Our flight from Quito landed us on the island of Baltra (which was a WW2 US army base at one point), then a bus to the edge of the island, a ferry over to Santa Cruz, and then a taxi to the town and we were there. In all, the day went Bus-Bus-Plane-Bus-Ferry-Taxi. But we made it, and we were ready to see how the whole “evolution” hogwash was supposed to work.
Just after arriving the first night, we took a walk out on the pier and saw a massive manta ray right under the surface of the water. And then there were a couple sea lions showing off on the dock. I guess the wildlife here is legit.
Everything on the islands is run by locals, and for whatever reason they haven’t really gotten very good at tourism. If natural selection was real, they’d go extinct. Let’s just say there’s a reason the rich people stay out on their cruises and avoid touching foot on the main islands if they can avoid it. But, that of course is not how we roll.
On Santa Cruz, there was a beach and trail which lead to Las Grietas, a narrow channel of water between caverns. It was cool, but we didn’t go swimming. It was also cold, judging by the shorts of the guy we dubbed “French Jesus” who was there that we had met earlier.
The Darwin Center on Santa Cruz is home to a lot of the research going on, largely focused on the tortoises. Great job for slow scientists who like animals. It’s the only place these species live, and they were endangered after people with boats kept killing them. Let’s be honest, they are pretty easy to catch, and they’re massive.
I jogged a lot of places, so as usual I don’t really have pictures. It was about a 4-mile loop to Tortuga Bay and back, so I ran there a couple mornings to see the ugly iguanas and deserted beach.
I also went diving (off Seymour Island and some other one). I got put on a boat of Argentinians who had come up just to dive all week. So I was the odd man out a bit, plus I didn’t speak Spanish, so it was a little weird but everything went fine and they were very nice. I felt good throughout the dives, which is also a plus. And I even tried to upload a couple videos (a sea turtle swimming by, hammerhead sharks, and a big school of manta rays), but the file size was too big, and I’m too lazy to upload it separately.
But, the dive instructor took some photos, so at least I can share those.
The highlight was the hammerheads (it’s kind of why people come here to dive in the first place), which I was able to check off the bucket list. I didn’t befriend them and convince them to build an underwater city, so that remains unchecked. Next time.
I also saw turtles. The pretty, swimming kind, not the useless tortoises in the man-made sex camps.
We spent the first three nights on Santa Cruz, then the next night on Isabela Island (there are a ton of islands). And if I’m being honest, we were a little underwhelmed. Everything was delivered as promised, but everything had consistently met our minimum expectations. It kind of felt like we were paying a lot of money for pictures of interesting creatures. Which is worth it, but a little bit deflating.
There was a trail on Isabela that we walked. Saw a bunch of violin scuttlers, flamingos, and colorful ducks. And then at the end was another tortoise center. It was pretty much a tortoise breeding ground, with sections containing tiny tortoises and others containing medium and large ones. They were very hungry. Also, my picture is upside-down.
After watching tortoises have sex for a while, we went back for our tour. The person we bought it from didn’t tell us we’d be snorkeling. So we didn’t wear our swimsuits. They saw a lot of turtles snorkeling, which would have been devastating but my sister got to see them on a snorkel later, so it turned out ok. Would have been a nice tour except for that, as we got to see a lot of the Galapagos things (Penguins, Iguanas, Blue-Footed Boobies).
Our last three nights, we spent on San Cristobal island. It had a much calmer vibe, and we found a nice little hotel to stay in and relax. It ended the trip well. On San Cristobal, there is a giant beach right in town where all the Sea Lions hang out and sleep. Here are some moms and babies sleeping near the fence.
While my traveling companions went diving and snorkeling (and saw sharks and turtles – sounded like a lot of fun), I stuck to the beach trails and the DIY snorkeling. This guy was just lying on his back right by the snorkeling rock like this for ages.
While I was snorkeling here, a baby sea lion jumped in and swam with me for a bit. Despite being quite young, he was a much better swimmer than me. I remember watching the sea lions when I was little and wondering if that’s how they really were or if that was an aquarium thing, but all those mannerisms are legit. They are extremely curious and playful, but also pretty lazy.
There were also a ton of scuttlers here. Honestly, the scuttlers are all over, but I didn’t take any good pictures of them.
I also stopped by the Interpretation Center on San Cristobal, which goes over the history of the islands. I was the only one who did that, and I was the only one in the place the entire time I was there. Apparently, people don’t visit the Galapagos for the history.
A couple recommendations:
Il Giardino – Santa Cruz. They had some great vegetarian options so I ended up eating here a couple times. There aren’t a lot of places around with vegetarian food.
Tongo Reef – San Cristobal. The people of Galapagos for some reason are not good at cooking an egg, if they even bother getting up for breakfast at all. These guys do both well.
And that was the Galapagos. Pretty cool place. If I’m ever a millionaire maybe I’ll come back and take a cruise to some of the outer islands, but for now I’m satisfied.