Swimming with a sea turtle in the Galapagos Islands
The photo was taken in Bahia Gardener on the western side of Isabela Island in the Galapagos.
I was on day five of a Galapagos cruise holiday on board Cachalote which is a charming but fairly small sail boat. The previous night had been the roughest of the journey as we rounded the southern tip of Isabela against the full force of the prevailing winds. At around 5am we came around the headland and into the still waters of the lee side of the island. It was a wonderful morning to stand on deck with a cup of coffee, enjoying the stillness.
What makes the western side of Isabela so lovely is that relatively very few boats have permission to visit. Whilst landings in the middlemost islands of the archipelago are very well managed, you are usually aware of a few other boats. Out on the far shores of Isabela this just isn't the case and you really get a welcome sense of remoteness.
Gardener Bay is one of the few wet landing sites - i.e. you hop out of the zodiac into thigh deep sea and walk up onto the beach. From here there is a path leading off into a baking hot dry forest which is home to land iguanas and also giant tortoises, apparently. The tortoises weren't coming out to play the day we visited so we headed back to the beach where we could relax, read, swim or snorkel.
At this particular site, you can swim anywhere within the bay so I took advantage of the freedom to float off snorkelling on my own. A few minutes later I came across this turtle, grazing on seaweed. For the next 20 minutes or more we drifted together, at times literally inches apart. There was nobody else out in the bay, no big group to rejoin, just time alone to swim with a sea turtle.
That was the moment it struck me how privileged I was to be in the Galapagos, how lucky we are that this place even exists.
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