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Kayaking Galapagos part two: the return

After the short break, we start paddling again, trying to reach a near perfect synchronicity with our oars…  Now we cross Devine’s Bay from the northern to the southern extreme… At mid bay we decide to drift for a few minutes, considering the current takes us further inside the bay. There is an extremely curious juvenile frigate bird following us, flying right over our heads.  Julio takes some great photos of the bird, its large wingspan fully displayed, while his yellowish breast feathers contrast with the dark black of his back and an impeccable white head and neck…

We reinitiate the paddling. Now it requires stronger movements as we did drift a bit farther than we had expected.  Our target now are the southern cliffs of the bay, dotted with small channels surrounded by lava rocks and mangroves, perfect places to swim and to observe some marine life… As we reach one of the calm coves, the rocky and sandy bottom shows us schools of small fishes cruising by…  A few sting rays quietly snooze on the sandy bottom.  We “park” our kayak, securely tied to a wooden stick by the shoreline; put on our snorkels, fins and masks, strip off the blue security life vests which we must mandatorily wear while kayaking, and jump into the water for a refreshing and fascinating dip along the cliffs…

The water is crystal clear, the temperature perfect as the morning sun has heated the rather cooler undercurrents… We swim parallel to the cliff with a westernly course, going along with the current..  To the left, a large lava “condominium”, full of pretty damsel fish, captures our attention…the beautiful black and yellow (and blue-eyed) fishes, jealously patrolling their respective “apartments” (read lava holes)… Very territorial, these little characters are fascinating to watch on their incessant comings and goings and occasional aggressive encounters, particularly among larger males…

A couple of superbly colored blue and green parrot fishes slowly go by and decide to plunge deeper than we can follow them… A magnificent “Moorish idol” makes a brief appearance near the lava rocks and draws a soundless (or rather mental) “Wooow” from Julio and me as we are breathing with our snorkels on…. The underwater camera goes click, click without end….  It is time to return so we brace more rapidly back to our kayak and begin the return trip to the Finch Bay Hotel’s beach.  We have to brace harder on the kayak too, as we are now navigating against the current… my arms begin to protest but we must keep steady, especially as we go again through that narrow canal of shallow waters (and on our more than two hour’s outing, the tide has gone down…) As we exit the canal, to our left, is Punta Estrada with its breakers and soon, at the far opposite end of the scenario, the white sandy beach and the beautiful Finch Bay appear, perfectly blended with the surrounding nature of cacti and native bushes….

While a bit tired from the exercise, there is an incomparable feeling of being on a privileged place… privileged persons ourselves… When we arrive to the beach, the attentive Hotel’s staff tell us to let them do the rest of the work and invite us to just relax and enjoy life… That is, after all, the name of the game… So, we cleanse our bodies from sand and salt water;  while smiling bartender Pepe brings us great cold beers and we toast, before plunging into the swimming pool.  Want to live a similar experience… It’s easy as can be… you are just a click or phone call away….

A kayak outing in Galapagos (part one)

November 19, 2009 1 comment

Light shines intensely this brilliant morning in Galapagos.  Metropolitan Touring’s charming and several times awarded Finch Bay Eco Hotel glitters under the bright sunshine.  The blue sky and turquoise sea, the sparkling white sand of the beach and the greenery of the mangroves create a bright mosaic of colors, while a great blue heron explores the swimming pool’s edge.  Inside the pool, instead of tourists, two Galapagos pin-tailed ducks float idly… And, on the grayish lava rocks, some black marine iguanas bask on the sun, drying their reptilian skins, freshly emerged from their morning breakfast outing. 

We have just had one more delicious breakfast at the Hotel and, while Monica and Jinson help us pulling the ocean kayaks towards the beach, me and Julio smear our bodies with lots of sun block; fit in our caps and secure with waterproof plastic covers our small day packs with cameras, binoculars and more sun screen.  Monica takes some funny pictures of us, clumsily wading our way into the cove and trying to organize ourselves and the equipment inside the long and narrow, orange colored, two-seater ocean kayak.  We finally settle down and start practicing in order to synchronize the movement of both paddles.  By then, the kayak is fully afloat and slowly leaving the beach…  Now our arms, muscles and hands are moving strong and quickly, as we are headed east, directly towards a breaker, high enough to turn our kayak over…  We have been provided with a paper map showing us the correct route…  so we must promptly turn, as we certainly do, to the south and then negotiate our way through a narrow canal surrounded by mangroves and small lava islets. 

By now we have picked up an appropriate speed (not too fast, not too slow) and our paddles are well coordinated… up…left….down…right… While our concentration is centered on paddling and moving the kayak in the right way and direction, our eyes cannot escape from admiring the awesome views around us….  As we leave the mangrove canal, a large and deep bay opens to our left (the west). It is Devine’s Bay, with its black lava cliffs, blue and turquoise waters, hidden channels, and, above the cliffs, a mysterious looking forest of “palo santo” trees and “opuntia” cacti, the sun projecting psychedelic spirals of golden rays around their branches….

Time for a break…  we have done an hour’s steady paddling and we smoothly move the kayak to a calm cove…. Julio reaches for our bottles of water and we drink and pour some of the liquid onto ourselves… Along the layered blocks of basaltic lava, some blue footed boobies rest, just waiting for a new air strike over the bay, ready to capture their mid-morning brunch: a school of wrasses cruising by…..  We pull the cameras out and start a rewarding photo session: the picturesque scenery, the boobies, some juvenile pelicans, a floating sea turtle, a lava heron quietly stalking over a group of “sally-light foot” crabs….  For a minute my mind tells me, no wonder why the Galapagos are called

“unique”, “magic”, “enchanted”….  Those words seem to have been created especially to describe these islands…. And we just enjoy those magic moments….

On the next chapter I will tell you about the return path…

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