Day six, henceforth to be known as the one where we swam with the whale shark OR the one where we saw the pod of a few hundred dolphins. I’ve been hoping for at least one moment on this trip that everyone would remember for a lifetime, and today we got it twofold. The day started out with a late wakeup so that we could snorkel first thing with marine iguanas as they were feeding underwater. Unfortunately the marine iguanas didn’t get the memo, but several sea turtles drifted to within inches of people while feeding on sea lettuce. A borderline aggressive group of sea lions also followed us for nearly the entire snorkel, repeatedly swimming up to people and turning away only inches from their masks. Following the snorkel we went ashore and communed with the thousands of marine iguanas at Punta Espinosa. While wading out to some tide pools I managed to slip, and given the choice between getting the camera wet or cutting up my leg I saved the camera and earned the nickname of “shark bait” for the day. An octopus that was chasing crabs through tidepools was the landing’s final highlight before we returned to the ship for lunch.
Following lunch we motored to Tagus Cove for the Bataan Death March through blazing heat up to Darwin Lake. Sukh and Greg continued on a bit further while saner members of the group returned to the boat for a quick (and more importantly cool) swim. We then spent the next couple of hours out on deck looking for whales and dolphins as we motored north, but both creatures were in hiding so we arrived at the northern part of Isabela Island a bit disappointed. It was just as we were getting ready for a snorkel in the “Icebox” that one of the panga drivers shouted “whale”. We didn’t see a whale, but in record time everyone had their gear ready and was in the panga, and we motored over to a young whale shark that was hanging out on the surface. I was first into the rough and murky water, and had to swim within only a few feet of the shark just to be able to see it. The tail was huge, sticking a couple of feet out of the water and slicing through the ocean like a scythe. As more people got in the water the shark made a u-turn back towards us, and it swam back towards me, showing me the entire side of its body, before turning right at me, swimming to within a foot, diving, and then disappearing into the ocean.
Still high from the whale shark we motored over to a cave in the island and did a quick snorkel amongst sea turtles and an utterly massive school of salema before getting back in the boat. Glowing over the whale shark experience we all watched the sun go down, and as we were getting ready for dinner the captain shouted out that there were dolphins outside. A school of probably 100-200 common dolphins was surrounding the boat, leaping insanely high out of the water with the sunset in the background. No one had any complaints after all was said and done, except for Scott who was heard to mumble that we had already done everything, and there are still five days left.