It was a remarkably bouncy night on the Ocean Spray, considering that there were no real white-caps on the sea as we sailed up the coast of San Cristobal Island. I lay in bed marvelling – and thankful - that I felt fine, but was still glad when we moored at about 6am off Pitt Point, where after breakfast we landed on a beach that is claimed to be green. Well, perhaps there was a bit of a tinge, but you’d need a microscope to see the olivine crystals.
Never mind, though: there were red and blue Sally Lightfoot crabs all over the rocks, and pelicans, and sea lion cubs powering through the water, showing off, and a weary-looking marine iguana on the sand. Morris, the guide/naturalist, gave us a geography and geology lesson, scratching maps and diagrams in the sand with a stick: all about currents and tectonics, plus a bit of history; and then we set off on our climb.
It was pretty easy (especially for those of us who’d recently been in the Andes) and there were lots of stops to look at lizards and vegetation and of course birds. The boobies are nesting, and we saw eggs on the bare ground in the middle of a circle of sprayed guano; a bird with a newly-hatched chick all bare and spiky by its mother’s bright blue webbed feet; another regurgitating an absurdly large fish for its small fluffy chick before thinking better of it and swallowing it again; and another resisting the nagging of its larger chick and continuing, single-minded, with its preening.
Then there were red-footed boobies, which were a novelty; and a half a dozen goats, which were both unexpected and unwelcome, since they’re meant to have been eradicated. Oh, and half a snake, which is always better than one.
Then, as lunch came to an end, the captain announced that there were dolphins, causing an immediate desertion of the dining room, chairs awry, serviettes dropped, desserts left unfinished. Always fun to see, they were riding the bows of the catamaran to the delight of everyone, even those of us frustrated at being caught out with lenses too long on our cameras (I’m finding that’s a frequent problem in Galapagos).
The afternoon snorkel didn’t happen, since the water was too rough, but we had a spin through the hole in the rock at Witch Hill, and then there were plenty of sea lions on the beach, an obliging pelican and various birds to keep us happy for a while. Then some of us got a bit restive, spoilt now by the riches, so it was as well that Reuben was so obliging when Mel wanted some shots for her PBS travel show. There was Charles Atlas posing, there were flips and handstands, and classic running-out-of-the-waves action, all done with the unselfconscious ease you would expect of someone with experience of the fashion and exercise world.
At dinner, though – always an eye-opener on trips like this – we heard about his career as a bio-medical engineer, and his six languages (“Oh, but they’re all Latin languages,” he said dismissively). The conversation around the table ranged over Texan good manners, the rout of the Scottish Labour party, the unsuitability of Antwerp as a bachelor party location, the low priority of privacy for young people, and penguin-pelican co-operation, amongst other entertaining topics. All this, and excellent food, too!