While my words may have painted an intriguing picture of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, there is nothing like video to get a true feel for a place, so I’ve put together a video of many of the animals I saw during my recent cruise and set it to music. Hope you enjoy.
Ecoventura kindly hosted the author’s visit to the Galapagos in Ecuador. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items/services received will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In this case, I highly recommend Ecoventura, not only for their excellent facilities and the smaller, intimate size of their yachts, but also for their devotion to conservation.
I have always felt an affinity with wild animals and they, likewise, seem inordinately attracted to me. On a visit to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York this summer, a black racer snake crawled across my foot. On safari in the Serengeti of Africa we encountered a lion sleeping with his head hidden behind a rock. I politely asked him to sit up for a photo. My guide’s snigger turned to amazement when the lion sat up regally and looked directly at me. After snapping a few photos I thanked the huge male and he laid back down.
Of all my wildlife encounters around the world, none have been more astounding than those with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Sea lions have a reputation as curious animals who often investigate divers. Last year in Mexico a family of sea lions checked me out from a respectful distance as I snorkeled in the cold blue waters off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. But in the Galapagos, these sleek brown animals collected by the hundreds on beaches and lay across trails, completely indifferent to humans. On land it was usually not a problem to maintain the six foot distance required between man and animal, though at times our diversions took us through boulder fields and prickly vegetation. In the water, however, it was another story.
Video by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, courtesy of GreenGlobalTravel.com
One day my sister and I snorkeled around a point and swam into a cove surrounded by submerged rocks where a lone sea lion frolicked. He torpedoed back and forth and swam circles around us, inching ever closer. We twisted and turned, trying to keep him in view, but he was just too fast for us. I popped to the surface and yelled for the rest of our group to join us. Instead of being threatened by our larger numbers, the sea lion seemed energized. Time and again he broke the surface for air and nose-dived to the bottom. Playfully, he began exhaling as he raced around us, encasing us in a cylinder of bubbles that began as giant oval pockets and broke into a million swirling, iridescent pinpoints that slowly rose to the surface. Though I don’t have an underwater camera, one of my fellow writers did and he very graciously allowed me to show the above video.
Later that week, rather than snorkel or kayak, I opted for a trip to a gorgeous white sand beach on Chinese Hat. After a swim in the crystalline turquoise waters I settled down on my towel and was soon fast asleep. A shout from our naturalist, Ceci Guerrero, woke me up. “Bobbie, get up. Don’t touch, just look.” (with three Barbaras on the trip, I had been dubbed Bobbie). Two young female sea lions were waddling up the sand toward me. Curious, one of them touched my thigh with its nose while the other went around my back side. I turned to follow the antics of the one at my rear, unaware of what was happening at the shore, until Guerrero yelled again. “Watch out Bobbie! Look behind you.” A giant bull had chased away a young male and herded these two young females onto the beach, intending to add them to his harem. Sensing that I was a new threat, he rose from the ocean and headed toward me. The ensuing series of photos taken by Ceci show what happened better than I can put into words.
When my ferry arrived in La Paz, Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I had only an hour or so to check out the town before boarding the bus that would take me across Baja California to Todos Santos. I walked along the Malecon and snapped a few photos; it seemed like a nice enough little town but I wasn’t turning cartwheels over it. Fortunately, during my stay at Rancho Pescadero I met Danny the bartender, born and raised in La Paz, who convinced me to spend a few days there. Danny was so right.
Although La Paz enjoys modest tourism, it is not overrun with tourists and expats. The downtown streets are filled with locals doing their daily shopping, attending church, chatting in the town square. People are extremely friendly and everyone seems to be smiling; I even found a fantastic, extremely affordable Mexican restaurant in La Paz. But the real beauty of La Paz starts where the land meets the sea.
Gorgeous Balandra Bay is a picture perfect swath of powdery white sand beach backed by purple and ochre cliffs, with water so excruciatingly turquoise it is hard to believe the color is real. Beyond Balandra is Espiritu Santo Island, a nature preserve with dozens of pristine deserted beaches, coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, and sea lions that are so friendly they will swim right up to your snorkel mask. The Sea of Cortez off the coast of La Paz is also one of the few places in the world where snorkelers and divers can swim beside enormous but gentle whale sharks as they scoop up plankton and krill with their giant mouths.
I visited this water wonderland with Carey Dive Center, an excellent tour/dive operation that has designed a day trip that combines all of these activities and more. Words are simply not sufficient to describe the stunning scenery and wildlife in and around Balandra Bay and Espiritu Santo Island, so I put together the following brief video.
I’ve much enjoyed my time in Baja California, but it’s time to head back across the Sea of Cortes to Barrancas del Cobre – Mexico’s Copper Canyon – a remote area in the state of Chihuahua that encompasses the deepest canyon in North America. Copper Canyon is home to the reclusive Tarahumara Indians chronicled in the book, “Born to Run,” and I hope to spend time with Tarahumara during my visit. Tomorrow evening I board the ferry back across the Sea of Cortez, this time to Topolobampo, and bus through Los Mochis to El Fuerte, where I’ll spend a few days before boarding the famous El Chepe train through the canyon.