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Journals from Galapagos, Ecuador

2013-05-06 “Beautiful, Mysterious, Contagious”

Buenos dias todos! Good news! I got dive certified and passed my test with flying colors. I was nervous but out of about 90 questions I only got two wrong! I am now a proud (and thrilled) certified new diver.

As for classes, we finished the last week of our course in Santa Cruz Island where we stayed in a beautiful hotel with a view of the ocean. As a class, we went on a couple field trips to explore more lava tunnels. Trekking through lava tunnels always promises adventure. The insides of the tunnels are beautiful and mysterious. Sometimes you have to crouch down on your hands and knees to squeeze through a tight spot and other times you have to crane your neck backwards just to find the tops of the ceilings. In one of the lava tunnels, I even spotted a Galapagos owl perched taking a nap in the entrance! Our guide was amazed at my discovery and exclaimed how rare it was to see one. We also had the opportunity to visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station, and although we were not given a tour, we were able to listen to a couple interesting presentations of research at the station.

At the end of the week, we sped back to San Cristóbal in a motorboat. I remember looking at the islands as we passed them by one by one and contemplating how amazing this place really is. As the waves parted underneath us and our boat sprayed seawater into the air behind us, I sat speechless while listening to tranquil music on my ipod. I took a mental snapshot of each island and tucked them safely into my heart, promising myself I would return again. Whenever I peered up into the sky, I caught glimpses of the Galapagos frigate birds that rode the winds, their wings carrying them high…

That weekend my two host sisters and I traveled to a beach on the other side of the island called Puerto Chino. It is a beautiful cove with a white sand beach spotted on either side with volcanic rocks. The ocean swells rose and fell, creating perfect waves for the sea turtles to ride. As we splashed through the waves, we saw one of my host sister’s friends paddling by on his surfboard. He offered us his board so I decided to join the turtles and try my luck. Unfortunately, the turtles were much more graceful than I was and much more adept at riding the deep blue. But I suppose after a lifetime in the sea, catching a few waves must be a breeze.

The following week, we began a new class module called Human Ecology and Maritime Communities. It was the first class where we actually discussed local issues of the Galapagos, so the learning material was really interesting. Sometime throughout the semester, the other students discovered that I play acoustic guitar and sing. A student from Australia and I performed the song Hey Ya by Outkast. Both students and locals have been extremely supportive of my musical abilities. This trip has given me a lot more confidence in myself and my singing abilities and has fueled my passions.

 The next weekend I went on my first dive adventure since getting my diving license. Went diving at a rock formation site called Kicker Rock and the experience was beyond amazing! It was without a doubt the highlight of my trip to the Galapagos. Words simply cannot do the experience justice, but I will try my best… We did one check dive at a shallow depth at an island called Isla Lobos (Sea Lion Island) to check our equipment and then two dives at Kicker Rock. We dove to the depth limit of my open water certification with a maximum depth of 18 meters, 60 ft! If you have ever seen the 1989 movie The Abyss, you may be able to imagine a bit of what I am about to explain. After we descended, we swam along the bottom of the channel that split the rock formation in two. The sandy bottom was scattered with large broken pieces of shells and sea urchin spines. The current rocked us back and forth along the bottom and sent our air bubbles spiraling up towards the surface. On our second dive, we swam around the sides of Kicker Rock with the rock wall on our right side and the deep blue as far as the eye could see to our left and above and below us. We saw black and white tip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, and hammer head sharks! If that wasn’t enough, we also swam with schools of spotted eagle rays and rode the current with green sea turtles. Fish of every color swam lazily to either side of us and spiny sea urchins sprawled across the rock formations as if someone were playing a giant game of jacks under the sea. Upon surfacing after our second dive, our dive master exclaimed that this was the best dive he had ever been on at Kicker Rock. During my second dive, I stayed under for a total of 58 minutes, almost an hour! Beginner divers don’t usually last that long because their breathing uses up the air too fast. One by one, my friends had to swim back up to the surface as I continued on with our dive master. The people managing the boat thought I was advanced certified. It had only been my sixth dive, including the dives from my certification. I felt so proud of myself! I got my certification partly to overcome my uneasiness in deep water…turns out I’m pretty natural sixty feet under water! You can never cease to amaze yourself, if you are at least willing to try.  

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