Peering out my curtains, a mauve sunrise greeted me. Arriving into Cerro Brujo, a breathtaking white beach, by wet landing (a wet landing is where you slide over the side of the side of the panga into the water, usually knee deep or so) and began a gentle stroll along the sandy shoreline which offered views to forever and amazing bird watching opportunities.
Families of sea lions dotted the shores as they lazed carefree, looking like large boulders, scarlet Sally Lightfoot crabs scattered themselves over the jagged lava. The rough ocean threw its force forth attempting to wash them off, but to no avail. They clung on with Spiderman like grip.
It was a casual, slow paced morning of discovery as we all walked at our own pace and took in what was of most interest to us individually. Behind the white sandy bay, bubbled but rigid rusty red lava had once flowed and solidified. Scattered sparsely with straggly bushes, only occasionally was there a splash of living green. Stark frightful cacti pierced the lunar like landscape, making it seem that simply by turning 90 degrees, you were in another world or perhaps on another island.
We were not to explore this area though. These were the sea turtles breeding grounds.
Walking back along the talcum like sand, toes sinking, ankles lapped by turquoise waters, it was time to suit up in our 3mm wetsuits, grab a snorkel and hit the water.
I had barely put my fins on let alone submerged myself into the water, when a playful and inquisitive sea lion came to join us. He glided alongside us, weaved in and out, sniffed our GoPro camera and had a little nibble on the tip of my fin. He popped his head up right in front of mine as if to say ‘hello’ and then tempted you to chase him as he swirled, twirled and flipped with acrobatic precision.
Following lunch, it was time for a ‘power hike’. We had moved onto Punta Pitt, a tuff formation that serves as a nesting site for many sea birds including all three types of boobies, both frigate species, swallow-tailed gulls, Storm Petrels, Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans and of course colonies of sea lions. Punta Pitt is considered to be a first class site on par with Genovesa Island. We arrived via another wet landing. Leaving our snorkelling gear on the shore, we headed inland in search of the elusive Red Footed Boobie.
The scenery here was a photographers dream. Barron, sun burnt orange and desert like. I would compare it to a US country and western type scene. Jagged peaks, spiky catci, fiery orange rock with olive green plant life. It was rocky, crumbly and dry.
The hike was narrow and steep. The path uneven and punctuated with boulders. We came across two small snakes (non-venomous I am told) and a plethora of bird life the higher we climbed.
That was until we crossed the ridge at the top of this cliff face.
Suddenly, it was black lava, spread as far as the eye could see, covered in vivid red ‘Galapagos carpet’ and citrus green succulents. The contrasting colours were spectacular. The trees, still leafless and lifeless in appearance with tangled clusters of dead branches.
‘Shhhhhh!’ we were suddenly told as our naturalist pointed towards one of the trees.
There nesting, were two Red Footed Boobies. Barely visible by the strangling, twisted branches, we waited patiently for the Boobie to reveal her feet.
With a million attempts to snap a photo of a bird in a tree hidden by branches, we moved on and found two more nesting in the open with cracked eggs at the bottom of their foliage piles.
We descended from our power hike and made our way to the beach for one last snorkel of the day.
The water was choppier than the beach we swam at earlier. My hopes for descent visibility were fading. We pulled on our wetsuits and ventured into the waves. Nope. Couldn’t see a thing. A couple of surgeon fish and one or two King Angels but that was it.
Then, there he was. A little sea lion pup, less than a month old, calling for his mum who was nowhere to be found came waddling towards a few of our group members who were sitting on the breaking shoreline in their wetsuits, clearly looking very sea lion like. Perhaps he thought we were one of them? He came closer and closer calling for food and stopped less than 10cm away from us. He was inquisitive but cautious. He slowly approached each of us with a gentle bark as if to ask ‘Are you my Mummy?’ Unfortunately none of us could assist him with his search for Mum and food, but we delighted in him spending time waddling between us and it was difficult not to put your hand out and give him a scratch under the chin or a cuddle. He was simply adorable.
When we were of no use to him, he waddled passed us to the nearest end of the beach where a lone sea lion was basking in the sun. The pup called as he approached and was barked off by the larger solitary sea lion. He then turned around and saw us all again still sitting in the water and came running towards us as fast as his little fins could carry him on the sand only to realise again, that we are not his Mummy either and we cannot help. He continued on his mission to the far end of the beach where a cluster of six sea lions laid, huddled together, snuggling. Fins over each other, noses kissing. As the pup approached each one individually, he was rejected, barked at, snapped at, snarled at, aggressive fins swiped at him and pushed him away. It was heart breaking.
There was one last lone sea lion left sleeping against the cliff face. He slowly waddled over for one last shot, and unfortunately, no this story didn’t have a happy ending. That was not his mother either. It was heart wrenchingly devastating to witness.
It was time for us to return to the ship, none of us wanting to leave this little bubba behind, but our naturalist assured us that his mother had just gone fishing…
Crooked Compass travelled with Ecoventura on board MY Eric.
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!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.