Swimming with the sharks...

Anchored off Cristobal, Galapagos

0° 53' 46.8" S, 89° 36' 43.2" W

We had two very nice days here yesterday and today, finally exploring a bit of the plant and wild life that the Galapagos are famous for. After some school and boat work in the morning we went up to Cristobal's Interpretative Center yesterday afternoon. The center has a good exihibit on the history of the Galapagos Islands, with a focus on the development over the last ~300 years. One striking exhibit was about how little of all the money spent on high-end tourism in the Galapagos actually stays in the islands (we'll get a photo one of these days). Little mention though of the tremendous population growth (influx from mainland Ecuador) over the past 30 years...

From the Center a short walk took us up to an observation point with a great view of Frigate Birds spiraling up some thermos in a in one of Cristobals bays. Down from there we had a short dip with mask and snorkel in that very bay, with an obligatory visit from some sea lions.

Back in town we decided to book a snorkel tour on one of the local dive boats for today. This turned out to be a real high light. At "Kicker Rock", one of the stops about 1/2 a mile off Cristobal, we got to see Pacific Sea Green Turtles, Sea Lions and Galapagos Sharks, all happily hanging out together in a crack/channel between to sections of the rock. Apparently light and current in there makes this a favorite hang-out spot for these creatures (or they just come to have a look at those snorkeling humans...). It was amazing to float in there right in the middle of a group of 7 or 8 turtles, going past sea lions and having sharks swim back and forth underneath. Nana even had a face-to-face encounter with a sea lion who looked at her about a foot away from her mask to check her out. We were probably lucky that our underwater camera had stopped working earlier today, so we could simply enjoy floating among these creatures without being distracted by picture taking.

Much more to explore over the coming days. Tomorrow however Nicky has an appointment however, to play soccer with the son of the Navy officer who checked us into the Galapagos...

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