Location: The Galapagos Islands
Typically, July fifth has a certain gloom that accompanies the hours of picking up firework wrappers and empty soda cans after the previous night of celebration. This Fifth, however, did not have any of the qualities that one might pin it with. From the lunar landscapes to the alien-like inhabitants of Isle Santiago, our encounters were truly something to remember.
The moment I woke up, opened my window, and was greeted by a colossal mountain side towering above the violent waves residing at its base, I knew the day was going to be one out of the ordinary. After gawking at the breathtaking mountains that were at our vessels doorstep, I stepped down the ladder that lead to the main room of the Darwin. The group was all there and awaiting our breakfast. Right at 7:00, the meal was brought out to the bar where we all served ourselves from the buffet. We had eggs, granola, yogurt, toast and fruit. The scrambled eggs were fantastic as well as the granola.
After breakfast, we all piled onto the dinghy and headed for the beach on the island. The sand was black due to the lack of organic material. Right as we landed on the inorganic space, we were instantly greeted by an outgoing sea lion. He posed as if it was a photo shoot designated for him! His head bobbed up and down as he struck the various posses he had in his arsenal. Surrounding the beach, were rock formations that could have been transplanted right off the face of the moon. Our guide, Fabian, then told us to follow him as he lead us along a path where we saw various species of plants and birds that are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Once we had walked for fifteen minutes of so, we made it to the rock shores, called the Grotto. In this area, the group was stunned by the rock structures that delved sharply into the ocean. The marine iguanas sat perched on the glossy stones as they paid no attention to the crowd of students snapping picture after picture of them. We all walked along the shoreline of the surreal landscape.
Once we made it back to the beach that we first arrived at, we got our snorkeling gear on which we had left on the beach before our walk. After I was immersed in the crystal clear water, the plethora of fish that were present in the water was shocking. As well as fish, we also had several close encounters with sea lions. They would come shooting past our facemasks and would even swim in front of us to give us a show of sorts. It was amazing how they would dance in the water, without any effort whatsoever. It gave one a sense of serenity to realize how close the animal was to you and how vulnerable you were to the will of the beast.
After we had snorkeled for a couple of ours, we got out of the water and got on the dingy which brought us back to the Darwin. Following the chicken we had for our meal, the majority of the group slipped off and took a nap until 2:00. Once we were all woken up to the sound of Fabian ringing the bell to tell us to get up, we all got our snorkeling gear together for the afternoon ahead of us.
We disembarked and went to another location on the Island. This beach we visited was very different than the one before. The sand was almost orange and when you set foot on the land, your foot would sink almost six inches into the ground. We did another short walk around the island, lead by Fabian. On our walk, we saw a Galapagos hawk, which got Fabian very excited. We all took photos of its black torso with its dark yellow beak, which curved in towards its neck. One could tell that this animal was armed with all of the necessary tools to wreak havoc upon any being it desired, thankfully we were lucky.
After the walk, we snorkeled and had a very similar experience to the one that we had earlier that day. Except this time we jumped right off of the boat and into much deeper water. Some of the individuals even saw a black tipped reef shark of substantial size. As well as the shark, we went into a huge black cave , which we delved back into. It was spooky to not see what was under you as you listened to the sound of your breath reverberate off of the ominous walls surrounding.
We snorkeled all afternoon and until we all decided that the adrenaline that was produced from the experience in the cave, as well as a fake cry of Bull Shark! from one of the crewmembers on the dingy, was enough to drive us in. The driver felt that he was quite the comedian but many did not think as he did. Personally, I have never climbed over the edge of a boat more quickly. There’s a chance I might have set some sort of record.
Once we got back to the boat, everyone showered and got ready for dinner. The ringing of the dinner bell was a welcome sound and we all sat down to hamburgers for dinner. The burgers were good, but the conversation about the day’s events were truly the highlight of the meal. To say the least, everyone’s dreams had plenty of good material to build a nights worth of wonderful thoughts.