“To Melanie, the extraordinary agent who really cares (such a pleasant surprise).
…waking on a classic 2-masted sailboat with only 15 other guests in the Galapagos Islands, anchored on the western side of Isabela Island. The night before, your naturalist told you that breakfast would be early because you needed to be in the pangas (those rubber rafts) by 6:45am. So you know that something special is about to happen.
On Fernandina, orgies (yes, that’s what they call groups) of scaly black marine iguanas sunned their intertwined, overlapping bodies on the hot lava rocks, all aligned to the sun like miniature solar panels.
A Sun Fish, as rotund as a blimp, floated just below the boat in the Bolivar Channel, and above, on one calm late night, the Captain pointed out the Southern Cross from the sea of stars in the southern sky.
So what might this morning bring?
As your panga putters to shore, you survey a wide crescent of black sand, lined with stubby green mangrove bushes, completely still except for a lone, circling pelican.
But then you spot tracks ahead. They look just like ATV tracks – double-wheeled, heavy treads that have pushed deep marks into the smooth black sand. They’re coming from the water’s edge and running straight up the bank of the beach. How did an ATV get all the way out here? And why?
But as the panga glides in for the water landing, you get it! There are giant 7’-wide craters dotting the crest of the beach. And those tracks? They were made by mama sea turtles who crawled ashore the night before, each laying between 50 and 200 eggs. Deep inside the holes lies the next generation of Galapagos sea turtles and you have been one of 16 lucky humans to discover them.
Thank goodness that you were on the Cachalote whose crew went the extra mile to ensure that your small group had the privilege to arrive at daybreak while the nests were still pristine. You tiptoe past and leave them undisturbed, tucking a dream in your heart of the babies that will, in three months’ time, leave their own tracks in the warm Galapagos sands as they waddle towards their first swim.