THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR (Part 2) – October 2008

The Elusive Galapagos Turtles

Despite their fame, we did not see as many turtles as we may have hoped.

Like the iguanas, there are land and sea turtles which are, essentially, different creatures. The land turtles are much larger than their marine cousins, although we have taken our guide’s word for that because we only saw one during our travels… And even that one was largely obscured by the bushes it was hiding within.

We did, however, see a number of marine turtles, albeit usually at some distance as they swam slowly in the sea. Typically, we would only be able to see a shell poking above the water-line or a shadowy figure below the waves.

Once again, however, I enjoyed the distinct privilege of seeing a turtle up close whilst snorkelling. I was swimming amongst some rocks when I spotted the turtle a few metres away. I ended up quietly hovering above the turtle – hands behind my back – as it made its way through the water below me. I followed the turtle for two or three minutes, watching it move its front and back legs in a breast-stroke fashion, its head bopping up and down with each stroke. It was a very peaceful sight, the memory of which I shall always cherish.

The Even More Elusive Penguins

Galapagos is also famous for its penguins, which have adapted to life on the Equator. Indeed, the Galapagos penguins, we were told, are the only penguins to venture into the northern hemisphere.

Apparently, some lucky few are able to swim with the penguins. My good fortune, however, did not include such a treat. We did, however, see a handful of penguins sitting on the rocks and diving into the water.

That said, the saddest event to occur during our journey around the Galapagos Islands involved a baby penguin, which was standing on a beach, just outside the water-line. The poor little blighter seemed to have lost her mother. She was shivering as the sun began to set over the sea. It seemed to us that the little girl was defenceless and was even picked on – at one stage – by a naughty pelican.

Everybody was concerned for the penguin’s well-being. However, the naturalists who were with us said there was nothing that they could do. Just as they don’t cull aggressive animals, they don’t save the weak ones either. Nature must take its course. If she survived until nightfall, there was a chance she might make it through to the safety of morning.

With those words in our ears, we boarded our zodiacs and headed back to the boat. Everybody was unusually quiet.

I saw some wipe tears from their eyes.

We like to think that the baby penguin’s mother made a hasty return. However, the truth is that we will never know the beautiful little penguin’s fate.

Moonriver

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