Monday June 1, 2009
Today we packed up and boarded our Aerogal flight to the Galápagos Islands! We arrived in San Cristóbal around noon. The airport is nothing more than a single, paved runway with a small, covered pavilion as a waiting area. Here, our bodies and luggage were hosed down with disinfectant before being thrown onto a bus with our fellow Seaman II passengers for a short ride to the harbor. We then took our first short panga (Zodiac boat) ride to our new home for the next 8 days, the motor catamaran Seaman II. The boat was really beautiful – it had a large, main living area with a large couch, dining table, and bar area, and there were two sun decks with chaise lounges, both shaded and open. Our cabin was #8, one of two upper-level cabins with a double bed, while the other six cabins were on the main deck (with two twin beds in each).
After a briefing about our trip and quick emergency life jacket drill, we headed for a short sail to our first destination, León Dormido (sleeping lion rock). It was a stunning monolith rising 148 meters from the Pacific Ocean. There was nothing else around but the calm water and our boat. Here we saw tropic birds flying overhead, and Nazca boobies scattered along the rock. We also saw a green sea turtle, sea lions, and a couple of fin whales. As we began our journey, Daniel Gordillo, our guide, said we would be lucky to see a whale at all… interesting that it was the first thing we saw. There were also many nesting frigate birds atop the rock, an ideal place for some sunshine and solitude.
After sailing around León Dormido, it was another short sail to our second destination, Isla Lobos (sea lion island). This was a small islet across the channel from San Cristóbal, and its rocks were indeed covered with sea lions. We put on our snorkeling gear and jumped off the panga into the vibrant, clear sea where we saw several types of tropical fish, and large rocks with sea urchins scattered about. Stephan then pointed out an enormous stingray among the rocks. Soon enough, some young sea lions decided to join us in the water. The pups were extremely playful – swimming circles around us and splashing their fins. They would zip around, get within inches of our face masks, stare at us with their big, dark eyes, and then dart away. One of the babies delighted in teasing a small ray on the sea bottom, nudging it incessantly from behind with its nose. Such an incredible experience!