Thanks to a very dear San Diegan friend for giving me a new computer. Now, I will be back on a steadier communication course. I would also like to thank a very good friend from Galapagos for lending me one of his computers during the interim.
Imagine swimming around underwater while being surrounded by five of these priceless faces. Several weeks ago, a group of friends and I took a tour to Floreana, where we went snorkeling at La Lobería. The sea lion rookery is a stone’s throw away from Floreana Island, the first Galapagos island to have permanent residents. It is the least populated island with approximately one hundred people. As we stepped off the dinghy onto the concrete dock of Puerto Velasco Ibarra, the island’s only village, we were greeted by a tiny baby iguana and his mother. It was a perfect welcome, especially for my friend visiting from Northern California.
Floreana’s history is filled with drama and intrigue, from the toothless Dr. Ritter and his ailing patient Dore Strauch to the Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet and her three lovers. Long before the arrival of this colorful cast of characters, Floreana was used as a port of call for whalers and pirates. At the northern part of the island is Post Office Bay, where to this day seafaring visitors deposit their letters in a wooden container and thumb through its contents to see if there are any letters addressed to others living in their part of the world.
After taking photos of the marine iguanas and hearing a bit about the history of Floreana, we took a leisurely thirty minute walk along a white sandy path to a quiet cove protected by volcanic outcroppings. At this point, we carefully climbed along a volanic rock face and inched our way around to a small channel, where we descended all of five feet into the cool rushing water. As the tide ebbed and flowed, we held our backpacks over our heads and crossed the channel to a tiny island with sunbathing sea lions lying along the beach.
We dropped our bags, put on our snorkeling gear and dove into the tranquil cove teeming with sea lions and the occasional sea turtle inconspicuously nibbling away at the algae on the rocks. I swam across the cove and started to reach the Floreana coastline when I found myself surrounded by five sea lions. They literally swam circles around me. One of them loved diving down and popping his little face right up in front of my mask. His bulging black eyes stared at me for a second or two before he began the game again. They followed me as I swam along. For the first time, I got a taste of what a zoo animal might feel like with countless people staring at it.
The main difference between turtles and tortoises is that sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water and tortoises are land animals. The primary difference between sea lions and seals are that sea lions have tiny ear flaps and seals just have small openings without the flaps. Galapagos has the Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus wollebacki) and the Galapagos Fur Seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis), the sea lion being the more common of the two. It is always a welcome surprise to see a quiet sea turtle bobbing around for food after interacting with the frolicking sea lions.