Galapagos Diaries - Day 1 - San Cristobal

Posted by Lisa Pagotto

Heading off on our cruise
Heading off on our cruise

Cruising in the Galapagos and getting my David Attenborough on has been on my bucket list since I first learnt of these enchanted islands. To visit one of the planets most treasured and unique ecosystems and experience intimate encounters with an extraordinary profusion of exotic wildlife, both on land and in the sea.

Read on to learn about my experiences of nature walks, wildlife encounters, photography, bird watching, snorkelling, kayaking, panga (dingy/zodiac) rides and star gazing.

Sea lions laze on the rocks, snoring gently, soaking in the late morning sun. Young pups chase and tease each other emerging silky smooth and shiny as they slither onto the rocks which camouflage them so well. Vibrant Sally Light Foot crabs the size of a hand span, sling the black volcanic rocks like spiders of the sea. Their colours contrasting so beautifully to turquoise waters. Small marine iguanas are difficult to distinguish on the rocks, but they too are roasting themselves in the beaming rays. A large sea turtle glides past and swirls in circles as we all gasp and snap away with our cameras. It must be at least a metre deep but the visibility is just like looking through glass. Frigate birds flap overhead. Some jet black like soaring bullets, others with brilliant splashes of red. Already my camera is working in overdrive and this is only at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the port on arrival.

First wildlife spotting
First wildlife spotting

As we wait eagerly for our pangas to putt into shore and collect us, we have a few moments to explore the port. It is clear that sea lions rule this town. They a slumped into blobs along park benches, underneath jetties in gutters on the streets and anywhere they can catch a glimpse of the sun’s rays.

So many ships
So many ships

Excuse me... you're blocking the way to our boat
Excuse me... you're blocking the way to our boat

We zip out to our vessel where we receive our briefing and perform a safety drill. Following a delicious seafood lunch, we are back in the pangas and whizzed back to shore where we begin a short rocky walk through volcanic landscapes towered by leafless trees with twisted branches creating an eerie almost horror like landscape. Green cacti jut sharply upward between these lifeless trees which in fact are not dead at all. Climbing over crumbled grey lava and pumice, we emerge onto an open beach known colloquially as 'Lovers Beach'. To our left, we are advised not to touch the stunningly drooping green tree with small buds on it. This is a poisonous apple tree. The only poisonous tree in the Galapagos. The tree is beautiful and has created a canopy with the way its branches bow and fold. Two young rebellious teens sit beneath its curtain of leaves and I can’t help but think of a bit of an Adam and Eve type scenario here.

Through the twig forest....
Through the twig forest....

Spanned in front of us across a chunky sanded beach, littered with tiny shells and sea urchin spines are hundreds of sea lions. Babys, mammas, daddas and everything in between. This beach is crowded. Their dog like bark, the crunch of the sand, click of cameras, squeals of excitement and the crash of the gentle waves make this a buzzing beach. There are a lot of tourists. It is a Sunday and all the locals are here for a dip. Waves rumble and crash on the nearby reef which borders the cove we are in. It is dotted with surfers on the curling waves. The shallow clear waters are teeming with children and enthusiastic snorkellers.

And onto the course sand
And onto the course sand

The elder sea lions roll around in the sand and sleep in clusters. The boisterous teenagers antagonise. Chasing and nipping at each other diving beneath the surface, zig zagging and frolicking in the waves. A handful body surf on the lazy rollers like pros, so streamline and sleek before lazing in the shallow waters letting the gentle waves crash over them, providing a gentle massage before rolling and squirming in the sandy shore waters for a fully body exfoliation.

Sea Lions galore!
Sea Lions galore!

Marine Iguanas hide precariously in the rocks, between the hundreds of sea lions. Easily identifiable on the sand by the trails their tales leave, these Jurassic cuties are just creepily adorable. Pre-historic looking with funky looking mo-hawks, they jut out their little pink tongue and repeatedly nods their heads as if to advise you that yes, of course you can take my picture. A squirt of sea water bursts out of their nose every now and then. These dudes are fascinating to watch.

Hello first marine iguana
Hello first marine iguana

>Super baby sea lion pups, less than a month old are the main highlight though. Their large innocent round, brown eyes give you that puppy dog look as they chase you waddling up the beach wanting to play.

Baby sea lion
Baby sea lion

We spend some time with these stunning animals. Taking photos and watching them in awe at their lack of fear and inquisitiveness of the humans that surround them. A whispering sea breeze floats through, making my skin tingle. I really am here in paradise.

'Breaded' baby sea lion and mum close by
'Breaded' baby sea lion and mum close by

Many of them are covered in the sand giving them a ‘breaded’ look as though they have rolled around in bread crumbs. They are just too cute.

Say cheese
Say cheese

Our proximity to the animals is to keep two metres away at all times. I hunker down in the sand, five metres from a large ‘breaded’ sea lion who is sleeping. As I poise myself to frame the perfect shot, he is up and chasing me. Boy, do they move quick! He’s almost at my ankles by the time I manage to get out of the sand and onto my feet to make a break for it.

The beach
The beach

Meandering back across the beach, weaving between sea lions and huffing iguanas, we climb back onto our bus and head back into to town to collect any last minute supplies such as sunscreen. The sea lions are still controlling the town.

Waiting for the local bus
Waiting for the local bus

Back on board the pangas, its time to hit the sun deck and watch the sunset. The sky melts into a swirl of brilliant burnt oranges. The crashing waves over the reef with the silhouette of surfers punctuating the cresting waves, creates the perfect sunset photo opportunity and the end to a brilliant  first day.

Crooked Compass travelled with Ecoventura on board MY Eric.

Sunset on day one
Sunset on day one

Looking for more Animal Encounters or Natural Phenomena to include in your travels? Download and search the Crooked Compass Travel App for inspiration or join our next Galapagos Expedition!