Sea lions litter the esplanade of San Cristobal. Like drunken
louts they lie passed out in awkward positions wherever they fall
on the boardwalk and beachfront each evening.
I kept calling them seals but was told that they are in fact sea
So what's the difference between a sea lion and seal?
Well, one has external ears and big flipper feet... and the
other is big, black and a platinum record-selling musician... ok,
bad joke! The sea lions at Galapagos may be lazy out of the water
but I soon learned they were capable of back-bending acrobatics
under the surface.
Our first snorkeling spot for the day was a natural swimming
pool formed by a circle of black volcanic rock with a white sand
floor. We had been told to be on the lookout for sea lions and
within minutes of entering the ocean three flippered friends swam
up to meet me.
They ducked and dived, spun in circles under the water and blew
bubbles at me in the aqua blue water. They were almost the length
of my body and were three times as wide but they were able to glide
between rocks with grace and speed. There must have been 20 of them
zigzagging between us.
Their eyes were like giant marbles rolling around, clocking our
It's a little too early to call but swimming with these curious
whiskered creatures could be the highlight of my Galakiwi trip - it
was such an incredible experience. Swimming back to the boat I got
within a metre of a sea iguana, the only iguana in the world that
stayed in the water, rather than evolving to live on land. He
looked like he belonged to a different, prehistoric world with
speckled scales and sharp Mohawk of spines on his back.
Our next snorkel spot was Kicker Rock, formed by lava eruptions
and erosion millions of years ago. It juts out of the water like a
foot kicking the ocean and it's a favourite hang-out for teenage
sharks and grandpa tortoises.
The sheer cliff drop-off is home to millions of technicoloured
fish with hot pink lipstick, canary yellow eyes and dots and
stripes all over. We kicked our way through the channel between the
two rocks and I was lucky enough to see one white tipped and two
black tipped reef sharks swimming below. Who knew a shark could be
a creature of beauty, rather than just inciting terror like in the
On the other side of the rock we played with fur seals who were
keen to show us their tricks.
We were also privy to the mating ritual of the frigate birds.
The male has a large red sack under his beak that inflates like a
balloon when he is aroused and trying to attract a mate. While he's
in mating-mode, in true male fashion he can't think of anything
else. He doesn't hunt, he doesn't eat, he probably doesn't take out
the trash, he just sits their waiting for a woman to be seduced by
his big balloon. He can last for up to a week before he gives up
and resigns himself to a life of bachelorhood and TV dinners.
We saw the male sitting in the green trees with his red balloon
all puffed and females circling above checking him out but playing
I know growing up in New Zealand I had zero appreciation of the
beauty that surrounded me. It wasn't until I started travelling and
people comment what an unspoiled paradise it was that it started to
sink in. It's similar here in the Galapagos, imagine if you grew up
somewhere where it's normal to sit next to a sea lion on a park
bench or to ride a sea turtle to school, you'd expect it was the
same everywhere. So moving forward, there is a big push to educate
local people about the treasures they possess and how to protect
and nurture them for future generations.
For dinner we went to a local bbq joint where you select your
meat and then it gets thrown on the grill. I selected this Angelina
Jolie look-a-like with big pouty lips, caught fresh and it just
flaked off the fork.
For more stories and pics check out:
Galapagos Part 1: Quito to San Cristobal
Thanks to Linda for the underwater camera shots.