FOCUS - JUNE 2018 39 Frigate birds are very graceful when they soar through the air. The Galapagos Islands have long been a source of mystique and adven- ture, ever since they were first explored by Charles Darwin. Located on the equa- tor, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos are a two hour flight from Ecuador. Although many people choose cruis- ing as a means of transportation when visiting these unique islands, I flew into Baltra, stayed in Santa Cruz and went out daily to explore different islands on a 20 foot boat, operated by a crusty old captain and his mate (who also cooked lunch). The main reason for opting to take a small boat daily was in order to visit more remote regions, not accessible by larger ships. One such island was Daphne, a volcanic, tuff crater. There is actually a second island (Minor Daphne), which has only been rock-climbed twice since its discovery. The Captain has been given permis- sion ten times in the past two years to visit this rare, treeless island and fortunately I was able to take advantage of the op- portunity. No more than five people are allowed to set foot on Daphne at any giv- en time, so to consider myself extremely fortunate was an understatement. The boat ride, albeit only 50 km, took a good two hours through some of the choppiest waters I have ever encoun- tered. The only time I experienced a more formidable sea trip was on the way back. Three metre swells were common, and the boat bounced continuously cre- ating a need to hold on to something for fear of falling overboard. The only thing missing was that the vessel should have been called the ‘SS Minnow’. When I saw Daphne Island in the dis- tance it closely resembled Mokoli‘i Island in Hawaii, which is commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat. I did not see a landing spot or anything that resembled civiliza- tion, and when I asked the Captain why he was circling the island, he explained he was looking for a place to moor. My comfort level had now dropped significantly, especially as the coast line of the island was rugged and the water had carved a 3 or 4 meter rim around the edge. The First Mate inflated a Zodi- ac, dropped it into the water and helped me into it. A few minutes later we were bobbing next to a very craggy rock face, which I was told we would have to climb. Need I say more? Backpack secure, shoes on tight, I ventured forth, grabbing rocks and climbing in the footsteps of Rohit, the First Mate, who also acted as our guide. Once I stood on the sloped ground of the volcanic island I felt more secure. I looked down and was impressed with my climb, and although my fear of heights stayed with me during the entire adven- ture, it was more the concern about ‘how do I get down?’ that worried me. The island was gritty and slippery so caution was always in the foreground ...................... Please turn to page 40 DAPHNE ISLAND: A tiny spec of life in the middle of nowhere. BY JONATHAN VAN BILSEN