as seen by Jane O'Brien

It is our last day in the Galapagos and we are reluctantly departing these amazing islands. It is difficult to capture the feeling of being in the Galapagos no matter how eloquent a writer one is. While these islands are volcanic in origin and continue to produce their own explosions, they are absent of the dramatic and dangerous eruptions of Pichincha and Tungurahua. They also do not have the crime of Quito or Guayaquil, the hype over Y2K, or almost any other drama that we, as humans, very cleverly invent.  Instead, there is a drama independent of us, one which belongs solely to a place that is absent prolific human development. It is a drama that inspires a constant state of awe in all who visit here.

Today, again, provided no disappointments. We began the day off the coast of Floreana, drift snorkeling against the algae-covered rocks of Champion Island. We saw a sea turtle rise from the ocean floor with the patient movement of his flippers, an electric blue starfish, a bright yellow puffer fish poking his nose out from beneath the shade of a rock--fish that can compete with the finest abstract paintings--and finally a sea lion who almost bumped our noses and pushed us out of the water.

Jane and Emily on the beach with the sea lions

The afternoon on Floreana Island, while absent of the hordes of sea lions and iguanas we have been accustomed to seeing, gave us the privilege of viewing Flycatchers, pink-flowered succulent plants, flowering Palo Verdes, ghost crabs skating across and hiding beneath the sand, and, of course, the red, orange, and blue Sally Lightfoot crabs clamoring for a place on the black lava rock.

While the animals were spectacular, our grand finale was the beach with white sand as soft as velvet and water in shades of turquoise and green. It was another incredible day in the Galapagos, making it that much harder to leave.

Bartalome Island

As I said before, I cannot give you the feeling of being here, but I am sure that there are images that none of us will be able to forget: the newborn sea lion pup sleeping beneath the shelter of a lava rock, the colorful iguanas spitting salt water from their noses, the enormous land turtles that looked almost like boulders in the grass, the sly frigate bird pirating food from the mouth of a baby bird, the eagle rays flying through the water, the fish and sharks, the sociability of the sea lions, the blue and red footed boobies and the masked boobies actively involved in their mating rituals, the albatrosses clumsily taking off for flight, the finches, the hawks, the crabs, and, perhaps most of all, the incredible landscapes which varied from island to island. Some were arid, some more humid and wet, some contained red iron soil which offset the greens of the sea, and others offered a spectrum of sand from white sanded stretches which would rival the Caribbean to black and green tinted sands. No matter how different all these places were, they all provided some of the strangest, other-worldly, and awe-inspiring views I've ever seen.

You can swim with the groupers you have for dinner.

Write Jane

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