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Biography: Swimming with Some Wildlife

I'll be the first to say that I've lived a privileged life. This is not me trying to brag or even to be self-effacing or humble or anything like that. It's just the truth. My parents are both physicians and that's really meant that life growing up for my sister and I was really...easy. That being said, the main focus of this story has everything to do with the amazing opportunities afforded to me by my family's money. I accept that. But it still leads to some fun stories.

My family loves to travel. Sometimes I think that my parents only suffer through their jobs in the medical field just so that they can continue traveling whenever they get the chance. They take several trips every year to various spots around the globe. My sister and I, restrained by our mutual need to attend school during the school year, did not get to share in these adventures that my parents took quite as often. But even with this limitation, we probably traveled more around the country and around the world than most others at our age.

I've done a lot of strange/wonderful/fun things on my adventures. I've fished for sharks while standing on a paddleboard. I've spent 11 days living out of a canoe in the US/Canada boundary waters. I've been cliff diving and rock climbing, snorkeling and free diving. I once went from white-sand beaches to gold-sand beaches to black-sand beaches to red-sand beaches all in the same day! But one of my favorite and most unforgettable experiences happened on the day of my 18th birthday.

We were in the Galapagos Islands on an Adventures by Disney guided tour of the islands and the mainland of Ecuador. We'd spent several days exploring the beautiful mountaintop city of Quito and the seaside port city of Guayaquil before boarding a ship that took us to the famous Galapagos. There we spent time exploring the absolutely pristine islands, their amazing wildlife (absolutely fearless due to their lack of contact with humans), and their, as mentioned above, incredible variety of beaches.

Guayaquil, Ecuador

But on the day of my 18th birthday, I had the opportunity to do something that I don't think many in the world can claim. I got to swim with penguins. In their own natural habitat. Without freezing to death.

Now, just to explain how this was possible, I have to explain a little something about these penguins. These penguins were Galapagos Penguins, the only species of penguin that can be found north of the equator. They survive thanks to some very cold currents that run from farther south, right by some of the Galapagos Islands. And they're endangered. Estimates put the current population of these penguins at only 2000 in the wild.

Galapagos Penguin

During our trip to the Galapagos, we were just fortunate enough to be at the right island on the right day at the right time to find these penguins hanging out around the beach. When we got in to swim, we were delighted to find that some of the penguins were swimming around too! Like I mentioned before, most wildlife in the Galapagos was fearless about human contact due to their relative isolation and lack of hunting. This included the penguins who had no qualms about swimming right next to you or darting between your legs if you were in their way.

The only way that I can suitably describe such an experience is as absolutely surreal. It felt like something out of a nature documentary. While the water was a little on the chill side of cold, it wasn't nearly cold enough to discourage us from swimming. When it comes to humans swimming versus penguins swimming, it is really breathtaking to see just how perfectly adapted penguins are to the task. It hardly looks like they move their wings or bodies at all, yet they fly through the water and change directions quick enough to give you whiplash if you're trying to follow them (which I did rather unsuccessfully). I was a decade long competitive swimmer and experienced free diver, but I was obviously no match for the penguins in the water.

In the end, the experience was definitely the highlight of the trip and really the entirety of my summer. It's hard to imagine something ever topping such an incredible and increasingly rare opportunity. It was absolutely amazing and I cannot recommend the Galapagos and Ecuador highly enough. Maybe once world travel becomes an option again, you should add these two destinations to your bucket list? Just a suggestion. In any case, thanks for reading!

Video of Penguins (Sorry for terrible quality).
Author's Note:
This was really less of a story and more of a straight-up relating of my experience, but I still wanted others to be able to read this and maybe learn a little about the Galapagos and the incredible species of penguins found there. I actually won't be putting this biography into the randomizer because I feel that it's a little too...braggy? I'm not sure. In any case, there wasn't much to my writing process here. I just endeavored to recount the events leading up to this unique aquatic experience in the most sensical way that I could find. I hope that, if anyone actually reads this, you enjoyed my breathless, probably disjointed, account! The word-count for this story was exactly 777 sooooo....lucky story? In any case, thanks for reading!

Photo Credits:
Guayaquil, Ecuador (Personal Photo)
Galapagos Penguin
Penguin Video (Personal Video)


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