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Into the Ocean

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At Tortuga Bay

An old friend – Mass of Penguins – But lo! – Big wet doggies

Most of my life I have lived by the ocean and my relationship with it is that of a comfortable old friend. In fact I think I am a little too comfortable with it since I have nearly forgotten how quickly its moods change and how dangerous it can suddenly become. Leave a calm lagoon and fast currents can ensnare a swimmer, leave the lee of an island and the waves can suddenly mount to swamping behemoths. All this I know in theory but the ocean has never frightened me and always brought things of wonder to my attention.

Exploring the Galapagos is mostly about discovering its amazing marine life. Yes, there are huge tortoises, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, etc, but the ocean experience overwhelms these. Close to Las Tintoreras a white tipped reef shark circled us and swam away just as we entered the water. Before we knew it a mass of penguins swam out and we were surrounded by the comical birds bobbing and diving. It was the most amazing ocean swim I had ever had.

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Mind if we swim along?

Peering underwater reveals a strange world, and creatures that are perfectly at home in this world. Swimming at Leon Dormido, off San Cristobal island, we got to see another facet of the watery world. A shaft of surface light lit up a small area around us and faded into the inky depths below. At first I was thought it would be boring traveling in this light cone, but then suddenly a flock of Eagle Rays came past the event horizon gracefully flapping their wings. Within minutes they they were gone and we were alone again. But lo, what was that? The faint outline of a shark got clearer and clearer until a Galapagos shark silently glided past. Soon they were all around – we were swimming through a school of sharks, each lit up for an instant before it swam off into the inkiness. THIS, was the most amazing ocean swim I have ever had!

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Gentle Creature

The sea turtle took scant notice of me as I swam alongside it. Greenish-yellow in color, the light diffracted by the waves played across its shell. Every once in a while it surfaced to take a breath and then resumed its slow stately pace. I had to resist a strong urge to reach over and stroke it or to grab onto its shell to hitch a ride. I have never seen one on land but they look very ungainly in the National Geographic videos. What a difference in the water where they move effortlessly!

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A face you can trust?

To me sea lions look like big wet doggies, comically waddling around the shore while barking. The two hundred pound juvenile was headed towards me at twenty knots, minimum. I thought for sure he was going to torpedo me and rupture my thoracic cavity, when at the very last minute he quickly veered away. What a mean prank to play on a foreigner to his realm! The sea lions seem to delight in such pranks – rushing at us again and again until we were all whooping with laughter. Not once during these fake charges did they actually touch us – even though at times they were but inches away.

So my love of the ocean continues to grow. How little do I know this place even though I have spent so much of my life living next to it!

9 Responses to “Into the Ocean”

  1. madhuri says:

    Come back to SF, encounter with a cute sea lion can be arranged :-)

  2. Shreesh says:

    I know, tons of Sea Lions in San Francisco, but the water is soo cold! (At least for some :))

  3. ada says:

    I’m with Madhuri, there are plenty of cute sea lions up close and personal in SF. OK, so maybe not as close as your encounter.

  4. Lakshmi says:

    Great blog! Thanks for the info about the amazing Galapagos and its rich marine and land life. Hope they try to preserve it from too many tourists.

  5. fred says:

    I hate it when my thoracic cavity is ruptured by a Sea Lion!

  6. Katherine says:

    I am giddy with second hand joy for your experiences there in the Galapagos!

  7. Vinay says:

    Nice post Shreesh!

  8. Shaila says:

    I am Shaila, friend of your Mom and Dad from Minneapolis. I have been hearing so much about you and Nina that it feels like I alrady know both of you even though we haven’t met. I am very proud of you two for taking the adventure you are taking. I wish I could do that… Your photography is just wonderful and your writting is fantastic! I will be watching your website and watching your journey. Please take care and be safe…..

  9. Suhasini Taskar says:

    Lovely pictures. Ocean has always attracted me since my childhood. But in the Indian ocean near Mumbai, there were hardly any interesting creatures due to heavy population of human beings.
    Please be careful of sharks and sting rays if you come across one. They are quite unpredictable.

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