Day seven. Santiago Island is home to a volcanic beach that’s great for fur seals and tide pools, so we started the morning with a walk on the lava before taking on four members of the crew in a quick soccer game. I sat out due to improper footwear until Travis decided he didn’t need the skin on the ball of his foot and I had to come in as a replacement. Whether Elvis let the ball roll through his legs on purpose or not is now a moot point since the gringos held their own against born and bred footballers, with a final score of one to one. The snorkel that followed produced a surprise mantra ray, which I was late in seeing until Aaron poked his head up at me and said “Dude, will you just look at this manta ray!” It was somewhere between eight and twelve feet from wingtip to wingtip and stayed with us for almost ten minutes. At times it would swing around and its huge head would be only a few feet away. A handful of black-tipped reef sharks completed the snorkel adventure for the day.
After snorkeling we started out on the motor to Bartolome Island. I tried to stay out on deck, and actually saw a few manta rays leaping out of the water before I dozed off and had to head back to the cabin – active trip or not, a soccer game in blazing heat earns a nap. I wasn’t alone in my siesta, and when we landed everyone was groggy as we got into the water for a snorkel. The snorkel was a surprisingly good one – on two occasions I had Galapagos penguins floating within inches of my mask, a sea lion came to play, two octopus were hiding in the rocks, and after getting back into the panga we spotted five rays and jumped back into the water. After that most of the folks chose to head back to the Reina Silvia, but four of us wanted to snorkel more so we hopped in near the pinnacle on Bartolome. Two penguins were checking us out, again floating only inches away, but the highlight came when we spotted a massive school of selema and then noticed that the blue-footed boobies were plunge-diving down to grab fish. We sat in the water and watched as a couple of the birds torpedoed down from forty feet above us and then blasted at insane speeds ten feet down to the bottom, leaving a long stream of bubbles in their wake. Very, very cool. After quickly changing clothes we cruised up the hill to get the view over the islands, and being of simple minds Aaron and I raced up the last portion, which after the day’s activity was far less than a brilliant idea. Tomorrow we’re off to Santa Cruz, with only three full days left in the trip.