The water was cool and refreshing. Something swam past at full speed. I spun, trying to watch it. And again, another brown comet flew through the water. I spun again, trying to watch them all at once. They were everywhere, and they were having a field day. So was everyone snorkeling. One came up slowly, upside down, floating at the top of the water. He came within inches of my face. I couldn’t decide whether to try and touch him or take a picture. Before I got a chance, he flipped straight down, splashing me in the face with his tail.
Swimming with the sea lions was the highlight of my vacation to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands last summer. In the Galapagos, there are few humans, and so the animals do not know to fear them. I was within feet, even inches, of giant scaled lizards and dancing blue-footed birds and sun bathing sea lions. Being able to see animals that are only found in that island chain was absolutely phenomenal. The landscapes were so foreign; they looked like they belonged to a different, uninhabited world. I saw scenes represented in fantasy novels alone, and animals so bizarre from everyday sightings. It was a once in a lifetime experience I can only hope to repeat.
The entire vacation was perfect. My best friend and I were able to go on it together, even after I had moved away a year before. It was great seeing her again and being able to experience all these wonderful things. She was born in Ecuador and had visited these places before, but it was my first trip.
We started out in Quito, the capital, before heading into the mountains to the north. We stayed in a secluded hacienda that only had a few suites. Gabby made sure we had the best one. It would have slept 5 comfortably and came complete with a fireplace. While we were there, a classic Ecuadorian band played every night in a little bar that was part of the building. It was really fun getting to try the native dances—even if we did look thoroughly silly doing so. The hacienda also had horses, and we got to ride into the surrounding hills for a two hour trip. It was so wonderful to be able to canter through the hills without a care and see the gorgeous landscape. We then went to the village school ground and got pummeled by the 8 year old soccer players in a short match we had. The kids were really cute, though, even if they did show us up in the game.
We then traveled to BaÃ±os, the city known as the “door to the rainforest.” Here, Gabby and I explored the town, visiting cute little shops and trying out our Spanish. It was great because it was her third time there, and I had to tell her she was going the completely wrong way to get back to the hotel. What was even worse was that the hotel was directly across the street from a waterfall that would be hard to miss. It was a great time. We then went to the zoo and Gabby’s brother got to go into the puma cage.
It was time to go home much too soon. It was a wonderful vacation, filled with laughs and memorable experiences. It was perfect. I will always remember playing with the sea lions as they tried to steal my snorkel-flipper, riding carefree through the hills, and spending time with a good friend.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.