San Cristobal, Galapagos
After our Floreana day trip, and another night on Santa Cruz the next day we departed for San Cristobal. This required another infamous ferry ride which we reserved through the same agency as our day tour for $30 each. We departed Thursday afternoon at 2 pm and arrived by 5 pm. We had a total of 5 nights on this island which was the perfect amount of time. This island is home to thousands of sea lions. Took this video our first night here. And this one.
Jeff had reserved our hostel on this island through AirBnB called Casa Mabell. It was a very short one block walk from the main dock and super easy to find. This was our best accomdations yet. AC that worked really good, a nice fan, very clean, and a pleasant host. On top of it all, it was only $45 a night- pretty good deal compared to what we had on Isabela. Note: at the time I am writing this I have actually removed myself from the duty of booking accommodations going forward. Jeff’s track record is much better than mine.
So our first night here we met up with our friend from our scuba certification class for dinner and drinks. She had recommended a really great burger place called Cri’s burger shack. Jeff was in heaven and the food was awesome. We actually ate here two more times! After dinner we went to check out another bar, played a game of pool and met a very interesting business man who was opening up a new restaurant and hotel on the islands. Just our luck, we got an invitation to check it out pre opening, so we exchanged numbers and planned to check it out on Sunday.
Friday was a fun full day. Joannie from Scuba class had found a taxi to take us to a few spots around the island. Here’s where we went..
The Treehouse: a little farm to stop at on the way up to the highlands. I think it was my first time being in a real tree house! It had the top part built into the branches and also a basement that was inside the base of the tree. Supposedly if arranged in advance you can stay there a night. Small quarters but pretty cool to say you stayed in a tree, literally. It costs $1.50 per person to visit the house and the little farm that has some random ducks roaming around.
Lagoon El Junco: Located about 700M above sea level, this is a cadera (top of volcano) filled with fresh water, making it the only fresh water lake in all of the Galapagos. The taxi waits for you at the bottom and you hike up about a half mile to the top. The visibility was pretty good at the top and you can watch the Frigate birds dip into the lake and rinse the salt off their feathers.
The next stop would have been the Tortoises, but we skipped it because we had seen our fair share of them thus far. 🙂
The last stop was Puerto Chino beach. Our taxi driver had a surf board he let us borrow so we gave it a try here. Unsuccessful yes, but we had fun trying. It’s perfect for swimming, a few waves, and of course marine iguanas and sea lions are always around. We actually saw a turtle swimming near us when trying to surf. The beach is just a 10 minute walk from where the taxi waits. We spent about an hour and half here and then the rain came so we hopped in the back of the taxi to take a free shower and head back into town. Timing was perfect as we were all pretty hungry for a late lunch/snack. I had Patacones con queso. For about $2 you get a lot of fried plantains with pieces of cheese. It hits the spot.
To round out the day we grabbed another taxi to go to Las Loberias. You could walk here from town, about 30 minutes but we opted for a $1 cab per person to get there quickly as we were ready for some snorkeling. It’s free to snorkel here and is home to a TON of sea lions (aka lobos) especially the pups (little babies). The tide was fairly low so it wasn’t necessarily snorkeling with the baby sea lions but more like laying on our stomachs in very shallow water on the beach. Nonetheless it worked perfect and was really cool to be so close to them. You had to be careful though because every now and then big momma would swim up and check on her babies and if you were to close she let you know. How? Swimming very fast at you with every intention to bite you most likely. Good thing they are not nearly as fast on land as in water! It’s funny because the pups are so curious and they just want to play with you, play with sticks, chase each other around etc. You could spend all day watching them, or at least I could. We headed out bit deeper into the bay area and did some actual snorkeling. Pretty good visibility- saw some fish and a TON of turtles (like 10, which is a lot in a small area). Big ones too. Honestly we almost ran into them! My swimsuit bottoms are green and I think sometimes they thought it was food and would start swimming really close to me. I got to nervous to stay still and find out what they we’re going to do. Here’s a video of a pup swimming in the shallow water.
Friday night ended with us buying a bottle of rum and some coca colas to enjoy at our place before dinner. It gets pretty expensive to drink cocktails out (like $7 or $8 per drink) so for $10 to get a bottle of our own rum made much more sense. We ran into a father and son duo who we’re on our ferry over from southern Illinois. They had a few drinks with us by our place and we all ended up going to dinner together at a restaurant around the corner with a massive grill full of various meats and fish. I ordered fish, and what I got was an entire fish grilled. Pretty tasty, but I think it was a bit raw in parts. Thankfully I had a nice little buzz prior to dinner so I wasn’t too picky. The night ended rather early as Jeff and I had plans to dive Kicker Rock in the morning.
Before we went home that evening we had to say good-bye to our friend Joannie. We met her while getting our diving certification on Santa Cruz and then spent time with her both on Isabela and San Cristobal. She was our best friend! It was sad to say good-bye, but we’re hopeful that our paths will cross again sometime in the future. Joannie, if you are reading this we miss you!!
Saturday was a full day of diving at Kicker Rock (aka Leon Dormido which means sleeping lion) This is the #1 rated thing to do on trip advisor on San Cristobal. You can either dive or snorkel. With our new certification, we of course chose diving. The two days prior we had stopped in several dive shops in town to find the best price and option for Kicker Rock. It’s interesting, the prices varied by $10-$20 pp per place and so did the itinerary. For example, some places offered two dives at kicker rock, some had one dive there and the second dive closer to the beach. At first we didn’t really get it, but come to find out it’s all regulated by the National Park so they control what boats go when and where. It’s a good idea so you don’t get there with 5 other tours taking place. It also depends on what permits the boat have. The Park also controls this for live aboard boats as well as land based tours. We went with Darwin Scuba dive for $160 per person that gave us two dives at Kicker Rock, lunch, and an hour or so at a beach. At the end of the day it didn’t really matter because they if the dive shop doesn’t have it’s own boat (which most don’t) you just get put with other folks that went to other dive shops and they rent out the boat together. Again, makes since so they can fill the space on the boat and be as efficient as possible. Our boat had about 15 people, but only 3 divers + the dive master. This was a perfect small group. The first dive was about 40 minutes and we saw tons of fish, and a fish tunnel/bubble which is literally when you are in the middle of such a large school that you can’t see anything else, Hundreds of thousands are everywhere. It’s one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. We got some pretty good footage of it here. After our surface interval (this is the time you need to wait before diving again to make sure the nitrogen in your blood evens out and is essential to avoiding decompression sickness) and a snack we did dive #2. The second dive was through the split in the rocks you can see in the picture below. Here we saw several turtles and sharks. The sharks were about 3M long! It’s crazy all the sudden they just show up and you are like holy shit, yeah that’s a shark alright. The second dive seemed a bit shorter, I am guessing like 35 minutes given the air I had left in my tank on the way up. We all had lunch on the boat then headed to the beach to relax for a few hours. All in all, great day of diving and worth the $160.
Sunday was the day we had planned to meet our friend from the bar on Thursday night who invited us to visit his new restaurant soon to open in a few weeks called Atoy. Atoy is a plant that is fed to the giant tortoises on the island and must be pretty good for you because those boys live to 150 years old! His restaustanrt is not open yet, a few more weeks of training and they will be ready to go. The view is absolutely beautiful up here (its about a 15 minute ride from town back into the highlands) He bought the farm a few years ago and has redone the house into a restaurant, put in state of the art equipment, and plans to have an organic and sustainable restaurant. During our visit, we got a tour of the farm and the various endemic plants he is growing. This place will be 5 star for sure and we are excited to hear how the grand opening goes. Our friend is also working on an additional project to create a massive hotel/resort just a few miles up the road from there restaurant. This is planned to open in about another year and a half. The hotel is definitely first class with rooms going for about $1,200 a night. It will be one of its kind on this island. The only thing similar to it today is one on the island of Santa Cruz. We told him we will be back one day for a visit 🙂 Mom, dad you guys in?
Monday was a pretty low key day. We went for a morning run, then breakfast at a place called Patagonia which we had eaten at several times over the course of our stay here. It’s good food and pretty cheap. Our staple for breakfast is yogurt, fresh fruit and granola. Yum. Costs about $5. While the food is good, the service is ok. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just very different than the states. For example you usually have to tell them that you are there and want to see a menu. After you order- including drinks, you don’t get your drinks until your food comes, or in some cases after. Sometimes we wouldn’t even get our food at the same time, which makes for an interesting dining experience. Anyway, the gal was sweet, the food was good, so it became a regular stop for us. That afternoon we hiked up to Cerro Tijeretas for another highly recommended free spot to snorkel. The water felt great after a sweaty hike up and over to this spot. Didn’t see a ton in terms of snorkeling but the view and swim itself was worth it! We ended Monday with another stop at Cri’s burgers and this time brought our own boxed wine. Yup, that’s how we roll. Why not? What’s the worst thing that can happen? They say no you can’t bring that here? So yeah it worked out perfectly. We shared a tasty burger, some good wine and observed the sea lions on the local beach (there are hundreds and it’s so funny to watch them bark at each other as they uncoordinatedly move around on the sand). We were still kinda hungry still so we found another place with a rotisserie. We split the chicken meal for $6 and called it a night.
This takes me to Tuesday- our last day (or morning in the Galapagos! 🙁 Had a good breakfast at a new place, but same order of yogurt and granola 😉 and camped out to work on the blog a bit and just relax and soak it all in. It was then time to pack up and get ready for the flight back to mainland Ecuard. It went by so fast- not only the five days on San Cristobal, but our entire month on the Galapagos. It’s just amazing how fast time flies.
It’s only been a day since we left, but I miss it already. I really recommend you (all our fabulous readers) to consider a trip via live aboard boat for at least 10 days to see this amazing part of the world.