Today was going to be an easy day, with only a half-day tour of the bay. We searched for a place to rent snorkeling equipment and Lars found a place for twenty dollars per day per person. Ridiculous! It should have been six dollars maximum. We shopped around and finally found a tour agency with normal prices, where we overheard an Irish couple looking for a boat tour. We interrupted and gave them all our information, throwing in some valuable free publicity for Tip Top 2. They should hire us. When the couple asked what agency we used, we balked. The agents sitting there didn’t look too happy with our unsolicited advice.
We took a boat taxi to Playa de los Alemanes to snorkel and walking the path to Angermeyer Hotel we discovered a whole little neighborhood. The “Germans’ Beach” is in front of the luxurious hotel. There we met a young, friendly local girl who shared with us her excitement over her newfound swimming talents. She was adorable when she asked to borrow my snorkel and fins, then had a hard time with the concept of breathing underwater. The snorkeling wasn’t very interesting, as the water was murky, but we did see a sea lion near shore, though it disappeared when we tried to get closer. When we climbed out of the water, these nasty carnivorous flies attacked us. The girl explained that they only bite wet people, so we rushed to dry off.
It was overcast so we decided to go back and have lunch before our boat tour. When the passengers finally all appeared half an hour late, we motored off in our little boat. The crew was really nice. One clearly thought he was God’s gift to women, with his dark chiseled chest and long hair. In his obvious quest to seduce any available female, he showed off constantly. When he finally realized I was happy with Lars, he homed in on another single woman. He must do something right, as he managed to get her number. The other passengers were equally interesting. A sweet-mannered, obese American tried to cuddle with her Latin hubby who seemed embarrassed and never touched her. At first we weren’t even sure they were together. A lovely young Ecuadorian woman, her son and her OLD Spanish husband were also on board. I wondered if she was a trophy wife, but they seemed quite loving.
We rode over to the Reef Shark Channel near the pier where the others gawked over the birds and sea lions, which they hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, we are no longer allowed into the Reef Shark Channel, because people were scaring off the sharks. Our next stop was an island where we weren’t allowed to land, but we were oddly allowed to snorkel. It was a research area. We jumped in and were suddenly knocked apart by Mr. Hot Stuff , who was swimming by. He was meant to be our guide, but he was a little too eager to show off his skin-diving techniques. He dove deep for a sea urchin, which he gave me to hold while he swam off to accomplish some other daring feat.
The waves and currents were REALLY strong and worried me a bit, especially as I started getting tired and couldn’t see much. But Lars had spotted sea lions and tried to get close to take photos, but it was impossible. Now that we had an appropriate camera, we couldn’t use it. We managed to see a few cool fish between desperate crawls to avoid smashing into the jagged rocks before we finally got back on the boat. To our amazement, the heavy girl went snorkeling too. That took bravery, especially to get back on the boat after. It was hard for her and two men were needed to pull her up on deck. She didn’t attempt to swim again after that.
Next we went to Las Grietas, or the Grottos via the local salt mine, which is free for citizens to use. What the locals don’t collect for home use is sold to fishermen and others. The “miners” only work in the early morning because it’s so hot in the day. I could feel that heat now. It was a hard walk on rough lava, but we were rewarded with a dramatic cliff view of a water-filled gorge, where locals jump. The rocks had collapsed on the sides, creating the pool and it’s a favorite place for locals. It is a very special place. Of course Mr. Attention had to dive and made sure we all watched him as he made a little show of it, making noises like a bull male sea lion, and leaping from the top into the eight-meter deep water. I think he fancied himself a Mexican cliff diver. Granted, he’s braver than me. I’d pee my pants.
Instead, we climbed down and got to cool off in the wonderfully calm water. With my mask I could see to the bottom. We swam to the end watching the fish underneath us and climbed up on the slippery rocks. Then we swam back and made our way up the bank gingerly. From there we headed back to shore and from the boat we FINALLY spotted Blue-footed Boobies, so we asked to stop the boat and Lars took dozens of photos. Now it was the others’ turn to wonder at our excitement over some birds. We were surprised at ourselves. We never thought any bird would make us jump up and down.
Back on shore we went to a restaurant we had spotted earlier, hidden on the second floor of an unassuming building. It advertised coffee and ice cream, but actually had a very cozy and homey restaurant. As we ate we thought about how we’d improve it to attract more people because the place was EMPTY and the food and service was good, yet the restaurant next door was packed and the food was bland. It’s all about the atmosphere and marketing. The location was great, if only you could actually see the place from the road and the somewhat hidden sign actually reflected the fact that it was a restaurant. We played backgammon and enjoyed the quiet and the good, personal service of the family who ran the place and lived there, before calling it another successful wildlife-watching day in Galapagos.