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One might say each day's wildlife viewing is better than the last. When you are distracted from diving cormorants by a school of sting rays and then distracted from them by swimming penguins and after that, following one sea turtle, find yourself surrounded by four, no, ten, no twenty, no upwards of a hundred endangered green sea turtles, you feel all maturity, all reserve, all skepticism explode away until you are nothing but a babbling, credulous, all-receiving child.

And so it was at Punta Vicente Roca this afternoon. Afterwards we shivered happily on deck, clutching and spilling our hot chocolates. Everyone gushed as if, finally able to remove our snorkels, all our amazement had been uncorked. People related stories of cormorants tugging on flippers, biting arms, penguins luring swimmers to the middle of the bay and then shooting off, turtles cornering people such that they couldn't turn around without touching several. The abundance was unfathomable, beautifully grotesque. We laughed at our previous selves, excited by a solitary sea turtle. These turtles were so close we stared them eye to eye, examined the green algae growing on their shells, felt a rough flipper graze our hand, recognized an expression of faint irritation. It was an odd sensation hovering above them in the cold water, surrounded and yet solitary. I wondered if they felt the same, for we typically see them traveling alone and even together they did not much socialize. They seemed a grouchy, indifferent type of animal, accustomed to the echo of their own slow thoughts. Yet here they all were. We felt gluttonous.

Thank you, I remembered to think at the end. Just--thank you.

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Ecuador

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How amazing are the Galapagos? It is unforgettable in our minds. . . We went back in Oct/Nov 2011 right after our first around the world trip and have some pretty amazing photos from that trip to remind ourselves of the whole crazy experience :)

by Tony.Ruby

Yes! The Galapagos are so totally amazing. Probably the highlight of our trip, if we had to pick just one. How many RTW trips have you done? I wish I'd gotten to take underwater photos, but perhaps it would have distracted from the experience.

by chschen

Chris and Christine you guys would love Madagascar too! Similar concept to the Galapagos with the intimate interactions with wildlife only with a very different culture of the Malagasy people and the previous French colonization. We just got back at the end of November...

We travel a ton! It's our #1 passion. We've only done one around the world trip (2010-2011) so far but are looking forward to heading on our second one at the end of July 2014 until February 2015!

It really gets addictive once you get started as I'm sure you guys have figured out :-)

by Tony.Ruby

We've always wanted to go to Madagascar! But did you find it expensive/logistically difficult to travel around? Well, anyway, maybe it wouldn't matter for such an incredible experience, as long as we felt assured we weren't disturbing the animals too much. When we did a safari in Kenya, it felt a little like a reverse zoo. :\

by chschen

By the way, do you have flexible professions that allow you to travel so much?

by chschen

Madagascar is actually extremely easy to get around. . you could even rent a car if you wanted. I do suggest learning French beforehand though. .

Feel free to check out our Madagascar posts anyime if you're curious about the experience.

Hahaha a reverse zoo in Kenya? ie the animals were watching you? Did you not enjoy it?

It's nice to watch from a distance--that's what telephoto lenses are for!

We like to get into the animals' environment so somtimes we'd hike 6 hrs just to catch a glimpse of a rare lemur for instance. . .

Tony is in sales and I'm a doctor. . . we do these trips in between big job moves (last time was Los Angeles to New York, this time it's NYC to San Francisco). . it's the perfect time to pack up everything and put it away for a few months! :)

by Tony.Ruby

Oh, it's good to hear that Madagascar is easy to get around! Do they have public transit, too? We're, um, budget travelers, heh.

Great pictures of the creatures you saw in Madagascar, by the way!

For the Kenya safari, I think we went during an extremely busy time (Christmas). I meant reverse zoo in that we were in the "cages" and the animals were free, but we were still doing the observing, I guess, haha. There'd be about 40 vans all surrounding a group of lions. It just didn't seem natural. There were some animals that we watched from a distance (e.g. a lone cheetah), but mostly because he would have run, I think, if any of us had gotten closer. The whole atmosphere just felt like one of greed (on the part of the tourists) and misplaced priorities. I also just don't like being in a car when wildlife viewing, I guess. On the other hand, we really enjoyed Hell's Gate National Park where we biked and hiked and still saw plenty of cool animals (warthogs, giraffes, rock hyrax, zebras, etc.).

I'm dying for a better telephoto lens, but then I think I'd need a bigger camera, and I'm not sure I'd want to lug it all around on a long trip. Ah well!

by chschen

LOL, we are totally on a budget when we travel as well. . . usually max of $200 pp/day for total of food, housing, transport and activities! That's our goal for this next around the world trip as well. I'm not sure how you guys managed all that diving in Indonesia. . we call scuba diving in Indonesia one of our "budget busters" lol.

There is public transport in Madagascar--local buses for sure. We splurged on a private driver and guides mainly because we didn't know anyone who had been to Madagascar to tell us that we could do it all by ourselves!?!? :) The wildlife was really phenomenal and really easy to interact with *without disturbing them*-- The lemurs were just as curious of us as we were of them :)

Bummer on the safari thing!! We try to keep our activities limited to the "shoulder seasons" not peak season to avoid all the tourists. . .even though we are tourists ourselves!

Hmmm our last around the world trip we had just a point and shoot which was great and super convenient. . . we just upgraded to an SLR around our wedding 1.5 years ago. . you may want to hold off on the big camera because once you go there. . .there's no going back! You will have to lug it with you everywhere! :)

by Tony.Ruby

That's great to hear that about Madagascar. Typically there is public transit in these places since many people who live there can't afford their own car or driver, though sometimes it's a bit chaotic figuring out how it all works and trying not to get ripped off. I'm not sure why I mind being ripped off, but it still gets to me.

Haha, I think our budget for our round-the-world trip might have been on a different scale... We ranged between $16/person/day to about $60/person/day for all countries but two. The two exceptions were Ecuador (because of the Galapagos cruise) and Indonesia (because of the diving), where we ended up spending closer to $100/person/day. Of course, these ended up being our more memorable experiences. Maybe we should have been spending that much money everywhere! Well, it was probably more that we knew these were going to be memorable and didn't mind splurging for them.

For sure diving is a budget buster, but you can dive pretty cheaply in SE Asia, luckily! The reason it was so expensive in Indonesia was only because we went to an out-of-the-way place that mostly had all-inclusive resorts rather than local dive shops, but diving in the Philippines (highly recommended as well) and Malaysia was much cheaper. In fact, our diving in Raja Ampat could have been cheaper if we'd just gone with a homestay, but we were nervous about being relatively new divers (< 100 dives) and diving in a new place with strong currents if there was going to be a language barrier and potentially less well-maintained equipment.

by chschen

Yes, the safari thing was too bad. I think others have had good experiences. We were restricted to Christmas time because we were visiting a friend who was working in Africa at the time, and she could only join us on her time off, which was during the holidays. There are many things we would do differently next time!

Haha, I think I'll hold off on the SLR then. My husband bought me a micro 4/3 camera (kind of in between and SLR and a point-and-shoot) that has interchangeable lenses. I did end up getting a telephoto lens for it, but nothing as serious as the one it looks like you guys have!

by chschen

Oh LOL, sorry we are not rich! Our total daily budget is $100/pp/day not $200!?!?! $200 was our total daily budget for the BOTH of us! We too actually ended up spending much LESS than that on many days- including time spent visiting family/friends in India, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, France, Ethiopia etc. . .sometimes it came to $0 spent BUT we made up for it with our budget busting activities in other places so everything pretty much evened out. . . last time we can $8K under our total budget at the end of the trip :)

It's definitely not about the amount of money you spend in these places but what you choose to do there. Our motto when it came to activities was "we are probably not coming back here anytime soon so we should enjoy it to the fullest" :)

I will email you closer to when we get to Indonesia for more tips on traveling in the area. .

by Tony.Ruby

Hahaha, okay, then I think our budgets are more in line with each other. Anyway, if you like your jobs, what else are you going to spend your money on but amazing experiences like these?

Yes, definitely hit me up when you're in Indonesia!

by chschen

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