OpenRoad Driver Volume 14 Issue 1 - Page 85

Volume 14 Issue 1 » 85 down a sandy path we arrive at a shallow lagoon where the smell of sulphur hangs heavily in the air. The lagoon is filled with crustaceans, the favourite food of flamingos, and a flock stand like pink avian ballerinas in the distance, daintily feeding in the shallows. It takes minutes to cross the island, and on the other side we’re in the nesting grounds of the green sea turtle. In daylight the only sign of their presence is the many indentations in the sand where they’ve laid their eggs on previous nights. Once those eggs hatch only two percent will make it to the water, the remainder succumbing to hungry predators like the giant frigate birds that circle above us. Later in the day we kayak and snorkel around the turtles that survived, great, lumbering creatures with shells four feet long and powerful flippers that move effortlessly through the water. With wetsuit-clad bodies we follow curiously, stunned at our proximity and their nonchalance. The turtles are utterly oblivious to our presence; focused on feeding, they disregard us entirely. This is the gift of the Galápagos: the ability to experience nature close up without ever being perceived as a threatening presence. Española Island, the oldest in the archipelago at six million years, is home to seventeen species found nowhere else in the world. September is breeding season and Española’s white sand is littered with sea lion placenta, testifying to the newness of the pups cuddled close to their mothers as we walk by. Further down the path, at a rocky overlook where waves smash and foam over the black volcanic rocks, the sky is filled with swallow-tailed gulls, giant frigate birds with blood-red pouches, the rare waved albatross with its massive wingspan, and red-billed tropicbirds trailing spectacular long tails. Santa Cruz Island is our first contact with