Today was our first day out on the water in a really fast and well equipped motor launch. Diane and I both decided to sit on the top deck with the captain of the boat and it felt wonderful sitting in the glorious sunshine zipping along the waves.

Our first stop was Isla de Lobos, a tiny island just off San Cristobal which is home to sea lions, nesting frigates and the unusual blue-footed boobies – a type of water bird unique to this area. This turned out to be one of my favourite snorkelling experiences on the trip. As soon as we stepped off the boat in our snorkelling gear we were swimming with two giant sea turtles. I was enraptured by one and kept on following it in the water as my fellow travellers headed off in the opposite direction. The sea turtle, like most of the animals in the Galapagos, seemed completely unphased by my presence and it was an amazing experience in itself.

Next minute, I glance off into the distance underwater and see a cloud of sand swirling in the water where a majestic giant mantaray had taken off. Yet another incredible sight, all in the space of 5 minutes! I was enchanted by this beautiful creature soaring through the water, flapping its sails like a giant underwater bird. As I lost sight of the ray, I quickly realised that I was on my own and about turned to swim furiously to catch up with the group. Later on, when I told my guide what I had seen, he didn´t quite believe me and insisted I must have seen a stingray. Apparently it is quite rare to see a mantaray, and even more rare for him not to have spotted it also! But I am originally from Australia, and grew up on the Great Barrier Reef coast where I used to go fishing with my father and catch stingrays (by accident – they are a pain in the butt to get off your hook so you always have to cut the line). Yes, I know my stingrays from my mantarays.

When I finally caught up with the group we were heading into the rocky, shallow waters of the island. Cici, an Austrian girl in our group, suddenly squealed in delight as she had spotted a marine iguana under the water. I quickly spun around in the water – quite a difficult thing to do in shallow, rocky water – and stuck my head down near where she was pointing. Well, whilst I was hoping to spot the said marine iguana, I certainly didn´t expect to come face to face with it! I am not sure who was more shocked, me or the marine iguana!! Marine iguanas are seriously cool.

After watching some sealions diving into the water from the island, and spotting a big daddy sealion further down, we quickly hightailed it back to the boat. Here we dried off in the hot sunshine as the boat sped off to our next amazing destination.

Our next stop was “Leon Dormido” which means “Sleeping Lion” and is also known as Kicker Rock. It is this huge rock formation in the middle of the sea and after doing a couple of laps our boat stopped to drop us off for some amazing, deep water snorkelling.

Now I am slightly paranoid about sharks, but apparently the only sharks in the Galapagos Islands are just harmless reef sharks… or so I was told. In truth, there is actually the occasional tiger shark and lots of hammerheads too. But the hammerheads tend to leave people alone as there are too many sealions to snack on, and the only tiger shark attack was on a surfer at one of the beaches a few years before. And they had a theory for the reason why the shark was in the area at the time, which I will expound upon later down the track.


So in the end, there was no way I was letting my fear stop me from doing something as amazing as this. It was so exhilerating swimming around the rock and in between the rock through a dark, deep channel, along coral and crustacean encrusted walls and moving with the gentle ebb and flow of the current. I, and this time Carlos too, spotted some moving grey forms way down below which turned out to be the “friendly” – ie. non human eating – Galapagos reef sharks. I was surprised at how calm I felt and came up from the snorkelling feeling like I had conquered my fears. Admittedly, the fact that it was intensely hot outside the water contributed to me deciding to just “get over it” and jump in. And if I had spotted a hammerhead or tiger shark I may have felt slightly different about things!

That afternoon, after returning to San Cristobal from our amazing snorkelling trip, we headed to the top of the island to take in panoramic views over the water, looking towards the other islands. The islands were particularly green at the time as I was visiting the Galapagos Islands during the “rainy season”. Though it didn´t happen to rain the whole time I was there – and considering the heat, some rain would have been welcome just to cool things down.

Then we jumped on some mountain bikes for an exhilarating downhill ride through the lush highlands of the island towards the township of Puerto Barequizo. I like riding bikes and am not adverse to a bit of downhill mountain biking, but alot of this road was loose gravel and I nearly came unstuck more than once. But this didn´t seem to hamper some of the guys who took off like a bullet out of a gun. It was a steady downhill gradient most of the time and it was difficult to keep an even pace and not pick up incredible speed. But it was quite thrilling and at the end I wanted to go back to the top and do it all over again. A perfect end to yet another perfect day on the Galapagos Islands.

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