Santa Cruz

Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
Trip End Apr 01, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To leave Isabela, there is only one speedboat a day - at 6am!! Although my alarm was set I was (rather unnecessarily) woken up with a knock on the window shortly before it would have gone off. It turned out there were a lot of people booked to leave that day and they were keen to get some people in taxis to the marina earlier than normal. For once, the boat left on time and after a very smooth journey I arrived in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz at around 7.30am.

Having secured a room at the Lirio del Mar, I had the rest of the day to explore the remaining places I wanted to see on Santa Cruz. I say remaining because I had had a few hours the day I had travelled from San Cristobal - Isabela. No direct boat connection had meant a 5 hour wait in Puerto Ayora until the 2pm boat left for Isabela. During this, I had visited the El Chato Tortoise Reserve and the lava tunnels up in the highlands. The weather turned out to be perfect for giant tortoise spotting as the drizzle and mist meant they were out happily munching grass and sitting in mud pools. Who knew that they also make a weird hissing sound when they feel threatened, omitting it as they retreat back under their shell!! The lava tunnels were OK, you walk through them with the most interesting and challenging bit being a very low section of apx 800mm high which you have to crawl through. Very dirty back and trousers afterwards as I couldn't seem to get my backside down low enough to avoid scraping the top!!

So having done these, there were only 2 things which I wanted to see on my final day. Firstly, Las Grietas which is a water taxi and short walk away from Puerto Ayora. It's a lovely gorge with very tranquil, clear water which you can swim or snorkel in. Although pretty, I didn't spend too much time there as wanted to allow more time for what I hoped would be the more interesting of the 2 - Tortuga Bay.

Tortuga Bay is also walkable from Puerto Ayora, taking about 45mins along a purpose-built path. The beach is beautiful. White sand which is so fine it literally runs through you fingers, whilst also sticking to and getting into everything!! As I walked along it, the sun decided to make an appearance and it really was stunning. Especially watching the solitary marine iguanas slowly walking along the beach - their black bodies against the white of the sand was particularly striking. Although not signposted, there is a very peaceful lagoon to the north of the beach which is a much better location for swimming or snorkelling than the main beach as there is no risk of undertows or currents. This is a must when in Puerto Ayora.

If I'm honest, I'm glad I only spent 1 night on Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora is a much larger town than either Puerto Bacuerizo Moreno or Puerto Vilamil. The only advantage to staying longer would have been the opportunity to do further day trips to islands such as Bartoleme, Santa Fe or Floreana, none of which are offered from the other islands.

And now, just a few things about visiting the Galápagos and doing an independent land based tour as opposed to a cruise or an organised land based tour. Most of the guide books make it sound like it is impossible to see anything if you aren't on either of the latter. It is; it just takes more planning. The land trips I looked at varied from $650 -850 (exc. flights/entrance) and although advertised as 5 days would have been in reality only 3 full days with a 1/2 day either side because these are the days you arrive or depart. Likewise, the cheapest 'last minute' cruises were apx $750 (exc. flights/entrance) for 4 days, again including your departure and arrival days, so really only 2 full days.

As this was very much an extra to my original itinerary, I had to do it on a pretty strict budget. It's possible to move between the islands using the public speedboats, find economical accommodation and also book your own day trips depending on your interests. There are also many things you can visit which you can do independently, either walking or biking, or using local transport. I spent 6 full days there and a 1/2 day when both arriving and departing, and saw the key attractions on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela for apx $550 (inc. food/accommodation/all trips/transport between the islands). Flights were apx $450 (Guayaquil - San Cristobal/Baltra) and entrance fees were $110, therefore in total the cost for the week was somewhere around $1100.

If you are in any way thinking of visiting the Galápagos, is absolutely worth it and I'm so pleased I haven't missed out on these amazing islands :-)
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Pigwig on

La Tortuga hissing, how sad I always imagined them to be very chilled out. Whose the surfer? ; )

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