Seeing the world, one country at the time

Swimming with the Sea Lions

Galapagos Day 6

Back on land we slept well for once, but were so exhausted from three nights on the boat, that it was not enough and we could hardly get up for our day trip to South Plazas and North Seymour Islands. The bus picked us up at 7:30 and then went and picked up a busload of Germans and Americans. We already missed our new Tip Top friends.
The boat we were on was pretty small, but we weren’t going that far. The Germans piled on the top deck and we sat up front on the prow. I stayed there until the waves were soaking me, then went on to the back, where a swallow-tailed dove following us closely, hovering just over the stern.

As we neared South Plazas Island, near Gordon rocks where all the scuba divers go, Lars and I were delighted to see that the boat already anchored there was none other than Tip Top 2! We watched our old group wandering about while we waited for our second boatload of passengers, and wished we were with them. The shores where we stood were full of sea lions. The bulls roared, marking their property. They have up to twenty wives and their cute little pups were everywhere. Scattered over the rocks were dozens of marine iguanas, and a little farther up, land iguanas. These are prettier with their yellow and orange colors and don’t look as threatening as their marine cousins. There were also hybrids, a mix of both species, which don’t live more than five years and have an undistinguished color, long tail and a long land iguana head. Sea lions had gotten far up on land too, and lifted their heads to look at us as we passed.

We had an emotional reunion with the Tip Top gang with lots of hugs and chatter. Barbara and Lars schemed how to get rid of the new Tip Top guests, a bunch of scuba diving Americans who were making them late at every stop. It was really nice to see them and know we were missed. It made us feel at home, as if we hadn’t left the boat and it wasn’t all over. We said goodbye for now, as we knew we would see them on our flight back to the mainland.

Our guide David led us up a track and we passed the skeleton of an iguana, with a lava lizard perched on its head. We came to a cliff and standing near the edge we could see a Blue-Footed Booby below. A huge manta ray slid by on the surface and we spotted lots of fish. Walking on a bit further we saw quite a few dead birds and lots of land iguanas feasting on the cacti that cover the island. Getting back to shore we crossed a marine iguana male who was protecting his land iguana harem and got very upset with us. Oh well, we’re used to it.

After our visit, we went snorkeling in the calm water between the North and South Plazas Islands, which turned out to be the highlight of the trip for Lars. We swam among the rocks and after a while, a sea lion came swimming over to us, curious. It freaked me out at first, but Lars was just excited. Too bad we had no underwater camera to capture the next few minutes. The sea lion kept coming up close to look at us and swimming next to us. Lars started swimming with it, doing flips and turns like the sea lion. It seemed incredible, but they were clearly copying and following each other as they played together. It was beautiful to watch. The sea lion even nipped gently at Lars’ feet. The reverie was interrupted when one of the Germans swam by and saw the sea lion and tried repeatedly to swim forward and grab it. The sea lion, sensing danger, kept escaping. It’s a wild animal, not a pet. Lars was so angry. Eventually, after failing to grab the sea lion, the German left and the sea lion returned to Lars, who had always kept his arms closely at his side, even when the seal was within a foot from him. Lars was so happy he had a huge grin on his face for the rest of the day.

Strong currents challenged us as we swam back to the boat after snorkeling. We sat in the front again to soak up the sun as the crew served us a delicious fish lunch, which we ate covered in spray as we raced over the waves. Sailing from there to North Seymour took a LONG time.
After a while the spray and heat got to me, so I sat upstairs. At North Seymour Island we finally saw the male Great Frigates all puffed up, along with many other birds, but the guide hardly said anything about them, a big change from our Tip Top guide JC. North Seymour’s shoreline is spectacular. The waves were an amazing turquoise. I could have sat staring at it all day. The sea lions were in a frenzy among the rocks, the bull males barking. We noticed one odd thing about the island – there were dead sea lions and birds everywhere. Never before had we seen that and we still don’t know why this was.

We headed back to the boat and Puerto Ayora. For Lars, everything faded after his sea lion swim. That was his Galapagos highlight. We returned to shore and took the bus back to Puerto Ayora from the marina. The rest of the evening was spent doing errands, booking a bay tour for the next day, and looking for good food. We went to my favorite place for dinner, but they weren’t serving the shrimp dish I wanted, so we went to another vendor shack and ordered the coconut shrimp that I love. The next day would be our last full day in Galapagos and already we were dreading the end.