Saturday, April 6, 2019

One of the Best Trip Day’s Ever! I Swam with Penguins

Today was one of my top travel experiences, ever! I SWAM WITH PENGUINS!!!

We were picked up from our hotel by Pahoehoe Tours www.pahoehoegalapagos.com at 7:30am. After getting our wet suits, our small group of eight were driven to the port. A sea lion lay sleeping on the road, traffic navigated around him.

Our guide’s name was Javier. He was excellent. The boat zipped through the water for just under an hour to our destination- Los Tuneles. I was feeling a bit sea sick but didn’t want to take a Gravol and feel sleepy.

On the way we passed a shark fin in the water and numerous times we would see sea turtles coming up for air. The boat slowed down when we got to a rock (called Union Rock) which rose out of the water in the middle of nowhere. It was covered with Nazca Boobies, one blue footed Boobie and a few sea lions. 

Our boat went around one way, then in the opposite direction so that people on both sides of the boat could get pictures.

Then onward towards Los Tuneles which means “the tunnels”. The whole area is a volcanic version of Swiss cheese with crevices, channels, pools and tunnels of sea water. 

As we entered the area, what to my wonderous eyes did appear but penguins. We got so close. The Galápagos penguin is one of the smallest penguins. They are so adorable.

There were also baby penguins under a year old. 

The boat then expertly steered amongst the narrow channels to a place we could tie up to the rocks and scramble onto land. 

The landscape was something I’d never seen before- black volcanic rock, red soil, cactuses amongst a labyrinth of sea water channels. The water was crystal clear and as we looked into it we could see fish and sea turtles swimming by. 


Once on land our guide explained the geology of the area and led us to see Blue Footed Boobies. 


We were able to get very, very close to numerous blue footed Boobie birds. Their  feet truly are a vibrant blue. The better fed they are, the brighter blue their feet. According to our guide a Boobie couple we saw had less blue feet because they had been too busy mating to have much time for feeding.

Then it was back onto the boat. The water was clear...so so clear. A number of eagle rays swam beside the boat.


The boat moved to another area close to the penguins to start snorkelling. We jumped into the water and followed Javier to some great areas where we were actually swimming with them.

At one point a school of small fish pursued by two penguins flitted back, forth and around us. I even got underwater video with my YI Adventure camera. Sooo exciting. 

There were a number of penguin encounters. We were even able to get so close to a rock they were sitting on that they were arms-length away. Javier took photos of us with them. They did not seem afraid of us at all.


The only way this experience could have gotten better is if a penguin jumped into my arms and French kissed me....ok, maybe not French kissed but you get the picture.

We had lots of time with the penguins; Javier let us enjoy the experience and did not rush us.

We got back into the boat and went to a more shallow area of Los Tuneles. Here the marine life was quite different. Javier found a seahorse sitting on the bottom in a crevice so we all had a look. There were many, many sea turtles. One was eating under water and a school of wrasses was flitting around his mouth. We also saw a large marble ray lying on the bottom. There were many more smaller fish in this area. 


Further out from shore in some caves we saw white tipped sharks sleeping on the bottom.


A few times we swam through large schools of Sargent fish with their bright yellow tails.

Soon it was time to head back. The return trip took only about a half hour. 

When the boat landed, we could barely make our way down the pier because of all the sleeping sea lions. Javier said we had to be careful not to step in the sea lion poop because it was hard to get off and very stinky....sounded like he was speaking from experience.

It really was a challenge to get around them. I did trod on the edge of one tail.

Once we made it past the sea lions on the dock we had to navigate through all the Marine iguanas on the foot path.

Back at the Pahoehoe tour headquarters, Javier downloaded the pictures he took with his GoPro onto our iPhones or sim cards at no charge. 

Next, I wanted to go to to the beach to swim with sea lions but John wanted to get out of the sun so we hung out on the balcony of our hostel having a beer and looking at our pictures and videos.
Then we headed down to the beach for sunset.


We noticed that no sea lions hung out at our sunset beach. We feel that they prefer the beaches with benches.

We tried a different restaurant tonight for supper. I ordered chicken because, believe it or not, I’m actually starting to get my fill of seafood. Seafood is so plentiful here that a lobster is $15 while a whole pizza is $25 US. A dinner with soup,  a seafood (grilled shrimp or octopus or squid), rice, fries, salad, juice and dessert is $8-10. I have found that if you ask them for cooked vegetables instead of a salad, they are happy to oblige.

I love this sleepy island paradise.

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