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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 407-410 – Ecuador – Galapagos – Island Tour – Part 1 – San Cristobal

We’d latched on a snorkelling trip in advance of the tour to San Cristobal which required us to be at Joybe Tours for 6am so after a hastily scrammed bowl of granola and some last minute arrangements we set out with Marleen (who was going with us) and Dennis (who was off diving early anyway).

As we’d expected 6am was really closer to 7 but we met our fellow day trippers including Gabby & Kristel, two nurses that were on a break from volunteering in Ecuador and happened to be following us onto the cruise that evening. We grabbed our snorkel gear and set out to the port where we boarded our boat for the two-hour journey to San Cristobal. The majority of the seating was inside which didn’t do a few of the inhabitants any favours, the meagre breakfasts they had managed to acquire soon with the fishes.

We reached San Cristobal and after sorting a few bits of equipment were ferried round to La Loberia. This was a beach with a large Sea Lion colony including many recently born pups. While initially concerned over how close we should allow ourselves to encroach upon their group (for their sake, not ours) it soon became apparent that they were quite comfortable with us wandering among them – indeed it was often left to us to shift ourselves as the more curious individuals of the group flopped over to get to know us. I was in photo heaven – these beautiful creatures just going about their day-to-day was enough to enthral. We were able to comfortably get within a meter or so of them while the Alpha male swam up and down the coastline honking his dominance to any would be challengers.

I took a quick wander out to see a few of the islands’ Marine Iguanas (Marine Iguanas, like Llamas, can never be over-indulged in) before we all wandered back under the heat of the late morning sun to the pickup point for a transfer back to town for lunch. After a nice meal it was back to the boat for a chug out to Kicker rock, an iconic island and spire seen on many a postcard. After a quick circuit in the boat it was snorkel gear on (including very necessary wetsuits) and into the deep.

Within moments we could see loads of sharks swimming beneath and alongside us – while I don’t think they were white or black tip reef sharks I confess I don’t know if they were Galapagos Sharks or not. We also saw Eagle Rays doing the rounds but the sheer number of sharks was the highlight. If I remember rightly Gaby was relatively new to snorkelling and while a few of us maintained a casual vigil to be certain she was comfortable I confess I took great delight in advising her to take a look down early in the dive – I’m not sure what it says about me that I find comedy value in seeing peoples’ faces when they realise they’re surrounded by sharks.

In fairness sharks are so serene and beautiful that before long Gaby was just as fascinated as the rest of us. The fear manufactured of the species is sad really – according to handy stat ol’ Google just offered up from the CDC in the US you’re 20 times more likely to be killed by a cow over there. Tis usually only surfers that get offed by them anyway, and if you’re going to put yourself on the menu on a daily basis I’m not entirely convinced you have any right to being affronted when a starving animal that your own species is pushing to extinction tries to take a bite out of you.

Back on the boat we were off to our final spot of the day for a much shallower snorkel complete with numerous turtles of many sizes and a couple of personal highlights in the form of big Marine Iguanas feeding underwater – I never thought I’d see that and it was a change from their usual chilled out sunbathing.

Back on the boat it was back to port where the day trip ended and they dropped the four of us that were cruising directly at our vessel – the Catamaran Galapagos Vision.

Only the crew were aboard at the time in the midst of restocking – the guide and remaining new passengers were due later while the few that were already on the cruise were having free time in San Cristobal. After meeting Douglas, our ‘Capitan’, we were assigned our rooms; our negotiations had secured us a room with a shower while Gaby and Kristel were not so lucky but immediately offered free reign over ours whenever they wanted it. We were also overjoyed to discover that it was a hot shower – an unexpected but welcome surprise.

We met the cheeky Chef, Gallo, and the sailors Marvin, Paul and Edwin and were offered to return to the mainland while they completed the preparations for the tour. We gratefully accepted and moments later were sat in a bar supping a welcome (well, when isn’t it?) cerveza while the sun set.

A few drinks later the four of us made our way to the meeting point to meet Marvin and our guide Danny. Danny had spent a few years studying in Sacramento, California and consequently spoke spectacular English. Add to this the fact that over the course of the cruise he would prove to be not only the most knowledgeable, capable and interesting guide I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet but also a cool guy besides and it was an all-round win.

He explained that the rest of the passengers were already on board and that dinner was just about ready so we hopped our slightly fuzzy-headed selves on the ship’s ferrying boat, The Zodiac, and sped over. Once aboard we met Alain from Switzerland, Ubay from Spain, Sofie from Sweden, Maren from Germany and Jaap from Holland. The chef produced a great meal that was to prove an indication of the high quality of food we were to be accustomed to over the course of the voyage and we all set about getting to know each other.

After food Danny briefed us on the plan for the next day in Espanola before offering us the opportunity to return to port for a few hours and enjoy the luxuries of civilization (bars) for a little longer as it would be the only night on the trip we’d be able to. We agreed en masse and hopped aboard the Zodiac along with Edwin & Danny and visited a couple of bars sinking beers, playing pool and generally getting to know each other better.

Within seconds of our return to the boat I was out like a light.