Galápagos: Tour Through Time
|Dozens of large bottle-nosed dolphins show off under Alta's bow, often leaping well clear of the water.|
Aboard Alta, we crossed the equator four times in our first four days, but the water wasn't the bathtub temperature you might expect. Several ocean currents, both warm and cold, affect the archipelago, and although the fish are generally not as colorful as you'll find in the tropical Caribbean waters, the nutrient-laden cold currents spawn an incredible diversity of species. We snorkeled every day but one, and we usually wore thin, shortie wetsuits, which made swimming quite comfortable.
During the swim at Isla Genovesa when we twice saw the hammerhead shark (yes, he came back and I got a few feet closer!), I also had the exquisite experience of drifting through the midst of a thick, colorful school of fish, which showed absolutely no concern for my presence. For a moment, despite my noisy breathing, I felt as if I were one of them.
A day later, a turtle swam by, several feet below me, seeming almost in slow motion. As I followed, he propelled himself along effortlessly, and it seemed as if he were in flight. Then he began to rise toward the surface and I had to quickly halt my forward progress, so I didn't end up on his back.
The next day, we were introduced to the Galápagos penguin. We noticed a little fella hanging out on the rocks with the sea lions and periodically hopping into the water and swimming along the surface. When he spotted something to eat, in a flash he'd do a high-speed vertical dive and disappear into the depths.
As a budding Jacques Cousteau (armed with video camera), I often found my footage compromised by low light and slightly cloudy waters, plus the usual operator error (especially the time I closed the underwater housing before I removed the lens cap). But every dive was enjoyable, and one of my best video moments came on our last day at Isla Española. There, along a rocky wall for several minutes, an accommodating sea lion performed aquatic acrobatics for me.