. These were animals that I’ve only seen as cartoons in movies or performance shows at Sea World, and yet, here they were in their natural environment lounging right beside us.
Within a few short minutes, tour guide George came and said that we should go back to the ship so we could get ready to snorkel. Once on board, we started squeezing into our wetsuits and putting on our fins that had been tried on and put aside in our snorkel bags with our room numbers on them. They would be ours for the duration of the voyage, keeping it organized and allowing us not to waste time trying every wetsuit on before each snorkeling opportunity. While we were getting prepared, the boat sailed to one of the 107 rocks and islets that are also apart of the Galapagos. Once stopped, we loaded the zodiacs again with our fins and goggles in hands and headed to the launch point.
We spit and squirted shampoo into the goggles to ensure clear vision, put on our fins and slowly, one by one, fell into the cold water. Tour guide George led us along the wall of the islet, where we could see underwater plants that grew on the rock. The water was incredibly deep and murky, making me a bit hesitant because I knew sharks also roamed this ocean. I could barely see any fishes or plants deep down and so I stayed as close to the islet’s wall as possible. However, the bare visibility made my Norwegian-expat friend extremely nervous, and she asked to hold hands with me as we snorkeled.
The group was slowly making its way around the islet, and my friend and I were in the middle hoping no shark would mistake us for a tasty sea lion. Not too long afterward, we were flapping our flippers and moving along with our eyes dashing back-and-forth when a GiANT sea lion popped right out of a murky underwater cloud. It was looking right at us as he swam past underneath of us. My Norwegian-expat friend and I let out a surprised scream. We popped our heads out of the water and looked at each other with large eyes. We eventually began laughing and smiling, looking around to see if anyone else in the group had noticed before we put our mouth pieces back in and placed our heads back on the water’s surface.
I regretfully did not have an under-water digital camera to shoot videos or pictures with during the voyage. I simply had a Kodak under-water film camera, which has not been developed yet. I apologize for the lack of under-water pictures.
We reached a small cove in the islet where we were allowed to snorkel around a bit. The zodiacs were always close by in case we raised our hands, which was the signal that we were done and ready to get out of the water. The cove had much better visibility and was not as deep. I could actually see white sand on the bottom and a variety of ocean plants. I was shocked once more, but this time it was because my Norwegian-expat friend had tugged at my arm. I looked at her and she pointed not too far ahead to a sea turtle gracefully swimming through the water. Immediately, I detached from her and swam closer to the sea turtle, watching it right below me. I followed it for as long as I could, not getting too far away from the group, until it disappeared into a murky cloud. After that, I felt like it had been a successful snorkel adventure and swam back to the zodiac where I climbed the mini-ladder and collapsed onto the side, shivering but still with that smile sewn into my face.