Galapagos Network/Ecoventura

Each day I feel more in communion with the environment, proving it easier than I thought to have an otherworldly experience in a place remarkably close to the U.S. (It is fewer than five hours by air from Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador, where Ecovenutra’s pre-trip operators had arranged transfer to a night’s stay at the Hotel Oro Verde and my subsequent morning flight to San Cristobal Island to catch the boat.)

Ellen Barone/Ecoventura
On the last day of the cruise, I am enjoying my final 15 minutes of snorkeling alone while the others had waded in off Bartolome Island’s Pinnacle Rock, a black volcanic shoreline formation that looks like a 100-foot-tall shark fin. As sun streams through the water, I am engrossed in shooting video with my waterproof camera, following countless colorful fish darting in and out of the reef. I hold up my little camera and then audibly gasp through the top of my snorkel. Ivan’s prediction had come true. A whitetip reef shark, 10 feet away, fills my lens. I slowly lower the camera to observe that he is slate gray and seems to be about five feet long. I float perfectly still to gauge his interest in me. In keeping with what Ivan had assured me beforehand, the benign shark ignores me and begins to glide away. I take a photo and watch him disappear. Then I swim directly to the beach where the rest of the cruisers are waiting for the boat to depart.

I can only surmise that my weeklong immersion into the environment got me out of the rat race and a little more into the human race — a species that is welcomed and respected in this natural, if sometimes stark, sanctuary. The shark is a perfect “goodbye” from the Galápagos, at the perfect time.
Ivan grins and nods as, back on the zodiac, I breathlessly tell him my fish tale and pass the camera around.

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