Two summers ago, I had the most amazing travel experience of my life when I had the opportunity to travel to the Galápagos Islands. My mother, grandmother, and I took a 4-day cruise aboard the Galapagos Explorer II. We boarded the boat at Santa Cruz, an island about 1-hour from Guayaquil, Ecuador by plane. In our short 4 days on board, we were able to visit a total of 8 islands.
Among many new discoveries and experiences, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a one-day excursion on the island of Santiago (also known as James Bay), where we were able to snorkel. I was very reluctant to enter the water; the ocean itself was warm, but my mask was uncomfortable and loose, and walking around in my 'fins' made me feel like a drowning fish.
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I was just about to head back to the boat, embarrassed and disappointed, when a girl about my age came up to me and asked if I wanted to join her in the water. Not wanting to be rude, I accepted her offer, warning her I had never snorkeled before. We swam a couple yards out and she dived. I held my breath and briefly submerged my face before bobbing back up.
"You can use your mask, you know," my fellow snorkeler commented, smiling. I had been too much of a germ-aphoic to try my air tube earlier, but, feeling brave, I put the retainer-like tube in my mouth and took the plunge.
I was immediately in a different world. The only sound was my Darth-Vader-like breathing through the tube. At my original post on the shore, all I had seen was open sand and the occasional fish. Now, I was surrounded by moss-covered rocks, which made the water shallow even about 50 meters out. It was a green jungle compared to the dry desert shore. Multi-colored fish of bright blues, yellows, and greens darted around, ranging in size from a few centimeters to a foot and a half in size. I was surrounded by life in my own underwater haven.
We swam a bit further out and arrived at a crater-like place. It was as if the ground disappeared, and we went from water 3 feet deep to a 10 foot drop-off. There were a few sparse fish, but not much else to look at. Ready to turn back, I resurfaced, just to find myself face to face with a penguin! He swam off instantly, as shocked as I was at the encounter. But, needless to say, the next time they asked if anyone wanted to snorkel, I was the first to grab my wet suit.
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