Monday, January 8, 2018

The Enchanted Islands part 1: San Cristobal

Classic Galapagos Marine Iguana
(yes, they swim)
To say the first week here in the Galapagos has been pretty amazing is a bit of an understatement.  So far it has certainly been well worth the small amount of discomfort most of us faced getting here.

After getting our bearings, recovering from sea and catching up on some much need rest we hit the ground running and packed long days of exploring our first of 3 islands, San Cristobal.

We managed to clear in on January 1st which was a pleasant surprise given the celebrations that the people here are famous for.  Bolivar (the agent) came out to the boat early to walk us through the procedure and make sure we were ready.  Then at the designated time of 11am 7 officials showed up to fill out their paperwork and clear us in.  The bottom was checked, dried food stuffs searched for foreign invaders and all required paperwork was checked and rechecked.  The officials spoke little English so it was a god send to have Rosario on board who is fluent in Spanish.   After an hour of intense question and answer we were declared free to leave the boat and the long awaited reunion of Karina and I happened quickly on shore.

Bolivar directed us to a good lunch spot where we strategized what, where and how we would first explore the island.
Two young sea lions at play

On our first full day we hiked over to a great snorkel spot where we saw a big sea turtle and a good amount of other sea life.  On the way over we stopped at a great interpretive centre that did a good job of explaining why the islands are as special as they are and clued us into the long history of man vs nature here.

On the way back we stopped at a nice beach and had our first interaction with the multitude of fearless sea lions that mingle with the few tourists sunbathing.  This time of year is a great time to visit if you want to spend days upon days watching the baby sea lions frolicking with each other.  It's difficult to find creatures cuter than baby sea lions while they learn how to flop themselves around the beach.
A new born sea lion learning how to move about

Tortoises are really easy to get photos of
Day 2 involved a personal tour by Bolivar who took us in 2 4x4's across the island.  Highlights were certainly the tortoise sanctuary where some of the turtles are thought to be 300 years old and a fantastic seafood lunch high up in the mountains overlooking the ocean.  We also had fun at a good tourist trap which was a giant (really giant) tree with a tree house in it.  A quick hike to a volcano caldera with thick fog coming and going capped of a great day and solidified Bolivar as a great agent and new amigo.

A good day at the spa for Henry

"Lola" keeping an eye on us
While we were away from the boat touring on land we came back to a new resident on our boat.  A small sea lion decided that our back swim step was heaven and despite lots of other sea lions giving her a hard time she stuck it out and slept for almost 24 hours.  It made for some entertainment while on board.  When she left as cute as she was, we added more fenders to deter the smelly beasts. 
Our new tenant that was too cute to evict

Denis and Rosario's last night on Sea Rover
Denis and Rosario were on a tight schedule to see all the sights on the islands.  A sailboat is not the most efficient way to move about the big distances between them so they decided to hop off and move to Isabela by speed boat.  We had a fantastic celebratory meal of seafood risotto with pan seared tuna on their last night.  We hope to catch up with them again before they leave Isabela.
White tipped reef shark. 
We've been told they are vegetarian...

The highlight of our visit to San Cristobal was a speed boat ride all the way around the island.  We stopped at 3 snorkel spots including a lagoon where white tipped reef sharks gave birth to their young.  At the north end of the island we floated among a few rocky outcrops where we saw 3 different types boobies and other birds nesting.

For those who are keeping score the boat also threw out fishing lines when ever we were drifting.  My curse still stands.  The driver was confused as to why we didn't catch any fish.  We didn't explain for fear of having me thrown overboard.
Feisty crab, defending his patch of sand

We stopped at a beautiful white sand beach for a great lunch of tuna and rice.  Karina is happy to visit any country where sandwiches are not considered real food.

Lastly we stopped at kicker rock which sits about 4 miles offshore.  The snorkelling here is something that should not be missed as you drift along the sheer walls with a bottom that is too deep to be seen despite the super clear waters.  Here we saw more sharks, many many turtles and lots of fish.  Two laps around the rock and we dragged back to the boat, tired, cold but happy.  We missed seeing the hammer head sharks but otherwise crossed all species off our bucket list.
Kicker Rock.  Where turtles are everywhere, 3 different types of sharks hang out and a current transports you effortlessly around the island.

Today, assuming we can get our paperwork to clear out of San Cristobal, we will move over to Isla Isabela, about an 80 NM sail.  We hope to arrive before dark on Tuesday.  Stay tuned for more brief posts of our adventures in the Galapagos

Monday, January 1, 2018

La Paz to Galapagos: Day 22

It is 8 Am local time and we are hook down with the boat put to bed after a pleasant, fast sail through the night. Officials should arrive sometime this afternoon and then we can get off the boat. Soon we will be connected to the internet and will be able to post pictures. Stay tuned for the fun part of the voyage!

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