Monday, August 09, 2010

Snorkeling Floreana

Before I get into any descriptions, let me make one comment: an underwater digital camera was the best investment ever. So worth it.

We went snorkeling twice on Floreana--another example of how well GAP Adventures, our highly recommended tour company, packed so much into a very short period of time.

The morning snorkel was in a rocky area near the shore. Check out the pictures of the rocks because they fascinated me. They look like large, well-stacked bricks. I had to remind myself a few times that this area was not man-made.

The only issue with snorkeling was the temperature of the water. They encouraged us to rent wetsuit, an offer I jumped at. Speaking of jumping, getting into the ocean felt like jumping into an ice bath. Every time I got in I had to spend a few minutes just catching my breath from the shock and working up the courage to put my non-wetsuit-covered face into the water. So cold.

But of course totally worth it. I judge those people who didn't go in every time for the entire time because really, when will you get another opportunity to snorkel in the Galapagos? This trip wasn't billed as YOLO style for nothing. Once I finally put my face in the water, I found that it was like staring into an aquarium. I am spoiled to have been snorkeling in many exotic, fish-stocked locales, but this was by far the best (sorry Great Barrier Reef). On recommendation by the internet, I took some video because it is much more difficult than you think to steady your camera for good underwater shots.

Here, some white-banded angelfish.

And a big old parrotfish.

The most exciting part of the morning snorkel was--and I don't know the proper way to describe this--a giant cloud of fish. A couple people from our group summoned us over and below us were more fish than I'd ever seen in one place. Again, this is not a very scientific description, but it was like those silver fish in Finding Nemo who make all the little faces and pictures. I took video because still photos just didn't capture the size of the fish cloud.

The afternoon snorkel was at an area called Devil's Crown. It's the top of a sunken-in volcano, so you just see a circle of jagged rocks sticking out from the water. The snorkeling was good here, but I got fewer pictures/video because the current was a little stronger so I was busy trying not to drown. One highlight (captured in the photo album) was seeing a puffer fish. Ton, a Dutch guy from our group, tried to swim down and poke at him so he would puff up. I was tempted to do the same. Fortunately this bad, bad idea did not come to fruition since it turns out that these fish are highly poisonous and their spikes put out deadly neurotoxins.

Here, not-so-dangerous yellow-tailed surgeonfish.

Beating out the pufferfish, the biggest highlight of Devil's Crown was a sighting we made right as we were about to leave. As we were being called to get out of the water, someone shouted to look down. There was a massive eagle ray, gently gliding through the water. The video doesn't capture its size, but I would estimate its wingspan to be 5-6 feet. Rays aren't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think "beautiful animal," but this one was so graceful that it was hard to think anything else.

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