01 – 03 July 2015: Exploring San Cristobal, Galapagos
Enjoying Natures Best
We spent our time in San Cristobal seeing as much of the spectacular wildlife the Galapagos is home to as possible. Although the harbour was busy with day boats, water taxis, large tour boats and coastal traders it did not deter the presence of sea and bird life around Balvenie.
The sea bubbled with playful sea lions and schools of baitfish while above tropic birds, frigate birds, pelicans, bobbies and storm petrels hovered effortlessly, waiting patiently before handpicking their dinner from an extensive menu swimming below.
Swimming with the Turtles & Sea Lions
We did the hike out to La Loberia beach, “the place to swim with sea lions and turtles”. We arrived at the ocean after a long walk along the road, black volcanic rocks completely covered the shoreline but a path leads to the left along to a golden sand beach area that is somewhat sheltered from the pounding surf by a natural breakwater of rocks. Enroute we saw dozens of marine iguanas heavily camouflaged on the rocks, they lie so still you need to be careful not to step on them. They were everywhere, during our walk we would have seen about a hundred of them, lounging about soaking up the sun.
When we got to the lovely small beach a tour group were just leaving so we shared the waters with just 4 humans, dozens of playful sea lions and a handful of giant turtles. We have swam with turtles before, but never have we had them swim right up to us, almost pushing us out of their way ~ they were amazing and just so comfortable in their natural environment and in the knowledge we meant them no harm. The sea lions fly by like torpedoes, twist and turn then head straight back, changing direction with such ease just when you think you are about to have a head on collision.
It all seems a fun game to them, they played with us, each other and the turtles. The water was cloudy as the large swell sent waves crashing over the small protective rocky reef so at times we would have a white out only to have it clear and find ourselves face to face with one of the residents!
Picking Our Way Through The Marine Iguanas
We spent about an hour in the water until we were worn out playing, then dried ourselves off and headed for the far end of the beach where there is a small marker indicating a walk that friends had recommended. And what a treat it was ~ about 30 minutes over the rocky shoreline taking care not to squash a lazing iguana, then a short climb up on to the top of the cliff. You can see from the photos that they are just everywhere!
Sitting in Heaven
It was just us and the birds picnicking on this remote cliff top, and what a majestic spot it was. We were above the nests clinging to the rocky precipices below us and watched an amazing display of flying manoeuvres as the adults left the nests, dived into the surf fishing then returned on to the rocky ledges to provide food for their young. It was an awesome display of aerial acrobatics and amazing to be able to watch it all from above. There were Blue Footed and Nazca Boobies, Red Billed Tropicbirds, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Swallow Tailed Gulls, all out there bringing home food for their families.
Surfing Turtles ~ It’s True!
Then as if the flying display wasn’t enough to entertain us we realised that far below down in the surf there were several giant turtles, playing in the surf and riding the waves ashore.
We have never seen this before and haven’t heard of turtles playing in the surf but that is certainly what they were doing. They would ride the wave in heading straight for the rocks, disappear for a couple of minutes and then we would see them pop up again further out to sea and off they would go again, just incredible.
This was just a daytrip out but we saw so much and enjoyed the remoteness and ruggedness of this southern coast, and all just a walk from the anchorage. We are very restricted with what we are allowed to do here in the Galapagos Island group as individual travellers, but so far we have seen some fantastic sights, with many more to come.
This Is Surely Nature At It’s Purest