Planet Hiker
2004-11-02 Tour of the Galapagos islands, Ecuador

Pretty much all of Galapagos Islands are protected areas, so you are required to always be accompanied with a certified guide where ever you go (by the way, certification is awarded only to Ecuadorians). Thus, to see anything at all, one is forced to buy a boat tour. I, of course, signed up for the cheapest boat afloat - Yolita. The tour itself was exactly the same as all the others. It lasted 8 days, leaving Santa Cruz to Santa Fe, to Floreana, to Rabida, to Santiago and finally to Seymore. And you get to see all sorts of animals. Actually, the whole experience is sort of like going to a zoo on a boat, except there are no cages. Since the animals act like they are all domesticated, the feeling of being "out in the wilderness" is pretty much nonexistent. The herds of elderly (but young in spirit) retirees roaming along side with unnecessarily expensive photo cameras, further affirm this notion.

Never the less, there was a lot of magic in the air, as well as in the sea. For instance, snorkeling with the shark for the first time was pretty cool - it was hiding in a craves under a big rock. So I took a big breath, dived down and suddenly found myself literally face to face with a decent size (about 2 meters), white tip shark. Apparently, I came too close so the shark swam out and started to circle around me. Armed with a disposable underwater camera, I swam after it, maintaining a safe distance of about a meter. After completing a circle, the shark went back into the craves and made an eye contact with me. Its little eyes were looking directly into mine, giving off a sense of minor annoyance. Later on in the trip I almost became accustomed to seeing sharks but, the cold glance of that irritated shark did leave an impression.

One of the most enjoyable scenes of the tour was watching the dance of Wavy Albatross. Now, you may be thinking that "animals dancing" implies that they just shake their heads or something. But not with these guys! The dance is complex, intricate, with many different movements, different phases and you really have to sit and watch for about an hour to understand the whole choreography. So we sat there, about 10 meters from where a couple was dancing, and watched their extraordinary behavior as if it was on TV.

The following photos are by Jens Rasmussen, from Denmark. He is back home now, but we were taking the tour together and he was gracious enough to send these to me:

And here is the photographer himself, with his girlfriend Else: