It’s hard to imagine life without airplanes overhead. In Bethesda, we lived in the flight path and could pick our house out when landing at National. In Ft. Myers, there is always noise- -planes, cars, motorcycles, garbage trucks, lawn mowers, blowers, edgers, or other paraphernalia, kids.
In the Galapagos, it’s silent except for natural sounds. Birds. Only one species of bee. The sneezing of marine iguanas. Sea lions. Waves. Wind.
The silence was the first thing I really felt, down in the part of me that notices such things. That and the sparkly soft sand beach we landed on the first afternoon of our journey. It was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.
That morning, after flying 700 miles from the coast of Ecuador, we landed at a ramshackle airport in Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal. We bused to the harbor and waited for the Zodiacs, which are black rubber boats with outboard motors, driver/operators that stand in the back, and funny wide rope-covers that looked crocheted. A fleet took us everywhere, 16 to a boat, but first we headed for our big boat, the National Geographic Endeavour.
After food, the fire and water lecture and the lifeboat drill, the Endeavour’s engines sputtered to life and we headed for the north coast of the island. We wet landed off the Zodiacs at Cerro Brujo. Wizard’s Hill. The same beach Darwin first set foot on in September of 1835.
The sand had diamond flakes in it. Black lava rocks spilled on to each side of the cove. There were tide pools, sea lions, iguanas, and sea birds. The water was clear turquoise. And it was quiet. Occasionally if you got close enough you could hear the click of a human camera, but deep down, I think all of us knew the beauty of this place was beyond capture.
“So this is the Galapagos,” I said to myself over and over in my mind. And the silence held me. I don’t know how else to say it, other than that. I’m sure the Wizard laughed to see such stunned, awed and travel-weary humans, but I didn’t hear it.