Marine mammals and bird sanctuary

The next morning we set off for our first marine experience. We are landlubbers of extraordinary quality so the prospect of roaring over waves in powerful watercraft was exhilarating and a bit daunting. We couldn’t have been more pleased though. The ocean waves and wind were brisk and punctuated by stunt diving seabirds and gangly flying pelicans. Thankfully the shore only rarely left our sight, alleviating my need for terrestrial affirmation, entrenched by a lifetime of having feet firmly planted on the ground. My naval outings to date were modest at best, dominated by slow moving ferry journeys and small jaunts in wee vessels with names like Wave Tickler. Today we were aboard a long speedboat, with a complement of about 20 co-seafarers. Our boat sported a set of formidable looking double mounted outboard engines that propelled the streamlined craft over the surface, loudly and purposefully.

After belting along for about 40 minutes, the engines began to quiet and we coasted up beside dark outcroppings of volcanic rock swarming with huge varieties of sea birds. My ornithological knowledge generally consists of wise observations such as “that appears to be a smallish orange bird whilst its neighbour appears bluish” so my list of species is short but my ears work plenty well and what a ruckus hundreds of reeling, swirling and nesting, birds make! The sound was big and constant, unlike any experience with birds I have ever had. I was enchanted and repelled all at the same time. The roar of the sea and the clamour of the birds was compelling and we really enjoyed bobbing between the small islands bristling with jagged rocks and lathered in birds of many kinds including small waddling penguins and always awkward looking pelicans.

The biggest thrill though was getting within several feet of many small groups of sea lions. These large mammals used the islands as nurseries and it was lovely to see adults teaching youngsters to plunge into the sea and then inexplicably pop out of the foaming water onto some barely discernable ledge. These animals laid in passive leisure for what appeared to be most of the day and then for no particular reason elegantly swan into the roaring ocean to show off astounding marine agility. The variety of creatures in this world, great and small is truly beyond comprehension. May it always be this way.

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