Friday, March 22, 2013

Trial of the Trails

The other day, Mark and I wanted to set out for a walk along the shore line, starting at San Cristobal's naval base. On the map it was marked as a trail to two surfing spots (did you know that the Galapagos are a popular surfing destination?); it seemed like good exercise with possibly some nice views along the way. Before we even got to the base, we enjoyed watching the resident sea lions do their thing on the town's beach. A pup was stubbornly trying to drink its mother's milk, when we saw it.... The little one had a yellow rope, line or ribbon pressing into the fur of its neck. It wouldn't take too long for a bigger problem to arise. Putting on a few more pounds could cause it to be uncomfortable or even choke.

Time stood still for a moment, while I ran to the police station to report the problem. Immediately, an officer joined me to the beach, where the pup was still happily sucking milk. We explained what was wrong and he left to get a National Park vet. We impatiently waited for their arrival. The chance of the two sea lions leaving the scene and disappear was very big. Just when the men arrived, mom and pup headed for the sea. The gloved team quickly set to work: catching the pup with a giant net and removing it from its mother, holding it down to immobilize it, and cutting the line around its neck before setting it free again. Seconds later, the little one hobbled towards the water and his mommy.

It was getting hot when we arrived at the gated military zone, where we were denied access to the trail. Mark and I had a sneaking suspicion we wouldn't be able to pass through the naval base to do the hike. The trail is apparently off limits and one wonders why it is marked on the map. The base has been around for ages. We were all packed and prepared for a day trip (except for Mark forgetting his swim trunks), so we decided to head back to La Loberia, a beach and sea lion colony a few miles east of town. We had a sweaty walk there a few days prior and were disappointed with the absence of sea life. This time, we took a taxi ($1 p.p.) to the site, hoped it was higher tide and planned to explore the area past the beach.

Taking the cab was a treat, and a great decision! Our energy and sweat was saved for the more important and interesting part of the morning. We passed La Loberia beach after ten minutes of walking - still barely any sea lions - and moved further afield, following a rocky trail, which soon turned into clambering the volcanic rocks. Wearing shoes would have helped... After a half hour of strenuous activity, getting startled by a few camouflaged marine iguanas, and liters of sweat, we reached a high cliff. The view was all right, but the blue-footed boobies and other sea birds were the attraction. Undisturbed by our presence, they posed for the picture and roosted in the rocky crevasses.

Once back down at the beach, we rested in the only shade to be found. We had lunch, watched some surfers, some red and black crabs and a couple of sea lions, before I decided to go for a snorkel. Last time, the shallow water was freezing and my underwater camera couldn't handle the huge change in temperature. Plus, there was “nothing” to see in the protected bay. Mark wished me luck with the "grey fish" and the icy Humboldt current, before picking me up to go home a bit later. Little did he know about what he was missing out on by not bringing his swim shorts... From the moment I entered the pleasantly refreshing water, I saw a multitude of colorful fish and bright green rocks. A big black ray was feasting on something and I observed it for a bit, before following it up close. While filming its movement, the camera spotted a big sea turtle resting on the bottom. And another one. And three more. Distracted by the new sight, I had to get back to the ray later. All these animals have no fear of human beings and, with the swell rolling back and forth, it is almost hard not to bump into them!

La Loberia might not be a must see sea lion colony anymore (all but a few of the animals have moved to town), but it still offers a great opportunity for spotting other amazing sea creatures... at high-ish tide.

Hanging out with the sea lions on the town's benches

Marine Iguana soaking up the sun at La Loberia

The black Marine Iguanas blend in  well with the rocks we clambered

Blue-footed Booby

Swallow-tailed Gull

Nazca Booby

Mark posing next to the Blue-footed Booby he took pictures of - they are not shy

Another kind of sea urchin in these waters...

Blotched Fantail ray, with a big fish underneath him


dmmbruce said...

Once again, fascinating! You are on good blogging form recently. Thank-you.

Liesbet said...

Thanks, Bruce! That´s because we are finally doing some fun and exciting things again. :-)