Where the sea lions rule...

Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
Trip End Apr 01, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos,
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Having navigated the required paperwork, baggage checks, paid the entrance fees of $110, and finally enjoyed the spectacle of baggage reclaim (involving the manual lining up of all items by the airport staff prior to opening the rope barriers and allowing us to retrieve our things!!). I was finally on the Galápagos Islands, and free to start exploring the first island of my visit - San Cristobal...

Happy to see blue sky and lots of sun, I headed off from the main town Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to visit my first destination. After a 25 min walk (and an unnecessary detour via the airport due to lack of signposts and information on the map!) I arrived at the sign for La Lobería, a walk leading through a marine iguana nesting area and ending at the Sea Lion refuge. Feeling relatively comfortable in the knowledge that animals on the islands are renowned for their tameness, I set off camera in hand. The tracks left by the marine iguanas are very distinctive - long lines carved into the sand from their tails and alternating footprints dug deep into the sand from their long claws. It wasn't long before I found myself surrounded my said tracks, but with no sign of any iguanas. Peering closely at the rocks, I saw some distant shapes of lazing iguanas who were soaking up the afternoon sun and started inching closer to take photos. All of a sudden I became aware that there were actually quite a number of them much closer to me as they started moving and twitching beside me - very lucky as they were so well camouflaged that I could easily have stood on one!! Despite having been told they are tame and won't harm you, I have to admit that those claws look ferocious and I would hate to be on the receiving end of an angry iguana woken from their afternoon slumber by a blundering tourist...

...who moments later almost stood on the tail fin of a sleeping sea lion!! Having followed the barks of a sea lion to the rock edge, I had taken some photos of 2 cavorting in the water. Squinting at the playback screen through the sun, I began wandering towards what I thought was the path leading onwards. It was only the snort and a sudden jerk from what I had thought was a rock, and therefore about to stand on, which brought my attention back to where I was treading. Said sea lion reared up, looked at me with total disdain, gave a disgruntled bark and then waddled off to play with the others!!

It wasn't much further to the main beach area - the Sea Lion Refuge - where there were, unsurprisingly, a large number of sea lions. Most were flat out on the beach, whilst some were playing in the water. It was fascinating to sit and watch their antics - some were sleeping, others were feeding their pups, the 'beachmaster' was constantly barking or on the move trying to get the attention of one of his many females, the pups were crawling over the adults, and some waddled in and out of the water. You could get incredibly close to them (obviously without touching) with little reaction, although I have to confess that I was a bit of a wimp and stayed much further away than some of the people visiting. My favourite were the pups - so furry, tiny faces and also very clumsy as they tried to move around.

This was only the start of my sea lion encounters for the day. I'd been told by friends who had visited that there was a large colony living in the town centre. Not sure what to expect, I walked back to town and joined the Malecon, walking from one end to the next. There were sea lions everywhere!! On the beach areas, the benches, the dock areas, sleeping at the top of children's slides, on building verandas, waddling about, in boats - and in many other places which I can't remember. It truly did feel like the people were secondary, and that the town had been built up to suit the desires of the sea lions. Although very cute to see, one definite negative is their smell...it's distinctive, but altogether a bit unpleasant...

Reaching the end of the Malecon, I continued further on to the Centro de Interpretación where I could only manage a short walk around the exhibits before heading off on the trail to another beach called Punta Carlito and yes, more sea lions. Unfortunately my camera ran out at this point (probably a blessing for those who know my snap-happy attitude to photography) and I had to settle for simply watching the sunset and a lot of dusk sea lion flirting on Playa Mann, one of the beaches closest to the town centre.

One of the main things I wanted to do on the island was snorkel around Kicker Rock. After the sunset, my main priority was to book the tour - which I duly did. This left only dinner and the prospect of an early night after the all night bus journey of the previous evening. There was a surprising lack of options for dinner, which could have been down to the Guayaquil football derby (similar to Arsenal v Chelsea) which the whole town seemed to have stopped for. My hotel eventually pointed me in the direction of a restaurant only a block away. My self-declared rice amnesty over, I was happy to go with their set menu of soup followed by chicken, rice and patacones. Or atleast so I thought...I started eating the soup and was happily fishing around for what I assumed to be a piece of chicken which turned out to be... A WHOLE CHICKEN'S FOOT!!! More fishing revealed there were actually 2. Feeling a little bit sick and wondering if I had received 'special' treatment as the only gringo in the restaurant, I persevered and ate the bulk of the soup base - thank goodness for the heavy lacing of coriander!! Food dramas over, and having watched the vehicle cavalcade beeping their horns and backfiring as they celebrated the local teams victory (Barcelona de Quito - a Guayaquil team - for anyone who is interested) I was ready to go to bed...

Next day I did a full day trip of snorkelling. First stop was Los Lobos, an island with sea lion and marine iguana colonies and surrounded by coral areas. Thankfully, the agency had provided wetsuits as the water was freezing, and the time we spent snorkelling was great. There were loads of fish and rays, but most special for me were the turtles who glide along so gracefully beside you before disappearing. I didn't have my waterproof camera pouch at this point so no pictures...

Second stop was the main attraction of the day - snorkelling around Kicker Rock. The rock itself has loads of wildlife including sea lions and blue footed and Nazca boobies. Circumnavigating it to see these gave us a pretty good idea of the turbulent ocean which we were about to throw ourselves into!! Having got my flipper stuck on the side of the boat, I eventually threw myself into the sea and after a moments panic when the waves were so huge I lost sight of both the boat and the other snorkellers, I was soon on my way to join the rest of the group. The rock is literally vertical below the water, and therefore you have to stay pretty close to its base to see anything. It wasn't long before the first Galapagos shark was spotted, albeit very far down. We also saw more turtles and sea lions. The best part for me was swimming into a large fissure in the rock, where you had to fight the currents all the way to get inside it, and then allow the swell to return you to the open sea. Thankfully not straight into the rock, as had seemed all too possible as we watched from outside!!

Our third destination of the day was a beach stop for lunch and swimming - the name begins with M but that's all I can remember. Very pretty, but a definite secondary attraction behind Los Lobos and Kicker Rock. We were really lucky as because there were divers on board the boat we got a second snorkelling trip back to Kicker Rock before finishing the trip back in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. I can't remember the name of the agency, but it was beside Leon Dormida just off the Malecon, and for $50 was an excellent day trip with a really good crew and guides.

I had dinner with 4 others who had been on the day trip with me, and thankfully there were no surprise chicken's feet to contend with :-)
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Ma on

Another excellent description of your latest adventure, love it and the photographs, take care. Ma xxxx

dishy!! on

No info on where u r sleeping, is it that bench with sum rather overweight friends!! Keep enjoying and do watch ure 6 o'clock!!

Pigwig on

La Tortuga is too cute, and pretty much every one of the sea lions reminds me of ickle Ellinot. Really funny as Andi was using my computer and the prompt for password - 'truss him up like a chicken' she had no idea what it could be!!

Speaking of chicken - bleugh, bleugh and bleugh - I'm not sure my tummy could handle Sth America, there'd be nothing left of me - now there's a thought!!
Happy turtle tickling xx

curlsandtales on

M - glad you enjoyed!!
D - Sleeping with sea lions?!? That's how rumours start... ;-). I did wonder for a while what you meant by 6 o clock but get you now. Hard to watch though when you have a snorkel on that effectively gives you tunnel vision...
A - I'm not convinced you would be tiny...what you don't eat in proper food you would make up for in snacks!!! Oreo cookies, chips ahoy, plantain chips, Cheetos - yum!!! Xx

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