We doubted Greg when he told us he would try to make each day better than the previous days, but today we learned that mere mortals should never doubt a god. The day started out at 6:00 AM on the green sands of Olivene Beach, was followed by flamingos and the soft sands of Flour Beach, and was further followed by some kayaking and snorkeling with a few sea lions and lots of fish. On the way back from this snorkel we spotted a small pod of orcas, and immediately Greg put on his snorkel gear, turned to us and said “This is one time where I won’t guarantee your safety”, and then promptly leapt into the water. Nearly everyone quickly followed our fearless leader, and for the next five minutes or so we were snorkeling with killer whales — at one point a big bull orca passed six feet under me, and they generally would appear from the depths within thirty feet of where I was swimming. The number of times where I went from amazement and wonder to a subtle terror (try swimming in open ocean with nothing in sight but knowing three killer whales just dove under you) were large in number. My brother saw one of the big whales coming towards him and literally leapt like a dolphin out of the water and into the boat, scaring the crap out of the panga driver. This is the fourth time in twenty years that Greg has been snorkeling with orcas, and he says this one was the best. Eventually the whales swam away when several pangas from a larger boat arrived, but it was definitely an experience that will be remembered forever.
The snorkel that followed at Devil’s Crown normally would have been one of the best of the trip, but it’s tough to top killer whales. Highlights of the snorkel included tons of reef fish, a shark or two, some amazing currents, and Aaron nearly braining himself by coming up too early after swimming through a cave. All of this activity took place prior to lunch — the afternoon’s event was a long hike through the hot sun up to the highlands of Floreana. The purpose of this hike, as we learned after embarking, was to see an endemic snail. Greg took a bit of crap for that, and even more crap when his blistering pace faltered and he started sucking air, but the hike was fun and the view from the top was great. It’s only been four days in the islands so far, but already it’s tough to remember what life was like before we arrived.