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Photo: Red Mangrove guide and second-generation Galapagueño Jimmy Patiño

Our fifth and final day brings a rainstorm, the first since we arrived. Despite the weather, we stay on schedule with our morning activities, but I’m most excited about the afternoon’s itinerary: a visit to La Loberia, a sea-lion colony where visitors are allowed to snorkel side by side with these playful creatures. As we approach the spot, an exchange takes place in Spanish between Jimmy and the boat captain. “I’m sorry,” Jimmy tells the group, “but because of the storm, the captain says the undercurrents are too strong and it’s not safe to go swimming today.” My heart sinks as my final chance to swim with sea lions on this trip is swept out to sea.
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Photo: Hiking from the 500,000-year-old Sierra Negra volcano to Volcán Chico on Isabela Island

That last afternoon, a few groups are swapping stories of our trips when the topic of expectations comes up. I share my disappointment at not being able to swim with sea lions. Nancy, a professor of religious philosophy at Dartmouth, offers perhaps the wisest word on the subject. “Well, here in the Galápagos,” she says, “you have to be ready to have your plans, in a word, evolve.”
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Photo: An infamous Galápagos giant tortoise on Floreana Island

We laugh, and I realize that that’s the perfect mantra for the islands. Right then, as if on cue, I hear the familiar sound I’ve come to love over the last week. A sea lion has jumped out of the water and onto a boat moored in front of the lodge. He’s barking up a storm, and, while I may not have had the chance to swim with him, I’ll take the sound of his voice with me forever.
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Karen Leland
is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Women’s Day, Self, Islands, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

If You Go

Lodging and tour guides are available through:

Red Mangrove Galápagos Lodges
(888) 254-3190