Galapagos: ultimate nature adventure, day 5

By Ian Connellan 8 November 2013
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On day 5, expeditioners head to Isla San Cristóbal, home to masses of sea lions and white, sandy beaches.

Day 5AG editor Ian Connellan tours the Galápagos
Islands, off the coast of South America.

Puerto Ayora and wake to views of an empty bay on the western side of Isla San Cristóbal.

The morning sky is grey, not an unusual Galápagos sight at this time of year, Roberto tells us, just before the wet season begins. Most days the equatorial sun burns off the clouds by mid morning.

We begin the day’s exploration with a panga cruise along the sea-cliff face and into some of the sea caves beneath Witch Hill. Having sea lions swimming or feeding near the boats, and watching turtles surface for a gasp of breath, have become almost commonplace. The highlight is a sea-sculpted tunnel through which we motor and enjoy wonderful views of distant Kicker Rock (which most Galápagueños call Leon Dormida – the sleeping lion).

We head ashore afterwards for a walk on a very pretty, white-sand beach – quite a contrast to the lava-rock or black-sand beaches we’ve seen before. We find some empty Sally Lightfoot crab shells almost immediately, and Roberto explains that they shed their shells several times throughout life. “They make a slippery froth, it’s almost like detergent, and slip out o the old shell,” he says.

Further along the beach there are furtive ghost crabs and, inevitably, sea lions, including several pups and young males – a couple of which make the most of our company when we swim and snorkel later.

Jodie has the closest contact yet with a sea lion: “A playful young one swam up behind me and sucked on my flipper,” she says once back on the beach.

Debby decides she’s over snorkelling for the moment and swims some laps in the azure waters, and Gail sees a manta ray. We head back aboard San Jose for a leisurely lunch and motor around Kicker Rock where we see a number of birds, but are particularly drawn to species we haven’t seen before: red-tailed tropicbirds and storm petrels.

Mid-afternoon we moor at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town on San Cristóbal and the seat of government for the Galápagos province. We’re ashore again quickly, this time to visit the modern Interpretation Centre just of north-east of town.

It’s a great introduction both to Galápagos natural and human history, the latter of which makes a fairly blood-stained and sometimes sordid story. Some of us walk back to town and some take the local pickup cabs, but we all agree – when we meet later at waterfront Café Casa Blanca for a drink, that there’s a lot to like about Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Sea lions rule its harbour, from the playas (beaches) to moored boats to the seafront promenade. The place has the laidback feel of a surf town and is indeed one of the best place in the archipelago to get a wave.

It’s another tired and happy bunch back board for dinner at 6pm, when the sun sets and night falls in the space of what feels like three minutes. 

Read more blogs in the Galápagos series

Find out more about the next Peregrine/AG trip with Ian Connellan to see Borneo’s orangutans.