Galapagos: Interpreting San Cristobal

Days: 244

Total distance travelled: 46,917.6 kilometres (29,141.37 miles)

Although we’d in fact travelled to the waters off San Cristobal the previous afternoon (after our frolic on the beaches of Gardeners Bay), but for a few hardy souls who decided to head to shore that first evening (in fact all of the older passengers), it wasn’t until the following morning that we made shore.

The morning started with a mixture of fear and awe, as on the wharf beside where we docked, a posse of locals were busy unloading a barge, and as part of the process were rather cavalier in their manner of tossing beer from ship to shore.

I can allay all your fears now.

None was broken whilst we watched, and I remain unaware of any beer shortages across the islands!

It was but a short walk from where we set foot on land to the Galapagos Interpretation Centre.

Whilst the majority of activities and sites on the islands focuses on the unique fauna, & occasionally the flora, this centre focuses on the settled history of the islands, tracing settlement back to the days of discovery, the whaling period when many island populations of tortoises were decimated, all the way through to more recent times, and the impact that living amongst a UNESCO World Heritage site has had on the local population.

After Victor (if you haven’t read our previous Galapagos posts, he’s our guide) finished his spiel, we had some time to wander the attached museum before deciding how to spend the next couple of hours which had been designated free time.

Some folks decided to head straight into town, however Sarah & I opted to check out some of the walking trails immediately behind the centre.

This was basically a 2km loop, which we figured was an easy way to pass some of the time before we needed to head back to the boat.

Walking despite heat through this scrubby terrain

Walking, despite heat, through this scrubby terrain

With one of the better trails we’d set foot on throughout this whole trip before us, although we were hot, the walk was certainly not difficult, and in truth it was a bit of mystery why they would suggest that it could be an hour and a half round trip.

Hardly towering, but still prominent in the relatively flat surrounds sat a hill, & it was here that the path ultimately lead, with us soon perspiring even more as we climbed the wooden stairs which replaced the path during the ascent.

The views from up here, taking in Cerro Tijeretas (the bay below) & the distant Kicker Rock, were quite lovely.

The beautiful Cerro Tijeretas & a distant Kicker Rock

The beautiful Cerro Tijeretas & a distant Kicker Rock (on the horizon)

Once we’d had our fill of the view, we made the descent and completed our circuit, taking in a statuesque monument to Darwin (Charles that is) along the way, as well as an old military anti-aircraft gun which I at first wrongly assumed was a relic from the 2nd World War (turns it it was dedicated to Ecuadorian Navy in the 1970’s).

The stroll into town was a pleasant enough one and we took the opportunity to sound out a few dive operators for prices whilst we were there, just to help us decide which of the islands, Santa Cruz, Isabela or San Cristobal would be our best option as it was certainly something we were eager to be a part of.

We ultimately walked away still undecided (the prices were about the same as Santa Cruz), but we did manage to grab ourselves an Ice-cream and a Galapagos patch for our souvenir collection.

Our motley posse of global travellers met on the dock, & we were shortly ferried out to our vessel, the sight of many small craft covered in barbed wire so as to prevent boarding from sea lions a slight dampener on our jovial spirits.

Post lunch (or possibly whilst we consumed lunch), the Floreana sailed a little further around San Cristobal until we reached Lobos Island.

Another shore excursion beckoned, & it was an immediately rewarding one, as upon landing we promptly spied our first puffed up, male Frigate bird.

Pretty soon the sobering reality of island life became very apparent, the carcass of a young sea lion that was likely abandoned by its mother a reminder of how unforgiving, despite its beauty, this place can be…

The harsh reality of Galapagos life

The harsh reality of Galapagos life

Just as this rare sad sight became etched in our minds, another, rarer by more exciting image was presented to us.

We’d been told that a sea lion mother will usually only raise and nurse a single cub at a time, so when we found ourselves privileged enough to witness 1 mother feeding 2 young of markedly different ages, it felt like something special indeed!

Motherly love: The unusual sight of 2 pups feeding from 1 mother

Motherly love: The unusual sight of 2 pups feeding from 1 mother

We’d already felt that this island had delivered, after all, nowhere else had we seen the male Frigate birds in the balloon like red livery.

Lobos Island however, certainly didn’t disappoint in this regard, with many spotted amongst the trees with new mates, whilst others flew overhead, their bags ready to inflate at the sign of a sweet chick.

For us, a must see. Courting Frigate birds in the red finery

For us, a must see. A courting male Frigate bird in its red finery

Late afternoon saw us back alongside Lobos Island, again courtesy of the Floreana’s Zodiacs.

This time however, landfall was not our intent.

We were here, snorkels and fins in hand, ready to take a dip alongside these wonderful animals.

Visibility wasn’t perfect, a combination of the time of day and depth of the water causing a few problems from time to time (with the water being so shallow, it was quite common for someone to disturb the sand with their fins/flippers).

Still, it was a pretty cool place to be… although I might controversially suggest that our time at Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez was better!

 

Notes:

* Our cruise on the ‘Floreana’ cost us $1,225.00 US per person for 5 nights/6 days.

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12 Responses to Galapagos: Interpreting San Cristobal

  1. Karla says:

    That mother nursing the seals was a precious moment seems like the island kept giving you more and more. I like places like that

  2. Nature is such a wonderful thing, and there is no place better to see it in its pure form than the Galspagos. Thx for sharing your adventures with us.

  3. I actually enjoyed the interpretation and research centers on the islands. It was really nice to see people working away at helping preserve this very special place

  4. natalietanner says:

    Love the photo of the bird. He was clearly putting on his most handsome look. 😉 Love all the details of the islands!

  5. How special to see the mother nursing two pups. And the puffed up Frigate….how very cool !

  6. elizabeth says:

    The bird picture is fantastic. I hope to make it there myself one day.

  7. theglobewanderers says:

    Wow – what an incredible experience. How lucky you were to witness the two pups feeding from their mother – bet not many people can say they’ve seen a sight like that! And to have that followed by seeing the red bag of the frigate bird – you lucky devils! 🙂 Great post… such an amazing place. I’m inspired :).

    Gabby

  8. Chris, do you have a DIY or budget Galapagos post? I am currently in Baños and wanting to make my way there!

  9. This broke my heart! Nature is though. I recently learned how turtles lay eggs and leave them with only 1 in 100 surviving. Waaah!

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty tough out there and can be very confronting! We thankfully had the good fortune (speaking of turtles) to be able to help release a whole batch of newly hatched turtles into the sea in El Salvador! 🙂

  10. Galapagos is one of my dreams to visit! I absolutely love nature and animals.

    That bird – so gorgeous! I love how you capture it in the brush 🙂 Dashing little thing, isn’t it? 😉

  11. What an incredible experience! The mother sea lion nursing is such a special sight. The 2km circuit was such a special find too – just the sort of thing we look for while travelling! We’ll be noting these islands for when (fingers crossed) we make our way to the Galapagos.

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