another awesome day on the galapagos

  • the islands
  • lava
  • lava tunnel
  • lava crater
  • lava rocks - they aint heavy
  • lava rocks - they aint heavy
  • the snorkelling spot
  • submerged volcanic crater
  • lunch with a view
  • seals
  • their dance
  • some sort of ray
  • starfish - not the chocolate kind
  • loads of fish
  • self shot
  • closeup
  • upside down seal
  • cheeky fella
  • sleepy fella
  • brain-like coral
  • white tip reef shark swimming away
  • feeding frenzy
  • blowfish?
  • penguins.....and banana hammock
  • bird gliding with us
  • bird gliding with us

This morning, the 10th of August, I got picked up at 5am to board a boat to Bartolome, one of the islands 3 hours away from Santa Cruz. The plan for the day was to visit the volcanic island and see a few dry lava streams, followed by snorkeling in the torquoise waters surrounding the island. At $115 for the day I had high expectations, and Bartolome didn't fail to deliver.

At first I though the day was gonna be hard work because I was the only english speaking person on board. The rest was a group of Italians on a package holiday, who didn't really speak Spanish. They turned out to be great fun. During the 3 hour trip to the island it was kind of a case of 20 questions, when they found out that I was a South African traveller - one of the ladies on board told me they initially thought I was one of the Ecuadorians working on the boat. They were all pretty excited to be speaking to a traveller as opposed to somebody on a package holiday. And for the next 3 hours, in a combination of Spanish and Italian I shared stories with them about my trip so far and they tried to sell me Italy. They were very surprised when I told them I was travelling alone and that I quite enjoyed the whole travelling alone thing with no major plan. The one guy Luigi, probably in his 50s, is a scuba instructor, so me an him spoke for about half an hour about diving - still not sure how we managed to hold that conversation not speaking a mutual language, but we seemed to both understand exactly what the other was saying. Great bunch of people and I've invited them to stay with me if they come to see Italy get whipped in the World Cup next year. On the way to the island a hammerhead shark swam past our boat - finally I got to see one, albeit from a boat.

The island was pretty interesting. It's one of the younger islands in the group at only about 100 milliions years old. Also, the last erruption in the neighbouring island was a mere 140 years ago. The guide gave us loads of info about the volcanoes and the wildlife on the island, which mostly consists of penguins, iguanas, lava lizards and seals. I also got to pick up a larva rock, which is deceptively light because of all the gas present during the erruption. All in all, a very informative and pleasant walk around the island. After the walk, we got back onto our boat and headed for a cove where we would be snorkelling. We had 2 choices, we could either get dropped off at the beach and swim out to the cove and back, or get dropped off right in the middle of the cove and take our time to swim back. I chose the second option figuring being in the deeper water would mean more to see.

We jumped in and straight away we were surrounded by loads of tropical fish. I had bought a disposable underwater camera the day before and figured the 27 shots I could take would be more than enough - I was wrong. As soon as I dived a bit deeper to about 4 meters I was already going snap-happy. 5 minutes into the dive I spotted a ray lying on the sand about 3 meters below. I dived down and got as close to it as possible for a good shot - at the time of writing this I'm still waiting for the shots to be developed so I have no idea how they came out.

After this I swam around to a rock in the middle of the water and suddenly there were 2 sea lions right next to me. I don't know much about these guys, but to me it seemed like they were doing some sort of corting swim/dance. They were swimming around eachother not so much in a playful way but more of a soft, sensual dance. They got so close to me I could have touched them, but they are known to take a little nip at your hands if you do reach out for them. I swam with them for ages, just admiring how elegant they were in the water, deceptively so, considering how clumsy they look on land.

After a while I swam away, and carried on snapping colourful fish. I swam up to a massive school of what seemed like angel fish, or something similar. They were having a bit of a feeding frenzy. When I came up, there was a marine iguana swimming about 2 meters away from me, so I swam up to it and got what I hope is a good photo. I was alone at the time as the older fellas had started heading back to the beach. I then dived down to about 2 meters and to my huge surprise, a white tipped reef shark, swam past me about a meter and a half below me and about the same distance to the left. I didn't have the camera ready, and immediately dived deeper to get closer to it while I got the camera ready. These guys might be more scared of us than we are of them, as I got closer he started swimming away faster and I think and hope I still managed to get a photo of him. I wasn't scared - if anything I was hugely excited to swim with one because not only is it an amazingly beautiful creature, but it also made me realise that I need not worry about these particular ones, who are very common in the islands, while I'm surfing.

While swimming back to the beach I saw loads more fish, including a blowfish. On exiting to the beach, I saw 3 little penguins swimming around. I had stupidly used my last photo to take a cheesy self photo in the water, so I had to run to my bag on the beach for my camera phone to try get a shot of these little dudes.

After the snorkel, we had lunch on the boat. And headed back to the main island. On the way back I was tired and decided to have a nap on one of the benches while listening to some tunes. I should have known better than to lie down on a loose bench during rocky seas. As I started falling asleep, I felt myself rolling over, but I figured it was just the boat tilting slightly, and before I knew it the bench had rolled over and I hit the deck with a huge bank. I cracked up laughing and all the Italians joined me in pissing themselves laughing. All the way back to the island, we were followed by massive sea birds, that glided so close our boat that it seemed like they were going to get on board. The Italians were absolutely loving it.

In the evening I bumped into a girl I had met in Mancora and she invited me to dinner with her and her Canadian friend. Didn't recognise her friend until we got to chatiing and she said she remembered me from Mancora and could not forget the site of me and the other guys wearing nappies at the 80s party. She also told me another story concerning me and Mancora that I will not share on here.....

Today's experience made me decide to move onto Isla Isabella tomorrow, for more snorkelling and diving, rather than chasing the good surf in San Cristobal. I don't want to miss out on the opportunity of seeing more of the stuff I saw today. My boat only leaves at 2pm so it gives me enough time to go for an early morning surf before checking out.