It takes a while to get to Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos from Quito. After breakfast, we packed up and the hotel stored my bike and a pack of bike stuff, then we taxied to the airport. After the special Galapagos luggage inspection and first payment, we enjoyed the VIP lounge, one of the best ever.
Our plane left at 2 (1 Galapagos time) and flew due west, almost along the equator for just over 2 hours. We had some nice views coming in, including giant iguanas along the runway, looking so cool we thought they might be paid to hang out there. There is a big inspection and second payment (first is $20, second is $100) after landing. You can’t bring in fruit or seeds. They give you lots of information about the conservation aspects of the Galapagos. For instance, the airport is completely carbon neutral, supposedly the first in the world.
Then it’s a bus, a ferry from Baltra Island to Santa Cruz Island, and a long bus ride across to the biggest Galapagos town, Puerto Ayora (pop 20,000). The scenery goes from desert to highlands (the road goes over 2000′ up) through some lush forests and finally down to the town. This is the dry season but Puerto Ayora has mist and some rain. There is often fog in the highlands.
We checked in to our Airbnb, had a nap, then checked out the piers and downtown, a couple of minutes walk away. Dinner was at the Santa Cruz Brewery. The 6 local beers I tried were just ok but I’m very spoiled. Very friendly place, proud bartender, decent food. We walked though town, watched some dancers and then headed for bed.
In the morning we headed over to Las Grietas (The Cracks) via water ferry and 800m walk. So so nice! We swam in the “cracks”, a deep gully, maybe 5m wide but long, with some fish. It’s salt water, very comfortable and refreshing, but it can be crowded. From a hill above we watched “pterodactyls” (actually Frigate Birds) and giant pelicans, some diving through waves at warp speed.
Lunch was on the pier back in town under cover during a short rain shower. In the afternoon we walked the 2.5km trail to Tortuga Bay, a must when you come here. It has the most gorgeous fine white sand, iguanas all over, sharks cruising by the mangroves, a blue footed boobie, sea turtles swimming, and we had a wonderful nap under a tree. Here’s our hike on strava.
We walked back to town talking with a 5th generation Galapagos native who works as a scuba guide. We started dinner with a local beer at one place, then the Isla Grill for some excellent charcoal grilled octopus and sushi rolls, then Midori for a round of Chirashizushi, then next door to the brewery Cactecea for some IPA, and finally home via an shop with homemade ice cream.
On the 7th, we got up at 5:45am and checked out and were picked up downtown for a day trip to Bartolome Island. This was supposed to be the first day of our 8-day cruise on the Aida Maria, but it needed 2 days of repairs so we opted to take a couple of day trips and stay in a hotel rather than a partial refund.
About 15 of us took a mini-bus back to the Baltra side and boarded the Alta Mar, a nice modern motor yacht. As we left the harbor breakfast was served and the ride was great. We cruised by Isla Daphne Mayor and saw some nesting birds, 2 kinds of boobies and others. Then about 90 minutes to our first landing, on Isla Santiago, for snorkeling at Sullivan Bay. We had an hour or so and the water was pretty clear. As soon as I put my face in, a penguin (the only one we saw that day) “flew” past me underwater. I was able to shoot some video, also of a sea lion and a ton of fish. There were many types, lots and lots. Quite fun and without wet suits you could basically stay in as long as desired. Supposedly the temperature was 21°C.
We zodiaced back to the boat and cruised a few minutes over to Bartolome Island which has a dramatic pinnacle that sticks way up. We anchored and landed at a little rock pier covered with crabs, then walked all the way up the Summit Trail to 114m on a wooden walkway. The view here in all directions is outstanding of many of the Galapagos Islands. It was windy but clear and nice.
After a pleasant 2 hour cruise back, and busing back to town, checked into our hotel, cleaned up, had dinner, and relaxed. What a great day – we’re so glad we decided to try the Galapagos!
Here are some photos and videos from the first 3 days here.
Updates won’t be so often anymore in the land of staggeringly slow internet…