playing with seals

Ecuador Travel Blog

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hammerhead sharks

i am in love! and just had one of the best 10mins of my life......!

i had such an amazing dive in the galapagos amd I love these islands. Out at Gordon Rocks dive site which is an eroded volcano crater in the middle of the ocean. We roll out of the boat into waves and disappear under water. About 30m down. a couple of minutes in we see the first 2 sharks - white tip reef sharks. then head across the sandy bottom, littered with starfish and stop. Coming towards me is one hammerhead shark. Followed by another 8! i hold onto a rock - trying not too look like food and checking that the rest of the group is behind me. They are 2.5m long and look scary. They disappear into the blue and as they do eagle rays come the other way. I love the way they swim/fly in the water and i get so close, just watching, as the strong current ensures they swim very slowly past.

eagle ray
As they fly from view I look up and a 5m across (!) manta ray is above me almost blocking out the light. Then turtles! All in about 10mins and one spot. And that was just the start of the dive.... But that is the Galapagos for you. So many animals. On my dives swam with so many turtles, saw fish spawning, watched seals fish and the school just parting in front of them, and sometimes could hardly see the rock wall for all the fish, on one dive alone i saw about 50 hammerheads and on another I saw about 40 turtles!!! Fantastic every time you put your head in the water. One was my best dive i have done of the 60odd.

And snorkelling, swimming - no PLAYING - with sealions! we jumped in and immediately the sealions come over to us.

a curious sealion
Curious and ready to play. Me and Stefan, the Dutch guy with the scottish accent I travelled to the Galapagos with for 9 days of paradise, were in the water and surrounded by about 15 sealions, darting up to us, lazing upside down in the water and staring at us, or blowing bubbles at us - so cute! Then the big macho male came towards us. about 220kg and not looking too happy about us taking the attention of his harem, but he glided by silently, glaring at us (though i think maybe deep down he wanted to play too but didnt want to ruin his tough man image). Well he didnt attack us at least. We swam with sealions numerous times over the trip, sometimes playing with us for ages and sometimes losing interest almost immediately. But they are amazing animals, seem so free, their lives so funfilled and theyre so fast! Just maybe the dozens of sharks that they have to worry about.
ok, i just like this photo

Other trips we would snorkel through the water and watch the penguins paddle or streak past - sooo fast! see stingrays search for food on the bottom, turtles swim past (and i held onto a large ones shoulders for a short ride - yes i know it is bad but he hardly noticed!). Swam through dense schools of blue and yellow, or silver fish, explored nooks and crannies, saw sharks.

One a boat trip we stopped and saw a huge bait ball of sardines being fed on by albatrosses, bluefooted boobies, and frigate birds above and heaps of dolphins, galapagos sharks and seals feeding on them from below. I was dying to jump in the water, but smart enough not to jump in the water during a feeding frenzy. But it felt like this is one of the places in the world that is truly like what you see on the Discovery Channel and Blue Planet.

Plazas island

Stefan and I headed to another couple of islands to explore and see the different sights. The Galapagos is comprised of one of the most diverse ecosystems and geography in  the world. Each island is different with different species of animals and was where Darwin first formed his theory of evolution. So an amazing place. Some were barren and covered in black volcanic lava, others were green and lush, or the volcano would be almost perpetually covered in cloud. We would see sea lions everywhere - some really large colonies, a few penguins on rocks or swimming through the sea, birds, iguanas.... everytime you went out the door or stuck you head underwater.

Tne island was covered in Frigate birds that were in mating season and you would see a bubble of red - the blown up chest of a black frigate bird trying to attract a mate.

A male frigate trying to attract a mate
Or the successful frigates with babies already in the nest. There was also a huge mating colony of bluefotted boobies with babies everywhere, standing guard over them. Everywhere we went there were the birds, and gulls, and terns, and pelicans.... We even saw pink pink flamingoes.

Everywhere we went we saw iguanas. Black ones that were hard to distinguish from the volcanic rock, even though there were dozens of them. Fat black and yellow land iguanas. Red green and black marine iguanas. And we could get so close - warning avoid them when they spray water from their nose.

The giant tortoises were cool.... and so so slooooowww. Well, 3km in 24 hours is not fast. We were seeing tortoises up to 4ft long. There was a different type of tortoise on most of the islands.

Giant tortoise
Weighing up to 300kg. The oldest known and traced through the human generations is about 180years. When we were on the island Lonesome George who is the last of his kind was the tortoise of debate. There was discussion of cloning him before it was too late, or trying to breed him with other tortoises that were most similar to him. Well i am happy to report Lonesome George is not so lonesome as he seems. His missus had eggs on our second last day and now the last of his kind will have little less lonesome babies. We searched for tortoises in swamps and then headed into the lava tunnels. These hollow tunnels underground were formed by the outer lava cooling faster than the inner lava. The tunnel was about 10m high in some places, 1/2m high in another place and about 3m wide.
sealion relaxing in the towns port
Hard to visualise this size of tunnel being formed.

We didnt even have to leave town to play with the animals. The little wooden fishing boats would come in and the fishermen cleaned their fish at the dock. Sometimes there would be a seal waiting just like a puppy at their ankles which i fed too. And then I was holding up a fish to feed the pelicans, holding it a little while waiting for a photo, and a frigate swooped in and took the fish, biting my fingersÂȘ - karma for teasing the pelicans i guess.

We stayed in Isabella for a few days as well and this is how i imagined the Galapagos. Sand streets, little homes, iguanas climbong the wall of the hostel, volleyball on the beach, and the mangroves and snorkelling islands so close, surfing off the pier.

staring down and iguana
.. Here we went horseriding up a volcano with a massive crater and a great view across the island.

I loved it. And go now before it gets even more expensive - most of the budget boats are upgrading so no more budget boats soon.

Then to Quito. Great town. Surprisingly modern and cosmopolitan. I really like the old section, with so many old churchs aspiring upwards, plazas, old pastel colour homes reaching up the sides of the valleys, and a hill with an angel statue to watch over the city. La Basilica is an old intricate concrete structure, still unfinished and a bit scarily with concrete designs fallen and smashed on the pathways below (just to make Stefan, Luke and I feel safer up high). The gargoyles are blue footed boobies, seals, iguanas or dolphins.

la Basilica in Quito
The turrets of the tower reach about 90m into the air and we climb up stairs and ladders to a floor of just wire for a stunning view across the city, seen through the concrete detail of the clocktower. We sit outside and see little people walk past below and enjoy the view of the Winged Virgin angel in the distance. Then I headed up the telefrico for a great view across the long, valley surrounded city.

I am not sure (especially the next day) whether the discovery of the $5 all you can drink was a good thing or not. It was the beginning of a few crazy nights! Full of 18 year old gap year students, dancing and me making a general fool of myself. And then celebrating my last night ere. I celebrate 1 year exactly and the last night before I fly on the same night, good to have Matt from the Huaraz hike here and a whole other bunch of new friends.

the bungalows on the beach in canoa
Out celebrating the South American way...

I needed time to relax. In the last year i have stayed 2 places for 3 weeks, but most of my time I was packing my bag every couple of days. Moving fast - there is so much to see and I never had that much time to spare. So i relax on the beach, Canoa, a little fishing village, for a few days, meet a great crew of people to cook and party with and definitely do not spend enough time in the water. Its a nice little town with a wide stratch of beach, sand streets, coconut juice sold from carts, fishermen always fixing their nets, frisbee or football on the beach, fishermen pushing their boats down the sand beaches and racing out through the waves, surfers, veggies sold from the back of trucks, the closest bank 1/2 hour away and a really realxed friendly feel (sometimes too friendly from the latino hombres).

lauren, stefan, me and luke
 I feel great afterwards and ready for my next adventure, a whole new continent ....

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hammerhead sharks
hammerhead sharks
eagle ray
eagle ray
a curious sealion
a curious sealion
ok, i just like this photo
ok, i just like this photo
Plazas island
Plazas island
A male frigate trying to attract a…
A male frigate trying to attract …
Giant tortoise
Giant tortoise
sealion relaxing in the towns port
sealion relaxing in the towns port
staring down and iguana
staring down and iguana
la Basilica in Quito
la Basilica in Quito
the bungalows on the beach in canoa
the bungalows on the beach in canoa
lauren, stefan, me and luke
lauren, stefan, me and luke
Plazas island with Santa Cruz Isla…
Plazas island with Santa Cruz Isl…
sealion posing for a photo
sealion posing for a photo
Gulls breeding
Gulls breeding
stefan staring down an upside-down…
stefan staring down an upside-dow…
stefan and i, tortuga bay, Santa C…
stefan and i, tortuga bay, Santa …
Tortuga Bay. Stefan in the backgro…
Tortuga Bay. Stefan in the backgr…
Me and Luke. with extra cake.
Me and Luke. with extra cake.
sunset through the cacti on santa …
sunset through the cacti on santa…
chasing turtles
chasing turtles
Floreana Island and a very colourf…
Floreana Island and a very colour…
Floreana Island and a very colourf…
Floreana Island and a very colour…
Tortugas!!! giant tortoises and a …
Tortugas!!! giant tortoises and a…
pinguino
the 3rd smallest penguin…
pinguino the 3rd smallest pengui…
crab. love the colour.
crab. love the colour.
crabs!
crabs!
found the giant turtle on a hunt b…
found the giant turtle on a hunt …
and into the swamp.
and into the swamp.
the surprisingly large and impress…
the surprisingly large and impres…
horseriding up to the top of the v…
horseriding up to the top of the …
flamingoes
flamingoes
pink flamingo. Isabel Island
pink flamingo. Isabel Island
baby seal. only a week or 2 old. a…
baby seal. only a week or 2 old. …
baby seal. only a week or 2 old
baby seal. only a week or 2 old
feeding the pelicans. think you ca…
feeding the pelicans. think you c…
I am not strangling the turtle!
I am not strangling the turtle!
the sealion playing with a school …
the sealion playing with a school…
fishies!!! fishy fishy fishy
fishies!!! fishy fishy fishy
eagle rays
eagle rays
manta ray - 5m across
manta ray - 5m across
diving in the galapagos
diving in the galapagos
so many fish
so many fish
sealions
sealions
me!
me!