Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” Dalai LamaAfter those few days, and for the remainder of the two weeks it went completely flat – unsurfable. We couldn't quite get over our brilliant timing and luck of scoring, in the off-season, and it just meant the flat days left us with lots of time for free-diving! We were able to explore a few different spots. The amount of animals in the ocean there is astounding. Head above water, looking at the relatively barren, dry, rocky hillsides, covered with hardy shrubs and cacti that have evolved to survive with little water and almost no soil, whose ancestors blew over as seeds from the mainland and landed on newly formed volcanic rock mounds millions of years ago. They, and the newly introduced species, brought with the human-folk, have various creative ways of making themselves known and ensuring posterity, such as these rather persistent burrs that Matty found while bushwhacking, trying to take a photo of a bird.. Hope it was worth it mate, good onya. We both sacrificed over an hour, and Matty many, many leg hairs, pulling them out one by one. Apparently Matty knew he was collecting them as he walked, but claims that the burrs in Australia don’t take much to pull out, and assumed these would be similar. Unfortunately for him, we were not in Australia, and if ever you’ve had the pleasure of removing a sensitive bandaid/plaster from a friend or a wayward black hair from the middle of their back, then you probably understand how much fun this was for me. One hour, and hundreds of instantly gratifying moments later, we were done. Matty Looked like a lycra-clad cyclist – without the lycra. Here’s his photo of the booby birds – hope it was worth it, good onya mate. Diving down beneath the surface, a different blue world fills the scene, and exotic creatures glide past, unafraid and even curious. We played with two sealions for almost an hour one day, ‘fetch the sea-cucumber’ being the favourite game. Matty's natural affinity with dogs (and any animal) made it seem totally normal to be playing fetch with their marine relatives. It was their idea, one of them went off into the reef and snuffled around in the sand until she came soaring back towards us with her prize… She promptly dropped it right in front of our masks, never taking her eyes off it… Matty grabbed the sea cucmber, and instantaneously her body language changed. Her gestures seemed to say: “THROW IT!” I’m not sure if it was because in the end, it is incredibly difficult to throw anything underwater, let alone a seacucumber. But after 10 minutes of playing fetch (and I’m sure much to the relief of said sea-cucumber), the seal swam back to the reef for another, different one of her toys. Again bringing it straight back to us… But this time just teasing us, it became a game of tag, 2 seals and 2 humans, all frolicking and flipping. They would dart straight at our masks, sometimes almost giving us a ‘seal kiss’ before swerving to the side in a trail of bubbles. It was exactly the same scenario we’d encountered through all of Latin America with the more playful street dogs we’d encountered - the only difference this time, that we were underwater. Another day, we were cruising around a big bay, watching a little octopus ooze through holes in the rocks, changing from brown to purpley-blues and pinks and greens as he went. At some point we saw big black fins break the surface of the water, about 100 metres away. They definitely weren't dolphin fins... but how strange for there to be two surfacing at once... studying its movements for a quick moment, Matty said, 'it's a big ray!' snatched the go-pro, and took off like a submarine. I was a bit hesitant, and let our new friend Loic use my mask and fins to check it out. Luckily, big mama ray was still around when Loic came back, so I gathered all my courage and set off into the bay. I reached Matty in about 15 metres of depth, and we set off following her leisurely pace, flapping her giant wings slowly and steadily in giant loops of the bay. This easy pace happened to be faster by far than I could swim, and by the time we were in a decent viewing spot, my breath wasn't coming back quickly enough to dive for more than a few seconds. The exertion did some to take my mind off her giant-ness, but I wasn't as bold as Matty, who got right up close to her 5 metre frame. Quite a sight to see, and even better to expose yourself to, just free-diving. Whilst perusing a poster in a dive shop later, we pinned her down to being one of two species rarely seen at all, and when seen, it's usually out in the proper deep blue, with poor visibility. Matty went on a few SCUBA dives while we were there too. Lots of sharks, rays, turtles and fish, fish, fish – but more video than photos. On the topic of tourism, and being responsible, we found the Galapagos to be an interesting microcosm of how things change over time according to their surroundings. Well, actually that might’ve been Darwin. But all the same learning a bit about the history of the islands was eye opening. As internationally well-known as they are, and have been for almost two hundred years, they have had a surprising, recent past of environmental mismanagement and extreme degradation (but who hasn't amiright?). I suppose we had a romanticized view of these islands, famous for unique ecosystems and also that theory thingy that has formed the basis of our human understanding of life on earth. The non-romanticized reality is an overpriced national park with a history of overfishing, extinction, and failed human settlement. The human settlements that exist now are struggling with feral dog and cat populations decimating various species, including marine iguanas. One of my favourite stories (although sad) is that of the giant land tortoise. Beautiful creatures with a prehistoric air, their populations were almost decimated by two separate, yet related, events. Due to the islands' location, on various shipping routes between continents, and as a fishing mecca, people (beginning with Spanish conquistadors, then pirates, trading vessels, fishermen, etc) would land in the Galapagos and take hundreds of tortoises on board their ships. The tortoises were stored upside-down in the ships' holds, so they couldn't move, due to their ability to stay alive for up to a year, without food or water. They were the perfect food source for sailors on long sea voyages. That, and tortoise oil was the main fuel source for indoor lighting, until kerosene! These same sailors had the brilliant foresight to let goats free on the island, ensuring a hardy food-source for when they next stopped there. The goats ate everything, the tortoises had no food left, and so along with the being stored upside down forever on ships for dinner, the population was almost wiped. But the goats are now a grand success story in the conservation world, due to a few skilled gunmen in helicopters, picking them off one-by-one. Seriously. The tortoises are also slowly clawing their way back… There are interesting stories regarding the Californian and Japanese tuna fishing fleets, continuing (banned) fishing activities in the Galapagos, and even though the Ecuadorian government fines them regularly for breaking the law, the US and Japanese governments routinely pays for the fines, and calls them ‘industry subsidies’. Imagine Ecuador tried to implement a similar fishing strategy in US waters!!! Donald Trump would find a prompt solution.. hahaha… Donald Trump… haha… aaaahhh. ….what a dickhead… good for a laugh. There’s also the story of a local political prisoner who has been in jail for years on San Cristobal because he is opposing the president’s resort development. We tried to interview him, but (understandably) he backed out at the last moment. Or we could talk about whaling... the tale of Moby Dick was inspired by the seas surrounding the Galapagos. Strangely, in most areas of the Galapagos surfing has been banned, but in those exact same locations there’s no catch limits for the fishing industry that visits daily? I don’t mean to be negative nelly here, and I’m not complaining at all. We loved our time in the Galapagos, it’s definitely worth visiting and exploring, we just found it interesting that it’s not the untouched and protected ecological gem we’d expected it to be. Having said that… There is a slight push to focus on the sustainability of the islands, but the local consensus on what that means is unclear. Were it the sustainability of unique species and diversity, I think that would mean getting rid of the humans on the islands. But they are there, and all over the world, trying to feed themselves and their children, just like everyone, everywhere. The fact that sustainability is even a concept means that humans are here to think about it and deem it important, so we are necessarily involved in the constant process of finding better ways to interact with animals, plants, fungi, gods, cosmos, ourselves... It's in our own best interest. This little offshore microcosm of change, the same place that Darwin developed ideas to flip science on its head, is going through such monumental, yet incremental, improvements and setbacks that perhaps it really is somewhere to study the future. As important as its changes for the past millions of years have been for understanding our place on this tiny planet, perhaps by attempting to work through its current issues, we can get an idea of what we might need to do, globally?