Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Splurging with a Snorkel Tour

It´s hard to believe that Mark and I have been in San Cristobal for three weeks already. Most sailboats that arrived with us have left, either for other islands in the Galapagos (Santa Cruz and Isabela) or for the big hop across a vast area of Pacific Ocean. Thursday, we waved goodbye to our British friends Carolina and Bill on SV Juffa, who are sailing to French Polynesia. They lucked out with a decent portion of wind in an otherwise windless region. We only met them recently in Las Perlas and had a wonderful time together since being here. They are on a tight schedule to sail to Australia. Since we are being the slow pokes, we will probably not see them again. When my computer broke, Bill and Caroline provided a new, Spanish speaking notebook that drove them crazy and had a problem. Mark fixed the computer up and turned it into a workable, English speaking replacement laptop for me. It took him many days (who will ever get bored on Irie?), but he is a genius. It´s good to have him around! :-)
The days have been filled with the usual stuff we do everywhere else we find ourselves at anchor: cleaning, laundry, cooking, boat projects, sewing, a bit of gardening and grooming, organizing and job stuff – for me mostly submitting articles and proposals for translations. The only difference is that the weather is mostly sunny, the nights are cool and we are surrounded by sea lions and Blue-footed Boobies. San Cristobal is much busier than we expected and tour boats and ferries inconsiderately drive by at high speeds, creating massive wakes, resulting in discomfort and, sometimes, a real mess. A few days ago, one of the wakes managed to knock our beautiful basil plant (my work and pride!) over, into a tray of bleach in which I was soaking our cutting boards! Yes, we were both very shocked and mad at that point.  And, we had yet another project at hand… Juffa had to clean up a pot of boiling soup that had fallen to the floor and damaged it.

When you spend $900 to be able to visit and anchor in a lovely place like the Galapagos Islands for two months, you try not to be tempted by tours and other money spending occasions. Unless you have enough money (most cruisers stopping by seem to fit in this category); then you do whatever you want to do and eat out regularly in nice-looking restaurants.  On the other hand, you are in a special place (the trip of a lifetime, right?) and you don´t want to miss out on all the amazing attractions. So, Mark and I, and Caroline and Bill joined a group of fellow cruisers (SV Iolea and SV Liward) and other tourists for a snorkel/dive trip to Kicker Rock, which the books say is a must-do on San Cristobal. The prospects: swimming with sea lions and hammerhead sharks – if we were lucky.

Our daytrip started around 8:30, when we were picked up by dinghy and delivered to the motor catamaran Sharksy. After a short briefing – separate for snorkelers and divers – we set out towards the big rock, following the green and hilly shoreline. Our first stop happened about a half hour later, at Isla Lobos, a low lying, rocky island. The boat anchored in the clear, shallow water and we saw a whole bunch of sea lions and birds onshore. We spotted (and were warned about) big daddy sea lion, the protector of the clan, which mostly consisted of young animals, and jumped into the cold water. Our wetsuits came in handy. We swam along the rocks and observed a few youngsters playing about, until we reached a tiny bay with a sea lion nursery. The little ones frolicked about and came within touching distance, circling around us and throwing curious looks. It was pretty amazing. Whenever we have decent internet (what´s that?), we will post a few Galapagos videos on the blog.

The trip continued to Kicker Rock, a very scenic and impressive landmark. We were dropped off to drift with the current through a crack – tunnel – in the rock. Caroline saw a small hammerhead shark and the guide spotted a few other sharks, but most of us were a bit disappointed, only seeing colorful fish along the walls. After lunch, we were offered a second chance. This time, the visibility was a little bit better. Once in the water, a spotted eagle ray was darting about and a big turtle scooted past. In the tunnel itself, this time swimming against the current, we saw a few black and white-tipped sharks “up close”, a much better and satisfying experience. No hammerheads, though. We heard later from the divers that a big group of hammerheads was hanging out between the two levels of our reaches. Since the water was pretty murky and deep, not many people had the opportunity to spot them. 

Last stop on the tour was a picturesque beach called Playa Manglecito, which was very busy. All the similar tours end here and a campground on shore doubled the amount of visitors. Our group was given 45 minutes on the island, which was more than enough for a short walk along the water and getting eaten alive by massive horseflies. In the only shady spot, I collected about 30 mosquito bites.  Are you allowed to kill biting bugs in the Galapagos? We were all dropped off at our respective sailboats around 16:00. Not wanting to get rid of that rare vacation feeling, we met Bill and Caroline in town for a BYO drink near the sea lion colony and a $3 dinner (soup, main dish and juice) in a local restaurant. That´s when “the bug” hit Bill after going around the anchorage for a couple of weeks already. Soon thereafter, it was Mark´s turn. The rest of us hope not to get affected by this flu-like disease…

Our group of cruisers on the way to some snorkeling and diving fun

Curious and playful, young sea lion

Kicker Rock

Kicker Rock, seen from Manglecito Beach

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