After an early breakfast, we were on our rafts at 8:00AM to head off to Isla Lobos or Sea Lion Island. Just like yesterday we walked through dozens, maybe hundreds of sea lions. We also saw a few more blue-footed boobies and some yellow warblers. The sun was out and there were few clouds in the sky. As we walked around we heard the sea lions calling and moaning to each other. But, mostly the sea lions just chilled out resting before another day in the Galapagos.
We went back to the boat for a quick wardrobe change to go for a snorkel trip. We didn’t venture too far from the boat which was moored between Isla Lobos and San Cristobal Island. So, we were still close to the sea lions and jumped out of our rafts into the cool, aqua green water measuring about 70 degrees F. We had several sea lions to play with and after about an hour, we were called back to the rafts to go back to the boat. With the boat about 300 yards away, a few of us decided to swim back to the boat.
We had about four hours on the boat as we moved to a port city on San Cristobal Island. At about 2:30PM we headed to shore to go visit the land turtles. I again had a close encounter with a sea lion. There was a large sea lion standing and modeling on the dock. She seemed fairly friendly and docile so Freya, an Ozzie woman, and I decided to get a picture standing next to her. Well, somehow I upset her and she started barking at me and approaching me. I left her and there was no picture to be had today.
We took about a 30 minute bus ride to La Galapaguera, a center where land turtles are raised to help repopulate them across the Galapagos. We saw a few small ones in their cages and then saw 5-6 walking along the pathways. We finished the afternoon in the town buying a few essentials, checking emails in the internet cafe and having a quick beer at a local bar.
We headed back to the boat and had a dinner of calamari in cream sauce, beef tips, asparagus salad, wild rice, broccoli salad and a potato salad with peas; for dessert, we had gypsy’s arm, a jelly roll topped with chocolate sauce. After watching the stars on the top deck, we were off to bed to rest in anticipation for another day in paradise.
Wednesday I awoke a little early, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat on the deck enjoying the peace and tranquility of the morning. The islands have volcanic origins and the striking thing to me is how dry the islands are. The landscape from afar reminds me of the bush in northeastern South Africa near the Kruger National Park. At times, though, the terrain reminds me of parts of western Texas with the cactus growing and all the lizards crawling around. Some islands are very flat while others have small hills rising in the interior catching clouds on them. The clouds roll flat unlike the puffy storm clouds seen in Texas, the mid-West and mountain west of the US.
We were docked in a strait near Santa Fe Island. We had a quick breakfast and were on the boat by 8:00AM to go see the land iguana. The terrain was littered with volcanic rock and hiking boots or sports sandals were needed to navigate it. We ascended 750-1000 feet to the top of the small hill. Tall cactus trees adorned the dry landscape along with small thin trees. I was amazed that anything could live in such conditions. But, apparently, it is ideal for the iguanas. We saw several as well as a few mockingbirds that followed us around the trail.
By mid-morning we were back on the boat for a quick snorkel. I was beat so I stayed on board and took about a 40 minute nap. Once my shipmates returned to the ship, we had a quick lunch while the boat cruised toward South Plaza Island to see some of the large dominant sea lion males.
We landed around 1:30PM to find a couple of sea lions laying on the docks. Judging from how dry they were, they had been there for some time and we could not get them to budge. So, we gently walked around them. They are docile and playful, but have quite a bark. And, by this time, I had annoyed a few so I was doubly cautious.
We saw one of the large males come in from the ocean with his female and baby. The three were very entertaining. The male bellowed as if to tell the female and baby to hurry up and not lag. The mother was in a foul mood having to contend with the cranky male and a baby that was desperate to nurse. As she tried to climb a few sloped rocks to get on the sand, the baby kept trying to nurse, even throwing itself on top of the mom to get her to stop to let him feed. Annoyed, the baby bellowed at the mom. And, the mom snapped and bellowed back at the baby. As the male continued his bellowing, the mother would occasionally let out a cranky bellow towards him too as if to say, “Hey, can I get a hand here? I’m doing the best I can.” The male was completely oblivious to her plight as he continued on leaving his mate and baby further and further behind. I joked that they were on a family vacation from the US.
We ascended a small hill while walking through “The Cactus Forest.” The ground was covered with a deep-red brush with cactus trees growing in between. The landscape looked as if it had been meticulously manicured given how the cactus trees dotted the hillside. The path teed at the top of the hill at the edge of a cliff. We walked along the path looking off the cliff down towards the blue water crashing into the black rocky cliff below. In the distance we could see adjacent islands. And, of course, behind us was the carpet of red brush with the green cactus trees.
We made our way back to the boat around 3:30ish and rested for the afternoon. We had a round of beers and relaxed. We met up on the top deck to watch the sunset. We had yet another magnificent sunset. We were moored in between two islands – the sun set behind one and we watched as the sky varied in colors from bright golden to blues, grays, purples, reds and, ultimately, the darkness of night.
It was the last night for most of my shipmates. So, the crew dressed up in their best white uniforms to say a quick goodbye. For dinner, we enjoyed fresh fish, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, potatoes, salad and cake for dessert. We also cracked a bottle of red wine for the occasion. We stayed up late having one last night together. I pulled out my computer and put on my iTunes with a “happy” music mix for all to enjoy.
After more wine and beer, we finally went off to bed to rest up for another action-packed day on the boat.
Originally published June 12, 2007