Our family was especially blessed this spring to meet in Ecuador for a magical trip to the Galapagos Islands. We left our boat Snowcat at a marina in George Town, Bahamas and met the boys for a long planned trip to one of the most special places on this earth. Check out the full photo album with some amazing underwater videos at the end of this post.
That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!
We didn’t know what we were witnessing…fins were breaking the surface of the water twenty yards off the port side of the Zodiac. Sharks? Dolphins? At first there were just a few, but eventually we could see twenty or more triangular fins breaking the water in a cluster ahead of us…then someone yelled – Mola Molas!
It’s hard to describe a Mola Mola (sometimes called Sunfish), but consider the idea of a 1000-pound fish that is about the size of a tractor tire. Then imagine it is has been flattened between two sliding glass doors, so that one fin protrudes from the top and the other underneath. Add a big cow eye on each side and a small donut-shaped mouth.
Mola Molas were but one exotic species that we hoped to encounter on our family adventure to the Galapagos Islands. Dean and I visited the Galapagos in 1991, and had vowed to return one day and share this special place with our future children. Now, as Jackson is poised to begin his career and before Ben starts medical school, we knew that this would be one of the last opportunities for the four of us to spend two weeks together in the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Islands are a cluster of fifteen small islands 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Whalers, buccaneers and explorers have often used the islands, but they were made famous after Charles Darwin visited in 1835. He used his observations and samples as evidence for his theory of natural selection which was published in his classic book “The Origin of Species.”
We explored the idea of sailing our own boat to the Galapagos, but quickly discovered that the regulations were too onerous to deal with. To protect this fragile ecosystem, the Galapagos National Park was established in 1959 and much later in 1998, the Galapagos Marine Reserve was created. Together these institutions protect the islands from the introduction of invasive species and provide well-trained naturalists to educate all visitors. We booked our tour with the same Galapagos experts that we used on our visit in 1991- Galapagos Travel.
Over our 11-day trip we saw schools of golden rays swimming in formation, witnessed the dance of two waved albotros courting each other, marveled at the shocking blue feet of the blue-footed boobie, observed 100-year-old tortoises in their natural habitat, snorkeled with both playful sea lions and intimidating sharks. It’s difficult to describe this magical place, so I encourage you to explore the photos and videos in the photo gallery at the end of this post.
Mola Mola Monday
Snorkel in place and flippers on, we slipped off the Zodiac and into the water, crowded with Mola Mola. They didn’t seem concerned as we floated amongst these swimming giants. Later, we will learn from our naturalists just how unique our experience had been. The day was labeled Mola Mola Monday by all.