The Galápagos Islands Part 2: San Cristóbal; snorkelling, secret surfing and attempted murder by sea lion

As I mentioned previously,  (The Galápagos Islands – Santa Cruz; giant tortoises, iguanas and getting older) if you’re not on a cruise, the way to get to San Cristóbal and Isabela from Santa Cruz is by speedboat taxi, a journey which for either destination takes two hours. If you were imagining a tranquil float across the still waters, think again, these babies fly up and down waves so high that your stomach is in your head lets alone in your mouth. Some of the boats give you a life jacket, all of them give you a sick bag. I would definitely not recommend embarking on one of these journey’s with a hangover. Another tip would be to avoid eye contact with any passenger throwing their guts up, it does nothing for the constitution! (I’m probably not going to make it in the medical profession). The trick you might think would be to sit in the outside area which a number of sun hungry people did. However 10 minutes into the journey they were soaked from head to foot and quickly headed inside. It really is back to the yoga breathing and trying to avoid all thoughts of the Titanic.

San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galápagos, it is less developed than Santa Cruz with white beaches and a whole heap of wildlife. It is the sea lions that are the real stars of the show across the island with their docile and prolific presence on the benches of the harbour or people’s doorsteps, like sleeping drunks. They are incredibly cute (although if they spoke I can imagine that would not be the word they would like used) and do resemble giant legless Labradors. They were to be found (actually smelt before seen) on every beach huddled in groups or playing in the water. When they are on land they are super sleepy but towards the evening they seem to get a bit frisky and argumentative barging each other and shouting. They are also more inclined to give chase to any tourist that gets too close and we saw more one alarmed human turn and run when faced with a cantankerous old sea lion, which actually can move pretty fast. I was one of the fleeing tourists, I should know, a sea lion that had been hanging out with us prior to sunset turned werewolf and basically tried to murder me. I can see how you think this might be an exaggeration and in truth I was too busy squawking and running to ask its intentions but it was heading for me at full flap making noises that did not suggest it wanted to join me for a beer.

There are some beautiful beaches to visit across the island and some great snorkelling to be had. We went on an ambling 40 minute walk across two beaches, Playa Mann and Punta Carola through bracken and iguana breeding grounds to find Tijeretas Point, a snorkelling place with turquoise waters. Jamie plunged straight in, whereas it may come as no surprise to anyone that has read any of these blogs so far, to learn that I approached the whole freezing (subjective) water thing with a bit more trepidation and secretly wished I’d brought my beanie. However once in it was like watching a rehearsed performance put on by wildlife that were happy to ignore our presence. The pelicans dived head first into the water for their fish, the turtles swam right under us, even the blue footed boobie, a bird synonymous with the Galapagos did a turn. Again however it was the sea lions that were the highlight, they are as playful as puppies and like to engage with you by swimming around and under you then performing a bit of synchronised swimming complete with backflips, somersaults and twists in perfect symmetry. They’d have got a 10 for sure and a standing ovation if my goggles and snorkel hadn’t filled with water in the excitement and I wasn’t doggy paddling for my life.

After the snorkelling escapades we sat on the banks of the water, drying off and watching the wonders of the water do their thing. We were interrupted by some loud barking huffs and puffs as a sea lion and her calf hauled themselves up to share our platform and the calf began to feed. A pretty cool end to the whole experience.

Continuing up from the snorkelling area there is a mirador looking across the ocean, down on to Tijeretas Point, across to Kicker Rock and certainly a place Darwin visited in his big concrete coat (if the statue is anything to go by). It was also a good vantage point for the birds, not being  well versed in bird life I can only say that we saw pelicans, blue footed boobies and frigate birds although there were certainly others that more knowledgeable bird watchers would probably be excited by.

The mirador was apparently also a good place to watch the sun set but we journeyed back to Playa Mann to grab a beer, watch the sun set and the sea lions wake up.

There is a lot to be said for the surfing on San Cristóbal. Others had recommended Playa La Loberia which we visited and enjoyed (Jamie for the surfing me for the sea lions). However, another recommendation was a bit more of an adventure. On San Cristóbal is the naval base, an area that as you would expect is firmly sealed off to the public. However, if you tell the guards at the gate that you want to surf and give them your passport they let you through. We walked through the naval base, past an overgrown cemetery and on across rocks and remote beaches to find the surfing spot that the locals frequent. It began pretty sunny and I found myself a beach to hang out on. However, a few hours in the rain began and I ran for cover under a broken roofed surf shack. I popped out every now and then to take a cheeky photo which was when I first noticed the fin. I stared at it for a good minute before I began to panic and was ready to scream ‘shark’ and save every surfer in the water. However, luckily something made me stare a bit longer before I saw that it was indeed a sea lion. Apparently they often go to sleep in the water on their backs fins up, resembling Jaws. Screaming blue murder over a sea lion would probably not have got us invited back to that beach so thank goodness its nose popped up to save me from utter embarrassment just in the nick of time.

 

It was sad to leave San Cristóbal but there were more adventures to be had. We watched a naval ceremony complete with helicopter rescue before heading off to Isabel another incredible island. Watch this space…

The Galápagos save the best to last – Isabela

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