Funny how you can meet somebody and connect immediately, even when you are very different. That happened to me just before leaving Galapagos.
I have the photograph of my cousin and me in snorkeling duds standing in the ankle deep water in the cove, ¼” neoprene wetsuits, masks and snorkels posing before our final swim in the cool Humboldt currents surrounding the islands. I was glad for the wetsuit. Chilled, I had almost decided not to take the final plunge but instead soak up the sun’s warmth on the beach. I’m glad I snorkeled.
I waded deeper then swam to a close by point of the island looking down in the 30’ of water as clear as a bottle seeing sharks hovering along the bottom, fish in small nervous schools darting in and out of the volcanic crevices, the sandy bottom close to the cliffs, flat, gray, and lightly reflective. Spidery shrimp crawled in and out of the coral and anemones. I dived to warm myself up, swam furiously along the bottom. The shark barely noticed me. Would I ever enjoy this peaceable kingdom feeling again I wondered?
Turning and heading back across the bay, the bottom extends up from the deep to the beach, the sun shining through, forming moving patterns. A sea lion pup swims up to me in four feet of water looking into my masked face. I slow, stop, hover and she does too. Then, big eyes glued to my face, she picks up with her mouth, a quarter sized piece of frilly edged, chartreuse translucent seaweed, throws it up between us in the shallows. I think she’s playing with me but hesitate. She picks up the jewel-toned weed and throws it up again, looking over her shoulder, swimming ahead of me. I float vertically, my face and mask below the surface, my snorkel above. She swims in front of me, beside me, totally unafraid. I reach out, touch the seaweed toy, and pull my arm back beside me. She makes another pass, grabs it in her mouth, swims a foot, releases it, turns and teasing, looks at me. I shyly touch the weed, move it a foot in the water, release, withdraw. She spins, grabs, swims all the way around me, stops in front, releases. I bat it. She pirouettes, snatches it and spins in a circle, her nose at the center. I strike, she parries.
Then we’re swimming side by side, she’s a puppy looking into my face, under me, beside me, me swimming in slow circles, she a sleek, fat mobius of energy. Then she, the excited child around my maypole, stops, gulps, her eyes continuing to spin, dizzy from her own antics. I make soothing sounds: are you alright? She’s looking at me a little confused at the vertigo, her queasiness. She burps. Then, getting her bearings, the games begin again, this time she’s swimming between my legs around me, mirroring my movements. I try mimicking hers in a sorry butterfly stroke, my arms at my sides while she watches. I giggle at this clown, air bubbles rising from my mask and snorkel. She stops, stares at my bubbles, then swims through them, biting at them which just makes me laugh more sending more to the surface. She stops and, looking directly at me, blows her own bubbles from her nose and mouth.
I erupt in a belly laugh that makes me stand and gasp for air. She swims around me once more, then we both turn towards the beach, and gallop to join our same species pals.