by Beverly Serrell and Jim Des Jardins
Beverly and I joined nine other people to live on a 72' Sailing Catamaran touring via kayaks, snorkeling and hiking, five of the Galapagos Islands over nine days. The Galapagos Islands are a wondrous place; volcanic in origin, predominantly desert islands on the equator out in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are slipping south east at an inch or two a year and slowly sinking back into the ocean. They may be under water in a few million years. The weather and water temperature is mainly determined by four ocean currents and were mild to cool during our stay.
Our group leader from Explorers Corner was Nancy Moore, a member of CASKA. She worked with an excellent Ecuadorian naturalist and a ship's crew of seven. Together, Nancy and the naturalist covered the geological history of the islands and pointed out and described the characteristics of the many species of animal life. As Darwin discovered, many species, although similar to others in nearby islands, were unique to a single island. We were requested not to touch, feed, give water to, nor engage the animals in any way. For example, if a curious baby Sea Lion came to you, sniffed at and tickled your ankle with his whiskers, you were not to move. In return, the animals were never hostile, had no fear, and generally ignored us, even when we were just a few feet from them.
Our days generally started at 5:30 am, kayaking
at 6:00, breakfast at 8:30 and off to another adventure snorkeling, kayaking or hiking until noon. After lunch, there was relaxation time and then more of the same until late afternoon and happy hour. Diner was at 7:00. We celebrated my 82nd birthday one evening. We spent a lot of our time on and in the water all but one day when we visited the Darwin Research Center and the nearby town of Puerto Ayora, where much of the group retired for Margaritas before dinner back on the boat.
The kayaks were sit-on-top inflatable Feathercrafts, both singles and doubles. They were comfortable, stable, and fast enough, an excellent compromise for the purpose. Although Beverly and I were the most experienced paddlers, the others all had some experience and after a very little coaching from Nancy and the naturalist, the group moved quite well on the water. Much of our kayaking time was spent exploring the volcanic rock cliffs of the island shorelines. The scenery was spectacular. Everyone in the group also had some snorkeling experience and that also went very well.
The sea was filled with fish, large and small, the smaller often in huge schools. In the water we played with sea lions, who quickly became bored with us for being so slow. Small Galapagos Penguins shot by like torpedoes. Small sharks and sting rays ignored us. When the boat was moving from between islands, dolphins raced the boat and cavorted in front of us to demonstrate how much faster they could swim. Eventually they became bored and left us. The next show came about a half hour later watching giant Manta Rays leap completely out of the water and fall back with a big splash a few hundred yards from the boat.
There were birds of many species everywhere, including, finches, Albatrosses, Blue footed booby's (the bluer the feet, the sexier the male). There were large numbers of Giant Galapagos Tortoises
weighing hundreds of pounds and up to 150 years old, Sea Lions by the dozens, Iguanas (land and marine), lava lizards and Green Sea Turtles. We visited a Green Sea Turtle mating pond and a beach where the females came to lay their eggs. They made wide tracks with their flippers from the sea to the nests.
It was a trip of a lifetime, certainly ours.