January 7, 2015: We started this crazy adventure with a flight that barely made it out of NYC in time before the snow storm started. Fast forward a day and we arrived on the beautiful island of San Cristobal. The Galapagos Islands were nothing short of incredible. We spent just over a week across the three islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. There was just too much to say about each island, so stay tuned for a post on each!
We arrived at San Cristobal, the eastern most island, in the early afternoon. It was misty and cloudy, which we would come to find out is the norm in the mornings in the Galapagos. We took a $3 cab to our hostel, Casa Mabell, and were instantly greeted by our hosts. They were incredible. The owner’s son, Danilo, was in town visiting and was so helpful with planning out our three days on the island. Would definitely recommend this Airbnb if anyone’s making their way to the Galapagos!
After throwing our stuff down, we took Danilo’s advice and went for a hike to Frigatebird Hill. We wanted to grab a bite to eat on the way, so we headed down one block to the port. We were greeted within minutes by a massive sea lion who hopped onto his bench for a nap. I think my jaw dropped. Yes, we’ve all seen the pictures and we know they are all over here but it was the craziest thing to see it up close without a care in the world! We definitely looked like major tourists as we snapped as many pics of we could – we just couldn’t believe we were so close to one. Little did we know that sea lions are all over San Cristobal.
After grabbing a quick bite with the Italian and Portuguese couple with whom we shared the cab with from the airport (it’s such a small island, you’ll run back into everyone), we headed down the port towards Frigatebird Hill. The hike was just what we needed and the perfect way to start our trip. We took our time snapping photos of sea lions, taking in the beautiful scenery and people and just enjoying each other’s company. We met Power along the way, a 30-something from Miami who was visiting the Galapagos for the first time as well. He took a picture of us overlooking the ocean and showed us some serious GoPro footage of him snorkeling with sharks at Kicker Rock. Yes, we said sharks. We’d soon experience first hand what we’d seen in Power’s GoPro videos..
We made our way to the vantage point atop Frigatebird Hill and gazed down at the small town and port. The Frigates soared lazily above us and the sun began to make it’s way down for the day. It was a moment we’ll never forget. As we headed back, we were both full of encouragement and pride that comes with making a dream happen. We have said it plenty of times but anyone can do it and once you do, the feeling is contagious. We just couldn’t believe we were actually there. After months of planning and saving and dreaming, we were finally living out our crazy dream. Sometimes, it’s still impossible for us to wrap our minds around it.
The first night ended with us watching the sunset at Playa Mann with at least 30 sea lions. We sipped on our cerveza and stared in awe. The pictures can probably do more justice than our words.
Day 2: The Highlands
Thanks to our awesome host, we were hooked up with a tour of the Highlands with an Argentinian couple and Swiss traveler who quickly became our friends (Hi Alan, Adrianna, & Tim!). The drive from the ocean to the mountains at this time of day proved to be misty and rainy again, but it cleared up once we reached our first stop: the Tortoise Reserve. There were so many of them, from just a few days old to many, many years. Needless to say, we probably have a hundred pictures of just Giant Tortoises..
From the reserve we headed to Puerto Chino, an absolutely beautiful beach that completely caught me off guard when we first set eyes on it. A couple of napping sea lions laid near the entrance as we all took in the white sand and crystal clear water. We climbed a small rocky point where we were able to see our first pair of Blue – Footed Boobies! The five of us were ecstatic, and we spent a few hours sunbathing and playing games in the water. Ninja clap got a little intense in the water! This is also the point that Pete started to get a little (or a lot..) burnt. Note to self: 30 SPF is not enough for the Galapagos coming from the cold East Coast.
El Junco Lagoon
El Junco Lagoon was our last stop on the Highlands tour. It is a massive, fresh-water crater (the only fresh water lake in all of the Galapagos!) and was an absolute delight to see. We all took our time taking in the scenery and surrounding landscape. My mind still couldn’t place what kind of planet we were on. Everything was so serene and quiet.
While the rest of the gang opted to head back into town, we decided to check out one more beach, La Loberia, which was a great place to take a nap and enjoy another beautiful sunset. It was only a few minutes from the airport and about a 30 minute walk back to our hostel.
We met up with our new friends for dinner and had some amazing shrimp ceviche right around the corner from where we were staying. Danilo met up with us as well and we shared some great conversations over some grande Pilsners. The night ended at a bar called Iguana Rock where Jordan and I were coined the nickname “abuelitos” – apparently we are old, little grandmas – for not being able to hang out late. We played some truth or dare Jenga for a bit before turning in to get ready for our big snorkel the next morning.
Day 3: Snorkeling
This was probably the highlight of our entire trip. If you spend any time in the Galapagos, Kicker Rock should be #1 on your list. It’s 100% worth it! We did a full day tour that stopped by Isla Lobos, Kicker Rock, and Playa Grande.
This was our first short stop for the divers to do a little practice dive. We saw a ton of sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and we finally saw Frigatebird’s mating (that’s the only time you see them puffing out their red chests!).
Wow. It’s hard to put into words our experience at Kicker Rock. It’s this unbelievable rock formation off of the west side of the island with even more unbelievable diving. It’s called “Leon Dormido” in Spanish, which means Sleeping Lion. It’s funny how everyone can look at something like Kicker Rock and see it in so many different ways.
We did two different snorkels through the channel of the rocks and around each direction. The first dive, we saw huge Eagle Rays and spotted our first Sea Turtle! While swimming to catch up to the Sea Turtle, Pete spotted a shark nearby. Jordan only screamed a little..
Once we realized that the sharks had no interest in us or our vital organs, we calmed down a bit. It was crazy to swim so close to all of these creatures. They barely notice you; it’s like you’re just another fish in the sea.
On our second snorkel, there were about 30 sharks under us as we swam through the channel. THIRTY SHARKS. If we had known this before snorkeling, Jordan would probably have been a little more hesitant to jump in the water.. (Stay tuned as we upload the GoPro footage to our YouTube channel!). We saw more Eagle Rays and got close enough to touch a Sea Turtle. Pete’s been lucky enough to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, but he has to say, Kicker Rock takes the cake.
*We didn’t bring our nice camera out to sea this day and we think the GoPro video has gone MIA 🙁 If we are able to recover it, stay tuned to our YouTube channel for some crazy videos!
The day ended with our last stop at Playa Grande, a tiny, secluded beach that requires a water landing. We spent thirty minutes or so just walking around the beach and laying in the water next to a pelican. It was truly paradise. We were ready to pitch some tents and stay the night, but unfortunately we all had to get back on the boat and head back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main port/town of San Cristobal.
We truly couldn’t have asked for or imagined a better kick off to our trip. The Galapagos blew away so many of our expectations in only three days and just one island. While we were definitely sad to leave San Cristobal, we couldn’t wait to see what we’d experience on Santa Cruz and Isabela.