23rd-26th June 2018
Some of my final days in the Galapagos were spent on the island of San Cristobal. Of all the inhabited islands, it had the best-maintained town and it was close to Tijeritas Hill; a spot famous in the archipelago for being a nesting zone for frigates.
Whilst walking around the area I saw something I was not expecting at all on the Galapagos Islands: a wild furry animal about the size of a small fox. I still do not know what it was for it was a little too big to be a cat and had an angular head. Unlike the endemic species of the Galapagos this creature was shy and slinked away, so I didn’t manage to get a photo of it.
The bay just below Tijerietas Hill had a lot of turtles, stonefish, huge schools of yellow-tailed grunts, rays, and also a colony of playful sea lions which got into the water and swam with me. On the Galapagos Islands there are some things which you get desensitised to – such as seeing iguanas and pelicans – because there are so many of them everywhere, but swimming with sea lions was one of the things I never grew bored of.
In the afternoon I set off for La Loberia, a beach a few kilometres away from town which is famous for its abundance of sea lions. By chance I found myself wandering into a street festival. I did not know the occasion or what they were celebrating but I watched for a while and soaked up the atmosphere while they danced, drank, sang, and played their instruments.
By the time I reached La Loberia, it was almost sunset and the sea lions were settling down for the evening upon the shore. It was a rather eerie moment, and I took some wonderful photos.
I left San Cristobal the following day but picked a boat leaving in the afternoon so I could spend some more time snorkelling with the sea lions at Tijerietas. I was feeling very content by the time I returned to Santa Cruz (the island my journey in the Galapagos both began and would end). I had achieved almost everything I intended. I’d seen so many things, including penguins, blue-footed boobies, frigates, tortoises, turtles, and so much of Galapagos’ strange, almost alien landscape. There was only one thing left on my list, and that was to see a hammerhead shark.
I heard stories of them being sighted in a set of mini islets off of Santa Cruz called Gordon’s Rock, but the sightings were not guaranteed. I only had one day left so I signed up for a day of diving, hoping that I would be lucky. I only had enough money in my tight budget for one shot anyway.
The first dive was a little ropey. The currents were being unpredictable so our instructor had to change our course and some of the other divers ran out of air early and had to go back up. It was my first time going underwater for over three years, and Gordon’s Rock is a drift dive with very strong currents so I was, quite literally, jumping into the deep end. I was a little disoriented at times and came back up with a headache. We did manage to see a hammerhead though, as well as lots of Galapagos sharks, turtles, and a huge school of barracudas.
The second dive went much more smoothly. The instructor knew what was going on with the currents by then and figured out how to work around them. We saw so many hammerheads that I stopped counting and the landscape of pinnacles covered in coral was beautiful. I was lucky enough to be buddied up with a dude with a GoPro, so here is a video.
If you would like to see more photos and videos from the Galapagos, click here.