When you visit the Galapagos Islands, you never know what might happen during your visit. As you travel from island to island exploring, you’re bound to meet some interesting animal residents, see some incredible vistas, and you might even experience a bit of seasickness. My favorite moments during the trip were when something completely unexpected happened. It was usually something that you just don’t experience on a day-to-day basis. In fact, there were times that our experiences were so out-of-this-world that I questioned whether this could actually be my life I’m living. Out of all the breathtaking moments, the time I actually swam with Spotted Eagle Rays was the defining moment of my Galapagos experience.
We arrived off the coast of Española Island aboard the M/Y WildAid’s Passion luxury yacht (previously known as the M/Y Passion) in the middle of the day and the plan was to head into the bay area to snorkel. The expectation was pretty awesome views of tropical fish swimming about as well as the potential for sea lions to swim with us. We swam and snorkeled around for a bit and saw quite a few fish as the sun beat down on our backs. It was like being in a giant aquarium. Except this was real life…
The waters were a bit rough and, so, our view of fish was not optimal. Nevertheless, we could see plenty of fish but not nearly as many as normal because the rough waters were stirring up the sediments on the ocean floor. Not only that, we were practically being thrown about and the water was fairly cold. I would have just dealt with it but then I noticed there were no sea lions in the water at all. They all seemed to be congregating along the shore of the stretch of land surrounding us. That raised an alarm for me so I asked our guide, Santiago, why they were not in the water. His reply; “Usually that means there is shark nearby.” He said it so calmly as though it was perfectly OK there might be a shark nearby and we were sitting and swimming in the water. I asked; “What kind of shark?” He told me it could be a reef shark or it could be a Galapagos shark but that they normally do not feed during the day.
That’s when I quickly decided I no longer needed to be in the water. My friend Sebastian, of the Nomadic Boys, also decided to get out the water at that moment; I’m not really sure what his reasoning might have been. But it was cold, the water was rough, the water was not clear, and there was the potential of a hungry shark nearby. We had plenty of reason and knew we’d still have a great Galapagos experience if we sat this one out.
A Shadow Lurks
As soon as we were back in the tender boat, we removed our wet suits so that we would not become too cold. As we sat there and watched my husband and Sebastian’s partner, along with the other guys on the cruise, continue to explore the water, we warmed up in the lovely Pacific sun. Suddenly our tender driver points to a shadow way across the bay that seems to be moving under the water. I immediately ask him if it’s a shark and he tells me it’s actually a group of rays. He drives the two of us over there and we can see through the crystal clear water that it’s a group of about 8 Spotted Eagle Rays swimming along. We immediately forget all the issues with the water (the cold, the shark, the roughness) and slowly lower ourselves into the water. We don’t even put our wet suits back on.
Swimming with Spotted Eagle Rays
Before I know it, I’m in the midst of these 8 eagle rays trying to keep my distance but under the water, wildlife will do what it wants to do. The only thing I can hear is the sound of my breathing and the silence of the sea. The rays are like giant underwater birds flapping their fins like wings as they glide silently and peacefully along their way. Spotted Eagle Rays can actually grow up to 16 feet (5 meters) in length and have a wingspan up to 10 feet (3 meters). These rays were probably about half those measurements and it just blew my mind. You see this kind of stuff in nature documentaries but when you see it in real life, it’sastounding. It’s one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
Of course, Spotted Eagle Rays swim much faster than we do. So the moment only lasted a few minutes before they were well away from us. But what a moment it was! Funny part of the story: For some reason, Sebastian decided to hold my hand. So as I’m swimming with these rays, I suddenly feel a hand clasp my own. I look and see that it’s Sebastian and don’t resist. We call it our little romantic moment and what an incredible Galapagos experience!
The Cherry on Top for My Galapagos Experience
You would think that there is no possible way this moment could get any better. But.. it did.
As I watched the Eagle Rays swim away, out of the corner of my eye I notice something swimming towards me. When I look, it’s a freaking sea turtle. This beautiful creature is swimming diagonally towards me and I realize it is going to come very close. Trying to keep my distance, I watch as it swims closer and closer. It’s not afraid of me…it isn’t worried. Eventually, it is so close I can see the details of its skin and the design of its shell. I swear that turtle and I connected on a deep level. I could see its eyes and it looked right into my soul, haha. And then it swam away.
An Experience to Never Be Forgotten
Looking back on that day, I am extremely happy I made the decision to get out of the water when I did. This is the kind of experience I live for and it’s one of the reasons I travel. When I told Alfred about my experience I was beside myself. I could hardly even speak from so much excitement. It’s most certainly a moment in my life I will never forget. You can have your own Galapagos experience…just book a trip and go. You won’t regret it!
Interested in learning about the M/Y WildAid’s Passion…check out it out here!
Check out my other articles about the Galapagos too!
So what do you think? Are you ready for your own Galapagos Adventure?
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