Slowing Down in the Galapagos

People travel to the Galapagos for the nature, but they should also travel to these remote islands almost 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador for the solitude. I loved seeing baby sea lions blowing bubbles under water and squat penguins waddling into their cave-like homes on rocky island coastlines, but one of my strongest memories is of sitting in the sand on Bartolome Beach completely alone.

Landing on these uninhabited islands happens one of two ways: a wet landing, where a small inflatable boat can zip right up on the beach, or a dry landing where an island has a small dock or rocky landing point. For the afternoon spent on Bartolome Beach, it was a wet landing, and I slid down off the boat into a few inches of warm, clear water at the edge of this golden beach. Our small group went on a snorkeling mission in search of more penguins, and soon disappeared around the edge of a rocky cove.

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I stayed behind and took a seat at the water’s edge; the sand was as soft and fine as cake flour. Three small grey fish with bright stripes were bouncing in the shallow surf, keeping me company. I sat for so long that I witnessed the tide sweeping out — the water began to retreat and the sand around me began to dry. The sun changed positions in the sky.

We don’t often give ourselves these moments when we travel. There’s too much to see, something we’ll miss if we slow down and just watch the rhythm of the waves for a while, tune in to the smells and sounds of an empty beach that are too easy to miss. I didn’t take my book out of my bag. After a few quick snaps when we arrived, my digital camera stayed in its case. Soon enough it was time to go; we had a sunset hike planned up to the top of Bartolome Island.

When we are planning a trip or even a day within a trip, we remember to schedule in meals and must-visit museums and parks and hikes, but solitude deserves its own little unit of time, too. Preferably in the late afternoon. Maybe on a beach. Bonus points if a penguin comes strutting out of the surf.

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(Up close with a blue footed boobie, on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos)

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