GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – SANTA CRUZ

So I’m pretty sure we were witness to some sort of illegal smuggling on our bus from Mancora to Guayaquil across the border in Ecuador.  The bus stopped to allow customs officers to carry out an inspection which was not overly strange as this had happened on many buses throughout South America however on this occasion, the officer looked under the seat of the lady opposite us, who had a large bag full of what “appeared” to be packaged clothing items.  This probably wouldn’t have bothered us too much if we hadn’t looked under our own seat and seen that there was a similar bag stuffed beneath us!  As the customs man walked off chatting to another co-conspirator we attempted to ask her about it but she simply put her finger to her lips telling us to be quiet.  Who knows what was actually going on, or what was actually in the bags but we did watch a few $100 bills exchange hands between the lady, possibly the customs officer and definitely the bus attendant!

We were travelling to Guayaquil by bus in order to catch our flight to the Galapagos Islands.  It was a strange feeling when we were finally boarding the plane to Santa Cruz, the second largest and most populated island in the Galapagos.  For so long it had been something to look forward to, far in the distance and now we were suddenly here!  We touched down in the remote airport, paid the hefty $100 tourist fee and were transferred to a small boat that was to take us to the main section of the island.  It was here that we had our first view of the crystal-clear, vibrant blue water surrounding the island and we wanted to jump straight in!On the boat to Santa Cruz, GalapagosGalapagos Best Home Stay Welcome SignMarina at Santa Cruz, GalapagosArriving at our accommodation, we were greeted by a big sign with my name on it before meeting Kevin the owner who took us on a short tour of the main section of town.  My tour was exceptionally short as I was once again struck down with a horrible 24-hours of food poisoning which had me say a quick goodbye to the boys and running back to our room.  Will continued on, watching local fisherman fillet fish on the waterfront while sea lions and pelicans waited patiently for any scraps that may get thrown their way.  Boats lined the marina however we were slightly surprised at how little tourists there seemed to be on the actual island. Fishmongers on the marina - Santa Cruz, GalapagosWill & PelicanMarina at Santa Cruz, GalapagosAfter our “orientation day” (and after I felt confident in leaving the bathroom for more than half an hour!!!) we were ready to explore Galapagos and set off to Tortuga Bay, one of the main attractions of Santa Cruz Island.  Unfortunately the sun had forgotten to grace us with its presence and we walked along the path to the beach hoping it would miraculously break through the thick cloud cover.  The path was lined with the most bizarre tree, endemic to the Galapagos (as many species are), it has a bark-like wooden trunk but also cactus leaves and branches at the top.Path to Tortuga Bay, GalapagosGalapagos TreeWe continued on, reaching the beach front and admiring the white sand and transparent blue water around us which would have been completely illuminated – IF ONLY THE SUN WOULD COME OUT!!!  Near the mangroves, iguanas baked in the sun, seemingly oblivious to our presence as we walked around them.Beach near Tortuga BayMarine Iguanas near mangroves - Tortuga Beach, GalapagosMarine IguanaWill with a Marine IguanaArriving at Tortuga Bay, we did our bit for evolution, allowing the Darwin Finches to eat the crumbs of our Doritos before taking a kayak out to look around.  Within moments we were floating next to a group of white-tip reef sharks and as we paddled out, rays swam next to us and turtles poked their heads out of the water as they too swam along.  The amount of marine life we had already encountered was incredible and this was only the beginning.Tortuga BayWill hanging out at Tortuga Bay, GalapagosDarwin Finch, GalapagosHanging out at Tortuga Bay, GalapagosWhite-tip reef sharkManta Ray, GalapagosThere was still no sign of the sun but we continued to explore, heading to Las Grietas, a volcanic rock formation resulting in two large rock walls with water below.  We walked across toe-stubbing volcanic rock, past pink and white salt lakes before arriving at Las Grietas where the water was the most vivid blue and clear like glass.  Will climbed a section of the rock wall and jumped into the cold water before two local boys showed off by jumping from twice as high.Las Grietas welcome sign, GalapagosLas GrietasWill swimming at Las Grietas, GalapagosWater colour at Las Grietas, GalapagosOur next morning we awoke to a cloudy, average day but luckily had the perfect solution – exploring underwater where the clouds and rain are less of a concern!  It was an early start in order to go diving near Santa Fe island and we were not disappointed as we swam along the reef, surrounded by schools of fish, rays and white tip sharks. Boarding the dive boat - Santa Cruz, GalapagosReady to go diving - Santa Cruz, GalapagosGalapagos_066Galapagos_069Galapagos_071The marine life simply do not seem to care as you float amongst them and there is just such an abundance of fish of all kinds  – it is truly spectacular.  We had our first encounter with sea lions whose curiosity far outweighs any fear they have as they swim right up to you before darting off to the side.  We dived in two different sites and would happily have stayed down longer if we were allowed!Galapagos_076Galapagos_088Galapagos_084Galapagos_085After our dive we returned to the mainland and sat by the water enjoying some fresh seafood and surprisingly – the sun did come out!!!  We watched as as a grey heron stalked small iguanas and were impressed, yet slightly terrified when in the blink of an eye the heron snapped up an iguana whole!  With lunch finished (including for the heron), it was time to leave Santa Cruz and we boarded the ferry to Isabella Island, our next stop in our Galapagos adventure!Galapagos_097Galapagos_095Galapagos_098Galapagos_101