San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands

June 2018

San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands

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Days Saturday and Sunday were on Santa Cruz.

Sunday

It was time for us to grab our boat transfer from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. Make sure when transferring islands to leave at least a half hour before your scheduled departure as a bag check is performed and typically a water taxi is needed to get to your boat. Several people mentioned that this luxury boat, with inside seating and air conditioning, was a smooth trip between the islands so we opted against the sea sickness medication. What a mistake.The two hour boat ride was so nauseating we could not imagine what the non-luxury boat was like, my head would have popped off. Lesson learned here!

We were met at the dock by Sharksky employee, Myra, to get our snorkel gear before arriving at our hotel, Cabanas Pimampiro. While the location was a fifteen minute walk from the downtown, our hotel room was huge and very comfortable. The Wifi here was also poor like the other areas we stayed in- Galapagos is truly a place to disconnect!

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Excited to explore Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, we dropped our bags and took off. Still nauseous from the boat ride, we skipped dinner and decided to try our luck looking for sea lions. A foolish thought in retrospective as there is no shortage of sea lions on this island!

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Playa Barrio Frio beach had hundreds of sea lions lounging about with ranging a myriad of noises emerging- it was comical! You have to check my instagram for the sounds of yelping, sneezing, coughing, moaning, and more.

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Another long day, we welcomed bedtime. My nausea was still quite prominent and woke me up a few hours into sleep. After some intense vomiting, my concern grew that this was more than sea sickness. Then the diarrhea started. A few rounds of this evacuation and I was ready for a colonoscopy- I was empty. Completely distraught at the prospect of missing tomorrow’s activities, I tried chugging water with no luck in retaining it. What on earth caused this? The mystery meat I had ten hours earlier that Kevin also ate? Did I slip with water consumption? Who knows. I packed a lot medications in case this happened since I read food poisoning/travelers diarrhea is common for travelers. I slept for a few hours hoping that in the morning, I would magically be better.

Monday

I woke up feeling unpleasant to say the least. Dehydrated and defeated, Kevin contacted Sharksky to remove us from the excursion. We were scheduled for a two hour boat ride to Espanola Island (our uninhabited island for the trip), an advanced hiking trail, a snorkel session, lunch, and a two hour boat ride back to San Cristobal. It will have to wait for another trip.

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The hotel owners, Alejandra and Fernando, were so amazing in helping me get better and at this point, I was open to trying anything. I drank oregano tea (said to calm my stomach) and they took Kevin to the pharmacy to get Pedialyte and crackers to replenish salts that water alone could not do. They were so attentive and caring, I was happy we had three nights here with these lovely people.

After several more hours of sleep and the maximum dose of Pepto Bismol and Immodium, I was feeling the need to accomplish something today. With such a limited time in this incredible place, I refused to spend another hour stuck in bed. Mind over matter.

Sharksky member Ariel met us at the hotel to offer several recommendations on things could do locally. He went above and beyond by setting up taxi service so if something happened while we were out, we could get back to the hotel quickly and left us his cell phone so we have a way of contacting if there was an urgent need or emergency. Thank you Ariel!

We decided to visit Playa Mann where we were hoping to find active sea lions. Fortunately, the beach has several dozen in the water, sunbathing on the rocks, and sleeping on the beach. Kevin brought his snorkel gear but the waves were too rough to swim. We stood in the water watching some baby sea lions playfully swim by. It was amazing getting to see these animals in action and have such a calm demeanor towards people, like dogs in a way. A sea lion that got everyone’s attention was a large one that made itself at home one someone’s towel and backpack- it looked so comfortable but I am unsure how those people got their belongings! 

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The Interpretation Center (free entry!) is across the street from Playa Mann and the exhibit showcased the geographical and natural history of the islands as well as problems the research center is working to correct. As we were exiting this area, a sudden, unexpected episode of vomit erupted- thank god we were outside. This time, I felt much better afterwards.

While I had nothing to eat other than some crackers today, Kevin still needed food! I insisted to find a place for dinner and since I was not hungry, the place was his for whatever his belly desired. To my surprise, he chose pizza at Calypso where he ordered a beer and a margarita pizza. I even ate the smallest pieces of the crust, I could not resist the smell! Pizza crust counts on the BRAT diet right? Kevin really enjoyed the pizza. We sat for awhile admiring the backdrop of sunset on the harbour- simply beautiful.

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We walked back to the hotel, I pounded some more Pedialyte, and went to bed optimistic for tomorrow.

Tuesday

I slept through the night without any episodes so we were “all systems go” for today’s excursion. We attended breakfast and while I was able to tolerate a banana, our table was also full of delicious items.

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Kicker Rock, known locally as León Dormido, is a packed volcanic ash formation that sits 500 feet above the ocean and attracts all sorts of wildlife both above and below the water.

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Before our snorkel experience, we stopped at the most beautiful beach, Cerro Brujo. Every direction was a breathtaking landscape of crystal clear waters and white powder sand.

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A short distance revealed a small bay area with several relaxing sea lions.

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With our remaining time, we walked along the water observing several pelicans and blue footed boobies diving for fish.

Our group boarded the boat for what Kevin reported as an enjoyable lunch of chicken, rice, and vegetables. I politely stuck to my BRAT diet guns- I did not want to risk feeding the animals so close to our snorkel session.

The time had come for our adventure at Kicker Rock. Our boat circled the rock formation and gave us stunning views of the swelling ocean in the crevices and myriad of birds including frigate birds and Nazca boobies.

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As my first time snorkeling, I was a bit nervous watching the ocean rising and falling around the rocks. What if the short wetsuit left me frozen in the cold ocean water? What if I got water in my goggles? What if I got tired swimming leaving me struggling in the bottomless ocean? What if I could not get the breathing down? What if I could not keep up with the group? I was regretting my lack of previous exposure as I began to watch the members of our boat jump in one at a time. Just jump off the boat into the water? I had to force myself off the side of the boat into the open ocean.

Our naturalist guide had a life ring to drag people who were not confident in their swimming so my goal jumping off the boat was to swim immediately to the bright orange circle. Feet dangling off the side of the boat, struggling to find a graceful way to enter the water, I did some combination of slipping and falling in. The cold water did not distract me from my labored, rapid breathing through the snorkel providing me life. This was not going to work out-  I slowed my breathing and my heart rate gradually lowered- long, deliberate breathes. Before I knew it, I made it to the life ring!

With the group in the water, we began our swim. At first I clung to the life ring as if I was never letting go but gradually I gained confidence in my breathing and acclaimed to the fluid motion with the fins. The watersuit helped create some buoyancy where I forgot all about floating. Before I knew it, several minutes later, I was unattached to the life ring focused on all the life below.

We passed hundreds of different fish varying in colors and size. Several minutes of nothingness were ahead of our naturalist guide’s muffled voice attempting to get our attention- shark. Below us no more than 12 feet swam a Galapagos shark! Completely uninterested in us, the shark continued on its way swimming the opposite direction of the group as we passed by.

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A few feet in front of the shark were two sea lions dancing in the water swirling around each other.

The group continued down the crevice in hopes of spotting a hammerhead shark but none were identified from the surface at this time.

Next we stayed close to the rock observing more fish and coral before spotting several sea turtles majestically gliding through the ocean.

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After an hour in the water, we made our way back to the boat concluding our snorkel session at Kicker Rock. As I sat down curled up in a towel, I could not believe what we just did. I snorkeled in open ocean with sharks, sea lions, fish, and sea turtles- all while being sick- feel like I conquered the world- I was so proud of myself.

A 45 minute boat ride took us back to the dock at San Cristobal, returning back to our hotel to rinse the salty sea water before venturing out for the evening. Before we ate dinner, we decided to Frigate Hill just beyond the Interpretation Center a short walk away. I was low on energy so gazing up at the endless staircase to reach the top was daunting but with no rush, I took one step at a time, and the view at the top was incredible.

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In the distance to the right, an outline of Kicker Rock stood tall against a pink sky. We gazed around at the setting sun, spotting the frigate birds gliding like kites, never needing the flap their wings. Tree branches rested below us that served as resting places for the frigate birds, giving us a front row seat for the birds coming in for a landing.

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It was the perfect view atop Frigate Hill as we watched day transform into night. The path up to the hill was unlite we so left just as the sun disappeared from the horizon.

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Exhausted from a long, active day, we walked along Playa Barrio Frio beach to see our sea lion friends one last time before turning in for bed.

Wednesday

All packed up, it was time to say goodbye to San Cristobal Island. Sharksky charter two planes to take us and a large group from Barcelona to take us to Isabela Island. We had breakfast provided by the hotel owner (I upgraded to toast with Ecuadorian chocolate hazelnut spread that rivals Nutella- taking risks!) before we shuttled to the airport. Taking bets on how small the plane was, the ten minute drive dropped us off at the gate for handwritten plane tickets and diligent weighing of luggage.

After a short wait, we were led outside to our two ten people puddle jumpers. We filed in and enjoyed our 45 minute plane ride as the pilot pointed out each island as we flew by.

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Continue reading for Isabela.

Days Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were on Isabela.

Days Friday and Saturday were on Santa Cruz,

 

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Sunday Afternoon Boat from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal Island
Evening Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Playa Barrio Frio

Monday Morning            Sick =( Breakfast with Cabanas Pimampiro
Afternoon
Evening Playa Mann, Interpretation Center Calypso
Tuesday Morning Kicker Rock excursion Breakfast with Cabanas Pimampiro
Afternoon Lunch provided on excursion
Evening Frigate Hill El Descanso Marinero
Wednesday Morning Flight to Isabela Island Breakfast with Cabanas Pimampiro

What we missed on Santa Cruz: 

 

  • Espanola island (and other uninhabited islands)- visiting an uninhabited island is one of the many draws to visiting the Galapagos. These trips typically make great day excursions due to the travel time to get there and back. You will often see wildlife that does not exist on the main islands.
  • Lobos Islet
  • Loberia– breeding grounds for sea lions where several people accounted the incredible experiences they had among the sea lions
  • Punta Carola– another beach location great for seal lions and other wildlife with waves that may be good for surfing.
  • Tijeretas– snorkel location below Frigate Hill with calm water

Make sure to read what to expect, what to pack (including this packing video), and our full itenerity. Video clips can be found here!

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