Departure for the diving discovery was at 7.00 and the journey to the diving place, Floreana Island, took about two hours. As the sea was rather agitated, it was kind of a bumpy ride.
While on San Cristobal, Danny had told me about the events – “saga” is probably best suited – that took place on this island in the 30’s and whose account went around the world. Back then, less than 600 people lived in the whole Galapagos and only a handful of them on the Floreana Island: two couples, the Ritters and the Wittmers and a woman who claimed to be a baroness and called herself the Empress of the Galapagos. She arrived there together with her 3 lovers: Philippson, Lorenz and the Equatorian Valdivieso. The latter left after only one month, stating that the baroness was completely crazy. What was supposed to be a paradisiacal place to live in transformed itself in hell when tensions arose between the inhabitants of the island. Until the baroness disappeared with Philippson. Lorenz left in great haste and was found back dead months later on one of the Northern islands with the captain of the boat he was travelling in, both completely dehydrated. What happened remains, to this day, a complete mystery. Recently, a documentary has been made about the whole case.
Apart from me, there were two French guys, a couple of Ukrainians and a Dutch lady on the boat. All experienced divers. They would go underwater twice; I only once, for 45 minutes. While they were diving, I would be snorkelling.
When we arrived at our destination, I have to admit I felt a bit sea sick. And I wasn’t the only one. While the group was getting prepared for the first dive, one of the French stayed aside, planning to remain on the boat. As the instructor and the captain were convinced it would get better once he was in the water, they suggested that he go snorkelling with me. But it didn’t get better. After 10 minutes, he went back to the boat. But before being able to set his feet back on it, he emptied the content of his stomach. As I was coming right behind him, I had to manoeuvre quickly in order not to be forced to analyse what he had for breakfast. His morning meal, however, is not the most important thing he lost that day. He also had to say goodbye to the 150 $ the diving had cost him.
Once safe, I was able to discover the sea fauna of the place. Again turtles and sea lions. But also and foremost fishes in all forms and colours, swimming on their own or in schools. I had the impression to be on the surface of a big aquarium. And soon, I would get to plunge into that aquarium. When my companions came back up, it was my turn to go gown.
The Galapagos. Is there any better place on Earth to discover diving? After a brief explanation on how to communicate under water, I slowly went down with my instructor, who was holding my hand from start to finish. I hesitated between finding it to give an additional romantic touch to the whole experience or feeling 4 again, when I held my mom’s hand each time we had to cross the street. I was now able to see everything from a new perspective. To get closer also. Starfishes, anemones,…and even a small white tipped shark. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Or Ariel the Mermaid. A little less elegant though, with a mask and scuba cilynders.
But, soon, my ears started to hurt because of the pressure. And as I had already been snorkelling for 45 minutes, I was freezing. So we started going back to the surface. My dive had therefore been much shorter than what it was supposed to be. Nonetheless, I was thrilled by what I had seen. So I told myself I would take a proper diving course once back in Belgium… and then come back to the Galapagos to see more of it.
The others still had one dive to go. So we changed places and after the captain insisting a lot and suggesting to come with me, I went back into the water. Not for long though. I was soon back in the boat. Sea lions are fun, but so is being warm. I spent the rest of the time sunbathing and daydreaming at the front of the boat. And I was wondering: why wouldn’t I stay here? Could anyone ever be unhappy in such a place? But no. Not now. One day, maybe. For the time being, I knew I needed to go back home for a while. The journey had changed me and I needed to test these changes in a known environment. With known people.
I met with my companions again. And chatted a little with Floor, a Dutch lady, who was also travelling South America for one year. It took two hours to go back to Santa Cruz. Tired of having been in the water for so long, I was slowly falling asleep. All of a sudden, a shout woke me up: “DOLPHINS!!!”. And, sure enough, 4 or 5 of them were splashing out of the water and followed us for a few seconds. I have been in love with those animals since I was a little girl but never had the chance to see one. However short, this was really a magical moment for me.