Location: Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Day one in the Galapagos Islands, and it is evident why these islands are so famous among biologists and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The sheer amount of archipelagic specific species such as the Galapagos sea lions, magnificent frigate birds, and marine iguanas are rivaled only by their ability to show off to admiring onlookers, whether it be by iguanas sunbathing on the docks, or a sea lion sneaking on to the stern of a closely anchored boat, only to have the boat’s dog come out and have a barking match with the bold sea lion!

Quite a few of us woke up this morning to the unfamiliar feeling of a clear and present lack of hair on our heads. I for one was missing a healthy chunklet from the port side of my head, behind my ear, which Davy Jones had too much fun snipping off. Others went the full shebang, buzzing years worth of hair off in honor of crossing 0. Ian sported the ever stylish “Rooster,” which consists of shaving everything except for some nice plumage on the top and back of his head.

Today we split into two groups, one to explore Isla Santa Cruz and the other to dive a series of underwater seamounts. I was in the latter group, so I’ll write more about that, though those who went ashore spoke very highly of the local town and wildlife they saw there. The dive site we went to was a 45 minute steam up the coast, aboard a local dive boat. The sight itself was around three high, rocky, mounds that rose up from the depths of the ocean. For our two dives, we dropped near the rocks, where numerous chubby sea lions were sunning themselves on the rocks. We descended, immediately to find a 5 ft white tip shark right below us. We went on to circumnavigate the three seamounts, which had steep walls of shallowly pitted volcanic rock, covered by purple, red, and green barnacles, algae, and orange cup coral. The bottom features on this dive were unlike the Caribbean dives we have grown accustomed to. There were no massive corals or sponges, and the water was not particularly clear. However, that is what makes the Galapagos so special. These Islands are an area of mass biological production, due to the upwelling of nutrients from the cold, deep water, to the warm, oxygen-rich surface. The seamounts were covered in schools of various fish, eels, sea turtles, and sharks, ranging from tiny cleaner fish to 10 ft. Hammerheads, swimming right past us. There were massive grouper, manta rays, and bump head parrotfish. The squeals of delight could be heard both underwater and at the surface, where everyone agreed that those were the best dives anyone had ever done… and we had some extremely experienced divers from all over the world. We finished the dive and put away our gear, only to be met with a pod of 200 dolphins and sea lions, showing off by jumping around the dive boat, trying to outdo one another’s athleticism.

One thing I have come to learn is how misunderstood sharks are. Movies such as Jaws and Sharknado have created a savage image of sharks and made people think that sharks will come and nibble your toes… or more, if you so much as think of going into the water. We swam with over 30 sharks today, from white tips and black tips to Galapagos sharks, and hammerheads, and each one was more polite than the next. Respect them (and all the other wildlife), and they’ll respect you.

Dinner was filled with excitement as Seby attempted to serenade his way into being Amy’s boat prom date with an original song, only to be hardcore rejected in front of everyone… for the 6th time. I also tried and failed miserably. Our only consolation is the possibility of now going to boat prom together, rejects hand in hand. We’ll show her. Nevertheless, the boat has the sweet, sweet, gossip of who is asking who to prom, though none of the rumors have been confirmed.

We’re all thoroughly enjoying our stay in the Galapagos so far, and it is bound to get even better, with island tours and visits to the Darwin Research Centre lined up in the next couple of days. If you ever have the chance to visit these islands, do it.

From the chart house,

Amy prom rejections: 9
Shaved Heads: 5
Pollywogs on the boat: 0
Sea turtles are seen while diving: 5
My clean clothes: 0
Enthusiasm (out of 10): 11

Pictured: Bianca, Sophie, Amy, and Tim being silly on the dive boat; me and a sea lion underwater; Seby and Sam making faces; Alexa and a sea lion; schools of fish during the dives; before and after of Sophie, Alexa, and Amanda with their new haircuts; sign for the island of Santa Cruz in town.