Sunday, 25 March 2012

Galapagos Islands - Day 2

We were called to breakfast by the ‘dinner bell’ at 7.30am and sat down to fruit, yoghurt, cereal, omelette, breads, jams, tea, coffee and fresh fruit juice – a nice way to start to the day as we looked out over the new port which we had arrived at overnight.  It’s a strange sensation to go to sleep and then wake up and walk out on deck to see a completely unfamiliar landscape, and despite knowing thousands had been doing the same before us – it felt like a bit of a discovery adventure!

We gathered our gear and took a motor boat to a crystal blue channel between two islands where we snorkeled around for an hour or so.  Sarah had her first experience swimming with a sea lion, who was very curious about the strange human hybrid with flippers and twirled around her a couple of times before swimming away.  Shortly after a very large male seal lion started barking and chased us all away from his haram, which led us both to discovering a giant sea turtle that was gracefully coasting along the ocean bottom. It was incredible to be so close to such a beautiful creature in his own habitat, which stopped occasionally to munch on a piece of floating seaweed and eye off his adoring fans who were following him so closely. 

Our next stop was a massive volcanic rock formation sticking up out of the water that also drops 80m straight down into the ocean. Jumping in the water was an icy cold experience compared to our previous location and we swam briskly in-between the high rocks, through a channel that is known for usually having Galapagos sharks around.  It turned out to be our lucky day, as we swam above (and dove down to see!) a huge pod of sharks, some up to 2m in length.  As well as the impressive sharks there was also plenty of colourful fish and Sarah managed to glimpse another large sea turtle before we reboarded the boat, a little blue from the cold, but well worth the pain! 

After anchoring off a small beach for lunch, we dried off and headed to the harbour where we wandered for half an hour (well actually we wandered as both of us had forgotten to bring money, most other people  in our group enjoyed a coffee on the harbour and we hung out with the Stepho’s photographing the numerous sea lions that littered the shore).
Too cute!
Our next stop was the Galapagos Interpretation Center where the history of the Galapagos island is really well presented, both the environmental and the human stories.  There is a path from the centre that leads to the famous sea lion beach where we were given two hours free time to explore.  (We think that our guide Chimarro just wanted to ditch us in order hang out with some girls in town for the afternoon…. a theme that continued frequently throughout the rest of the tour).

Despite not having our guide to answer our many questions about the local fauna and flora, we had fun getting up close and personal with the sea lions! It was great standing in the shallow water with the tiny sea lion pups splashing and playing around you, and afterwards watching the male sea lion run up and down the beach barking at all his females, then he would jump in the water to bark at the sea lion pups, rounding them up back onto shore. He was a busy guy keeping his enormous haram in order!

Sarah socialising with some baby sea lions
The other close encounter was with the marine iguanas that were sunning themselves and violently shaking the heads in order to process and squirt salt water out of their noses (which Dave always managed to mistime when trying to photograph the squirt in action).  We also spent some time watching the twenty or so surfers carving up the break that broke around the headland (well Sarah watched the surfers while Dave continued in vain to capture the 'squirt').  

After our two hours of free time, we caught a boat back to our catamaran for another excellent feed (we can’t rave enough about the chief on the boat!).  Since we’d already had a lot of free time during the day in the port, Dave and I decided not to head back in after dinner and instead starting going through the already 100’s of photographs that we’d taken of the fantastic animals in only 2 days... Relaxing on a catamaran was quite nice, and the crew make it a friendly atmosphere, despite the large communication barrier, but as usual smiles and nods always go a long way!

During the night we again pulled anchor and went from Isla Santa Fé to Isla Floreana.  This night it was actually quite a rough crossing and we were awoken a few times during the night as a result of the waves giving us the feeling that we were launching into the air.  Dave was very grateful that we’d managed to find sea sickness tablets back in Guayaquil or else our small bathroom with a hand-pump toilet could’ve been a bit worse for wear by morning….

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