Tuesday, 27 March 2007

50 kisses in one hour!

Monday dawned bright and sunny. After a breakfast of bread and homemade apricot compote (apricots taken from the tree just outside my cabin), I made my way down to the pier, to meet Pedro, and three other Chilean tourists (Monique, Veronica, and Oscar, all Psysiotherapists from Santiago who had dreamed of coming to this island for years). We were off snorkellng with the Fur Seals.

In a small boat we headed east hugging the high cliffs. The physios were great company and spoke spiffingly good Queen's English. On the way a fishing boat pulled alongside ours and we were offered freshly grilled fish for elevenies. After sharing the fish, we headed to the fur seal colony. We did two passes, the first we just watched them swimming or lying vertically head down in the water with their rear flippers in the air.

Then it was on with the wet suits, mask and fins and into the water.

It was quite amazing to watch them nimble creatures swimmimg with great ease just in front of my mask. They did not seem bothered by my presence at all. Only once did I feel nervous and this was when a huge male swam past me totally blocking my view temporarily. I thought wow he is a powerful brute.

I then swam closer to the cliffs, as I could see the youngsters were swimming there. This was the right move. They were totally inquisitive, playful and friendly. They would swim right up to my mask, sometimes knocking it slightly, peering at me as I peered at them. I could feel them sliding and jumping over my legs. Their eyes underwater had a violet luminescence, quite beautiful on their cute little faces.

I decided to stop being inert and held out my hand. They would come up to my hand and I could stroke their little heads, feeling their stiff whiskers and their soft ear flaps. Some would take a finger into their mouths and would play bite as a puppy would. Their fur was so soft, and you could feel their body heat.I spent about the best part of an hours with these wonderful animals.

These Fur Seals, an endemic species of Sea Lion, almost became extinct, as their fur was highly prized (Napoleonic hats were made of fur seal). However they survived and since becoming protected have thrived once more.