When I was a kid, my mother sold World Book Encyclopedias. Raise your hand if you had World Book Encyclopedias at your house. Both hands high up if your mom sold them, too!
I’m not actually sure she sold any other than the set in our house; we got the deluxe version. I loved that set just like I love the wwweb today. I would spend hours reading all about the wonders of the world and looking up important information like the the size of China vs. the size of the United States. Maps were always my focus; I loved maps, still do, and would think about how I was going to make it to each of those pastel colored countries.
Of course, I knew then that I would like to, no – I would NEED TO, travel the world someday. Here I am! The future state of nine-year-old Renee, back from a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
It was an energizing and inspiring trip that included incredible opportunities with new friends in new places. I’m not going to embed all 1,540 photos from the adventure in this post but I would like to share a highlight for me – snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean off of Isla Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador at Los Tuneles – the Lava Tunnels. Los Tuneles was formed by a series of lava flows that produced arcs and tunnels underneath and above the water.
And we’re off!
Rosedelco Tours picked us up early and off we rode to the tour headquarters for our half-wet suits, flippers and masks. I am gordo. Look it up in espanol if you don’t know what that means. I was not sure that the wet suit was going to work out but the very resourceful Rosedelco Tour folks were successful is pulling, stretching, guiding and coaxing the wet suit up and over my ample hips and behind. Once in, I looked like a stuffed pepper or maybe Ursula from the Little Mermaid. It’s really very comfortable considering the amount of smishing involved.
We first went west along the coast to an little lava island called Roca Union that has pushed up for some great views of the Nazca Booby – the masked, black footed booby. It was beautiful. As always, I also got really excited at the views of the marine iguanas and the sea lions. Those sea lions can really jump! We have photos of sea lions Way Up High on the outcropping enjoying a lazy day in the clouds.
First snorkeling spot
Our captain took us next to a site that he promised would be very calm for our snorkeling. As we sped along the coast, I had my doubts – the sea was not terribly rough but we could see breaks everywhere with lots of white foam. I have not always exhibited snorkeling expertise. OK, the truth is that I am often the least successful snorkeler in the group. The sea was a temperature of about 65 degrees (which is not as bad as what Jack endured in Titanic but it is also definitely lower than my water aerobics pool at the fitness facility. Heck, we complain when it dips below 92). I am sort-of-a-little claustrophobic and panic a bit every time I put my face in the water. I thought, “Be brave little camper!”
I should never doubt the captain. By the way, the captain’s nickname is John Travolta because he looks a little like a younger John with the bright blue eyes, dark hair and facial features. I didn’t know that John was Ecuadorian until this trip. So I mustered up my “you can do this” and I splashed on in. Being a fully contained flotation device myself, it was fine but there was a good bit of sputtering and chattering and cursing as I worked it out. The mask went on, I saw what was going on with the group, and off I went.
So, about that snorkel. Apparently there is a right side and a wrong side for the snorkel and I was on the wrong side. I assumed it was my lack of expertise to blame for the repeated ingestion of clear beautiful Galapagos seawater and so I was just living with it, hacking a lot, and doing a lot of self-talk like, “Just calm down. This is not that much sea water. You will not die. Stay with the group.” Fortunately for me, our guide was watching out for me and came over to flip my mask around so that the snorkel was on the other side and the mouthpiece was right side up! Think of Baby Binkies. My Binkie was upside down. So much better.
The area we were in was a beautiful lush forest of sea vegetation and other good eating for the little fish and big fish. Just after he had fixed my snorkel, the guide said, “Did you see the turtle?” So I looked down and there he was – right next to me! He flipped me a little on the way past. The wildlife are used to these multi-colored large floater people that are not predators. The tortoises swim on by in between, underneath and all around without a care.
The guide made sure we all saw turtles, sharks, rays, seahorses and brilliant fish. The sea horse was a little shy – hiding in the mangroves – so our guide took us in one at a time so we didn’t stir things up or disturb the area. Lovely! While we were moving to another area of the site, the guide said, follow me! A turtle that had decided to check out our group just came on along.
The sharks were cool. By that time, my mask and I were getting along very well so I was able to hang there and watch for quite awhile as they glided underneath. The area we were in was pretty shallow with hills and valleys. As we headed back to the boat Don saw a shark zip by just in-between me and the boat.
Thank god for assistance from Don and the crew getting me back in the boat. I was on the ladder and I know how to use ladders but my feet were pretty sure that they should just stay on those rungs. Don’t move. Well, of course, I was going to have to move. John Travolta and Don coaxed me in and walked me over the side of the boat like Cher gets walked over with her beautiful men holding each arm as she glides on stage. That’s exactly what it looked like. I’m positive.
Next stop was Los Tuneles. The lava tunnels had a lot of fish but not the size or the variety of the first stop. The lava formation that created the tunnels were perfect for snorkeling and we toured through playing Follow the Leader back into a beautiful area for photos and more fish sightings. There was a sea lion leisurely doing the sidestroke and more sea turtles. So cool.
Snorkeling through the formations was an act of bravery on my part since, as mentioned before, I am a bit claustrophobic. My guide had never let me down and our friend Vinicio was at my side so in I went. The lava formations were outstanding.
Out of the water, the guide took us on a small hiking adventure. We spotted a blue-footed boobie, a little younger based on the light blue of his feet, and a baby nearby hanging out. People are not a predator and we stay back a respectful distance so they paid no attention to us. On the lava, there are interesting cactus formations that grow very slowly and must get their nutrients from the air since there is no soil. There are additional species of plants there that keep their leaves vertical rather than horizontal so that they don’t lose their moisture to the sun.
You should consider doing this…
Our total time on the tour was about 5 hours. Heck yeah! I would do it again. The whole of the Galapagos is so different than what I expected. It is in a cloud almost all of the time and a much cooler temperature than what you would think of in a Pacific Island on the equator. I admit I was thinking Gilligan’s Island…
Of course, I got sunburnt. When the sun comes out, as it did for a few hours while we were on our adventure, it is very intense. We reveled in the opportunity to not be soggy for a little while and, as a result, overdid it and get sunburnt.
By the way, there are many ways to experience the Galapagos. We were on a very small group tour as part of an add-on to the Above The Clouds Financial Independence Chautauqua. In our case, we were in the care of an independent guide. Vinicio arranged our travel and hotels and was with us to make sure everything went very smoothly. Travel to and from Quito, between islands, hotels, tours – all were beautifully arranged. (Mi español es muy malo.)
Well, that’s a quick view into what was an incredible two weeks! I want to give a quick shout out to the other participants and speakers at the Financial Independence Chautauqua – you guys are awesome!
And don’t worry, fellow Futurists, there will absolutely be more stories to come from our Ecuadorian adventure. If you haven’t signed up for email notification, now might be a good time to click on over to the Subscribe button.