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Galapagos...Tortoise
Galoping Galapagos

(Jason Elliott)
Our second day in the Galapagos was a biggie. We went to the Tortoise reservation, we went snorkeling and saw marine iguanas, and we finished with a sea kayak and more snorkeling.

The day starts with Filipe and our “day guide” who take us to the other side of the island to the tortoise center. I’m going to be honest here, the tortoises didn’t “wow” us. Yes, yes, they’re giant turtles, what did we expect? But it wasn’t that they weren’t juggling and riding unicycles, there was just something about seeing them in a reserve that had a zoo like feeling about it. The Galapagos feel wild, free, uninhabited and exotic. Seeing the turtles in a special place, no matter how necessary, just feels weird there.

Having said that, they are huge, they are neat, and it is amazing how close you can get to them in the Cerro Coloardo tortoise center. It was especially neat to hear one hiss at another one and take his leaves. You just don’t expect bully vegetarian turtles. We also liked how they pull their heads and front legs in and stand up with their hind legs, lowering their fronts and protecting their heads even more when you walk by. Turns out tortoises are fairly vocal for reptiles. When then pull in, they make a fireplace bellows sound, which is almost like a warning. Also, when they… well, more on then next sound at a later time.

After the reserve, the two Coloradoans left the Colorado center and went through the highlands (where we didn’t see any Scottsmen) for our local coast. Here we went on a quick hike where we saw the number one animal I wanted to see, the marine iguana. I’m not sure why I wanted to see one so badly, other than the marine iguana is an animal that I honestly thought I’d never see in real life. It’s a “Wild Kingdom” animal. You know, those animals you only see next to some guy in beige on TV with some voiceover telling you how magical the experience is. Well, that’s the marine iguana. So we’re walking along the beach, near some lava rocks, when we spot one sitting nonchalantly on a rock and I turn into every tween girl at a Jonas Brothers concert, shriek in excitement, and run over to the rocks, slow to a slow fast walk because I don’t want to spook it, try to look cool in front of Sander and Filipe, shove my camera into Sander’s hand and demand that he take a picture. It was AWESOME. Not that the marine iguana did anything other than sit there and look cool (but when you are that cool, you don’t need to do anything). Most of the free world knows James Dean from one picture, for some people it just works. I even had my “I hope he throws a guitar pick at me moment” when I told Sander how badly I want to be sneezed on by one (the iguanas expel excess saline through their noses in “sneeze” action). Alas, no iguana salt for me that day. Anyway, 516 pictures later, Philipe tells us we need to get going to the snorkel site. The whole rest of the walk, I’m giddy with excitement, stalking iguanas, looking for tracks, and imagining narrating my life in a beige shirt.

We arrived at our little alcove to begin snorkeling. As far as picturesque tranquil little coves go, this one’s coffee table book quality. Nice breeze, gentle waves, and near perfect “cove” surrounded by lava rocks and reef. So you get the sound and sights of the waves crashing on the rocks, but a gentle swimming area full of sea-life avoiding the turbulence around it. In this cove we swam with spotted eagle rays, schools of fish that part around you like rain on an umbrella, and a family of sea turtles seven members strong. There were little ones as big as dinner plates and big ones as large as boulders. They were taking turns resting on the bottom and eating algae off of lava rocks. There’s an image in my head of one of the larger ones slowly swimming in the current and a large school of fish surrounding it. It was like the turtle’s green, mossy back was an island to the current of flowing, silvery fish.

We swam around our little lagoon for hours, just enjoying ourselves, laughing, pointing at things, and being amazed at the whole experience. A near perfect experience and that was not even the end of our day!

Our last activity of the day was a sea kayak trip back to Darwin Bay. So we load up in our tandem kayak and try to proceed to the bay. I say “try,” because attempting to synchronize our paddle’s stokes proved to be beyond the mental and physical abilities of Team Elliott, so after the 36 crossing of our paddles (Alexandre Dumas couldn’t have written a more gripping sword fight), we decided that Sander would be in charge of the camera and that I’d paddle. We (I) paddled out of the bay, past the beach where we made our sea lion friends, and onward to Darwin Bay for some snorkeling. Snorkeling Darwin Bay we swam with more fish, more sea lions and made some new friends, the pelicans. They swarmed our sag boat (the boat that followed our kayaks in case we needed anything), and when we came up for air, there was a flock of them staring at us. It’s a unique way to see pelicans, in the water, with them looking down at you.

One the way back we had our first close look at the famous blue footed boobie. There are three kinds of boobies (I need to be real careful here), blue-footed, red-footed, and masked, which led Sander to ask if there was a standard boobie? Meaning, what does the plain boobie look like? No one had an answer (or at least one they could share with a nine-year old), but I thought it was a good question.

We finished with dinner and a walk around town.

In bed that night Sander he came up with his own theory about time. We were talking (By the way, far and away the best part of a father/son trip is the nights. We share a room and at the end of every day, on every trip, we talk about the day, the night, the next day, the future, the past, family stories, dreams, fears, and any and everything else that comes up. We cover more ground, and I get more out of those nights than at just about any other moment of being a father) and Sander hits me with this, “Dad, you know how when you’re bored, time goes by really slow. Then when you’re having fun, time goes by really fast. Well, sometimes you’re having so much fun that time actually starts to slow down again. That’s what this trip is like.”

I went to bed very happy that night.

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