Boat Days and Eagle Rays

Catherine Putzier
August 30, 2021
Beach at Punta Pitt

It’s currently a sunny Saturday afternoon here in the Galápagos and I am basking in the absolutely absurdly, beautiful reality that I will be living on San Cristobal for three months. In the two weeks that I have been here, I have been able to swim, surf, play pickup soccer, take salsa lessons, hike in the highlands, snorkel with sea turtles, eat delicious empanadas, home in on my ArcGIS skills, and share beach sunsets with friendly sea lions.

Every night, I’ve gone to bed completely content and exhausted by the day. Every morning, I wake up to a bright sky and the sounds of people bustling around in the street under my window.

It is a whole new environment, and at this point I am still in the stage of taking it all in. This past Friday, our class took a field trip to Kicker Rock and Punta Pitt, two classic destinations for San Cristobal. Safe to say it was an epic day from start to finish. We met at the pier at 6:30am and then zipped off on a boat to the first destination of our trip: Kicker Rock. I had seen images of Kicker Rock before, but none of them communicated just how big this volcanic-formed outcrop was. The 45-minute boat trip gave us the perfect opportunity to watch it grow from a tiny speck on the horizon into a looming feature with sheer cliffs reaching high above our heads. Despite it being a cold day, when we arrived, we immediately donned our snorkel fins and hopped into the water. Luckily, it didn’t take long to start spotting wildlife.

First up were the familiar figures of a sea lions, darting in and out of a huge school of fish. After watching them lounge around on the beach these past two weeks it was a treat to see their energetic alter egos zipping by. We quickly found some sea turtles, lazily appearing and then disappearing into the shrouded blue water. Next, a black tipped shark, slinking around far below us. Kicker Rock is divided into two big sections with a channel that runs between them. After exploring the outer edge of the rock, our guide led us through this channel. That’s where we saw the money shot. When I realized what was swimming underneath us I think my eyes almost bulged out of my goggles. There, right before our eyes were four big eagle rays! I didn’t even know that they could be found at Kicker Rock, so it was an exciting surprise.

After our snorkeling adventure, we hopped back on the boat and drove to Punta Pitt, which is at the northeastern point of San Cristobal Island. Our boat anchored at a beautiful, rock-sheltered cove with sparkling sand. At this location, our main activity was hiking along the coastline and observing the blue and red-footed boobies. While I had seen blue-footed boobies back in town, this was the first time we spotted both kinds at such a close distance. The hiking path led us right past their nests, so we got plenty of opportunities to see puffy white babies and mothers protecting their eggs.

We spent a long time exploring the area, so by the time we got back on the boat the day was coming to an end. The long ride home was timed perfectly, because right as we reached Puerto Baquerizo Moreno’s harbor, the sun sank into the ocean. Our day was bookended with a perfect little sunset gift, and if that doesn’t make your soul happy then I don’t know what will.

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Catherine Putzier

<p>Hello everyone! My name is Catherine Putzier and I’m a senior at the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), where I am studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Biology. While on my home turf, you can find me rock climbing at a local crag, playing a game of pickup soccer, or gushing about my three adorable nephews and one adorable niece. I love a good adventure and can’t wait to share about the Galapagos semester program!</p>

Home University:
University of St. Thomas (MN)
St. Paul, MN
Environmental Studies
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