Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

by Stephane Alexandre / Dec 02, 2016 /
Stephane Alexandre's picture

This past weekend was surreal! As part of our study abroad program, the program director invited us this past weekend to La Serena and Vicuna, a six-hour drive north of Santiago. I am so grateful that we took rest stops to stretch our legs, because I would have gone insane. Given that our trip is coming to an end in less than a month, it was such a perfect way to spend time together as a group.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Isla de Choros and Isla Dama, in Elqui Province, Chile. A trip to Vicuna is incomplete without embarking onto the treacherous Pacific Ocean to see the great penguins! Although the day started out cloudy, by 10am we were given permission by the Coast Guard to go on the water. Near the shore, the water was very turbulent and the winds caused some people to fall just getting into the boat. As our tour guide said, "The Pacific ocean is not so passive" (it sounds better in Spanish but it gets the message across). But finally, we were off and we were ready.

We were not ready.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

It soon became clear that cameras had to be tucked away because the perilous waves splashed against our faces and most of us got drenched from head to toe. It is my sincere recommendation that you do not sit in the front of the boat because a salty shower is guaranteed. By the first half hour, my face already felt dry as the salt already soaked the moisture right out.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

First up was Isla de Choros, where we saw so many sea lions. During the day, the sea lions climb on rocks to keep warm and be in the sun. The island is isolated and humans are not allowed on the island due to preservation regulations.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

Next, we saw the penguins. We came across a cliff where we saw a few penguins near the water. We went into a small cave to see the clear water - and you can see right through to the bottom! These cute little creatures are shy, thus it is important to whisper and not make them scared. As our guide informed us, human contact can increase their heart rates for about 12 hours due to shock.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

THE DOLPHINS WERE NOT SHY.

We saw many schools of dolphins that patrolled us through between the two islands. They even chanted for us as they made their way to the water surface. At first, we only saw a few shy ones and the whole boat shrieked with excitement and joy. Fortunately, they kept coming and soon I had a great video of dolphins singing and swimming alongside us. It was like it was out of a movie…and I still think it must have been a dream. 

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

It was such a great experience as we made it to Isla Damas, which boasts the clearest water I have ever seen.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

Isla Damas is a wonderful island under preservation efforts. There are many regulations when you are on the island and it is essential to follow them to keep the wildlife alive and thriving. Seashells could be spotted right underneath the water, and the different crisp shades of light green to blue echoed in the sky! I knew I was supposed to hike to the highest point to get an incredible panorama, but I laid on the beach and fell asleep instead. Sometimes, you need to relax on the beach to forget about the three papers you have due. It's healthy.

Dolphins, Penguins, and the Clearest Water You've Ever Seen, in Chile

I hope these pictures and stories encourage you to visit these two great islands in Chile. Even being abroad, living out one of my great life dreams, life can still get overwhelming. It is easy to drown in papers due, group projects deadlines, and even homesickness. Traveling is an essential tool in recharging before even living out our dreams. The dolphins were one of the greatest sights of nature I have witnessed in a long while. I've always believed that your perspective is your reality - and if reality is a beautiful deep blue ocean, then I’ll take it!

Three Main Things To Remember:
1. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.
2. Bring a bag just in case you get motion sickness.
3. Camera (obviously, take caution but the dolphins are worth it).

 

 

Stephane Alexandre is the Intercultural Immersion Editor for Wandering Educators. A Tufts University student, she is currently studying abroad in Chile.

All photos courtesy and copyright Stephane Alexandre