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The Galapagos Islands

by Cori Ryan

ALL IMAGES ©CORI RYAN - www.billandcori.com

Enjoy story and photos with additional images put to music on YouTube.

Paddling in the Galapagos was an experience of a lifetime. The Galapagos is a set of islands off the coast of Ecuador famous for both Charles Darwin's studies on evolution and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife. There are a few places on the islands that are populated by year round residents but the rest of the islands are uninhabited by humans and protected by very strict rules for preservation. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

GalapagosWe spent six days on a catamaran traveling between islands and paddled in nine different locations.

On the first day we loaded the two person inflatable open kayak (how else would you store a dozen kayaks n a catamaran?) with bottled water and camera equipment. This would be our routine for the rest of the week. At the Galapagos you can never have enough camera equipment or disk space.

KayakWe took turns between the two roles of "engine room" and "photographer" move the boat forwards or backwards so the other could get the perfect shot. It can be a huge undertaking and true team effort to overcome both the bobbing kayak and the moving wildlife.

We paddled around Isla Lobos and we stopped to take photos of birds on the rocks. "Behind you!" a fellow traveler called out, and right by our kayak in incredibly shallow and clear water, a mother sea lion and her baby had come over to our boat to check us out.

KickerThey dove under the boat and popped out on the other side and repeated the routine around the other paddlers.

iguanaI think they like it when we act surprised. We were a game to them! The interaction with the wildlife was unbelievable. My emotions went back to the enchantment I felt when I was a small child and I woke up to Christmas morning. There is no other parallel to that wonder I felt in my life to this date.

Later in the day we went to a location called Kicker Rock which looks like two rocks about 400-500 feet high with a channel of water crashing through it. Since the day was not too rough, we had the rare opportunity to paddle between the cliffs and come back around full circle.

The kayaking was exciting but not as exciting as the following snorkel trip we did through the channel. We discovered first hand that the location is teeming with sharks which continuously swam beneath us.

The Galapagos was surely a place of both beauty and danger. The rest of the week was full of sea turtles peeking at us while we paddled in and out of caves and coves to see the wonders.

volcanic rockThe last day was my favorite. Although the ocean had gotten rougher and rougher as the trip went on we got into our kayaks for a final farewell to paradise.

PelicanWe paddled past black volcanic rock reaching out of the ocean, creating shelves for baby sea lions to sunbathe and a landscape for brilliantly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs to dance along.

Iguanas tried to hide by not moving but if we looked hard enough they became obvious.

Pelicans flew over our heads and landed on rocks peeking out of the ocean joined by Frigate birds - a very exotic bird with shiny purple and green feathers and a brilliant red pouch that they expand like a balloon to impress the ladies.

PenguinOut of all the birds we saw, none excited me more than the Galapagos Penguin which I had been seeking since Day 1. I finally spotted one on the rock nearby and we paddled over to look.

My husband fought the current to stay close as I snapped photos of a penguin. The penguin took one look at me and lay down to take a nap.

The trust the animals showed towards humans rather than fear is a rare gem found few places on the planet and it led to an enriching experience that I will always hold close in a part of my heart that will always be paddling the Galapagos.
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Cori Ryan is an outdoor enthusiast and amateur photographer who enjoys hiking and paddling in unique places around the world. Her photography has been used in a documentary for the Travel Channel and published in climbing guidebooks and publications around the world.

Cori and her husband are often seen paddling around Cape Cod with their two cairn terriers riding in the front hatches.

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