The sound of trickling water was constant and therapeutic, like a nightstand’s white noise generator. But for the school of fish gathered underneath the bilge pump of the ship, the drip-drip-drip was a dinner bell: The kitchen window was directly above it, and the chef had been tossing out scraps all day in preparation for dinner that night.
It was day one of five of my tour of the Galápagos Islands, and I had just boarded the ship. Ever gregarious, I went in search of new friends. A kind-looking older gentleman was taking in the moment above the port-side railing. He looked the sort who would appreciate a joke. I sauntered up alongside the rail with what, in my mind, was a fantastic suggestion: “I want to do a cannonball right into the middle of those fish. Wouldn’t that be hilarious?”
Without missing a beat, he responded in a grandfatherly tone: “Yes, it would. Those are pufferfish.” He then looked my way, a nearly imperceptible smirk peeking through his beard. Pufferfish inflate their bodies into floating spike balls when disturbed, not the type of aquatic defense system you want to fling your nearly naked body against. I backed off my once-brilliant punchline.
Such is the extent of my ability to identify sealife on a whim. I’m keen on distinguishing differences between, say, dolphins and sea urchins (That one’s an invertebrate! It hurts when you touch it!), but otherwise I’m pretty useless without a guidebook or visual chart. I’m always ready to learn, though, and my trip with Adventure Center presented a fine opportunity to educate myself on the life that transpires around water in the Galápagos Islands. Lacking an underwater housing for my camera, I settled for above-water shots of the wildlife there that depends on the sea and its influence for its sustenance.
[Note: The author is a Matador Traveler-in-Residence participating in a partnership between MatadorU and Adventure Center. During 2011/12, Adventure Center is sponsoring eight epic trips for MatadorU students and alumni.]