Galavanting in the Galapagos

Kicker Rock, aka the Sleeping Lion with the La Bruja, the Witch, in the background.

Kicker Rock, aka the Sleeping Lion with the La Bruja, the Witch, in the background.

We traveled to the Galapagos because my dear friend Lori Buhrfiend (@lellogoods) mentioned that she was going. That got me thinking—South America was our winter destination, but we had not planned an itinerary. What a great idea!

We stayed at the Galapagos Eco Friendly on Isla San Cristobal (San Cristobal Island) for one week before moving to Isla Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Island). We were happy with this plan, as each island had unique offerings. Here are the highlights of our fabulous two weeks in the Galapagos.

360 Tour—All the way around the Island

We had planned this trip of the circumference of the island for our first full day in San Cristobal. Dutifully, we walked through the rain at 6:30 a.m. to the travel agency. Thankfully, we had discussed several trips with Senor Nava of Nava Travel and he remembered that we would be in town for a week. When he offered to let us go out the next day, we readily agreed. It was a great day. First we headed to Kicker Rock for our first sighting of blue footed boobies and a long snorkel. The snorkeling was excellent—sea turtles, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, eels and many fish. Next we circled la Bruja to view the nesting area for the frigate birds. We stopped at a couple of other beaches, pristine and deserted, to hike to another view of the blue footed boobies and to an easy snorkel in a lagoon, where we saw more sea turtles and sharks.

Sea Turtles, Beaches and Volcanoes

A little rain wasn’t stopping us as we booked our tour of the turtle reserve…We were a small tour of La Galapaguera, the giant tortoise reserve. Our driver/guide only spoke Spanish, Paul, and the young Swiss women who traveled with us, German and some English. I became the translator of the day! In the car and in the wonderful national park for giant tortoises. I translated through the history, the preservation, the growth and the sexual habits of these beautiful, prehistoric looking tortoises. It was a very interesting adventure, with some really nasty green head flies who inflicted bite damage that I was still recovering from three weeks later. We also visited a beautiful, but rainy beach Puerto Chino, and El Junco a volcanic crater lake. We climbed over 400 meters to see the lake, but it was overcome by clouds, which parted for just 30 seconds while we were at the top. Wishing it had been clearer.

Final Days in San Cristobal

We decided to take a day trip to Espanola island, mainly to see the Albatros. However, we didn’t know that if it wasn’t mating season, there will be no Albatros. Sadly we saw a few abandoned eggs and chicks who had hatched late and had also been abandoned. If it’s not mating season, we suggest that you skip this island. It is a total of 4 hours motoring in bouncy seas and another hour motoring around the island. We had a good hike, saw some great views and swam with sea lions who were very playful, even nipping the fin of one of the divers in our group. But we wished we had stayed in SC and gone to the beach.

We did go to another beach on SC and again it rained! We saw hammerhead sharks swimming, more sea lions, iguanas swimming and more birds. We also hiked the Hill of the Tijertas, another big climb to view a nesting area for the scissor-tailed frigate birds with a great view of Puerto Baquerizo.

SC has a lot to offer and we pretty much saw it all. Dining options are a bit limited, the Muyu at the Golden Bay Hotel had delicious food, we ate sushi at Midori twice, enjoyed El Marinero Descanso and watched the sunset from Nativo.

Santa Cruz

We took a water taxi from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz, the busiest island in the Galapagos. Our stay at Hotel Coloma was good, especially because the manager Gina treated us like friends from the beginning. Cruz is a good island for walking and self-guided tours. Of course we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we saw more giant tortoises, a different variety than the ones in San C. Look carefully, as we saw these guys trying to create new life! And, we discovered the Swim Galapagos a human group at the beach that day.

We hired a taxi to take us to see more tortoises, on a ranch where they roam freely—Las Promicias. There they gave us boots and we trekked around the trails in the drizzle to check out these amazing creatures. We walked the lava tubes as well, not realizing I would be forced to crawl on my belly like a reptile to make it to the other end of the tubes.

Another day we took a snorkeling tour tour to La Fe and Pinzon Island. The snorkeling was fabulous. We encountered a group of white tip sharks, about 30-40 of them hanging out like there were in their personal aquarium. We were only snorkeling in about 3 feet of water and they were close! We also saw many sea stars, which are so beautiful in the water. On the way back, we fished. Check out the tuna we caught in a group effort.

Several beautiful, white sand beaches complement the Island. We trekked to Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay twice, even though it is a round trip 5K walk just in the National Park. The beach is truly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The tides are strong and swimming is not recommended, except for the marine iguanas, who love this beach and leave long trails through the sand with their heavy tails. Around the point from this beach, there is another sandy retreat, kind of a lagoon, with calm, warm waters. We loved it. The Garrapatero is a 20 minute taxi ride from town, but it is deserted, beautiful and sometimes you can see flamingos, but we didn’t. It was another drizzly day, so we didn’t swim, but enjoyed watching the pelicans fishing close to shore.

Other points of interest included the grotto, or Las Grietas, a beautiful and very cold swimming hole. It’s not a big place and there was a group there when we went. I recommend going early in the day as the water remains the same temp throughout the day. Although we carried our snorkeling gear, there was nothing to see but a deep beautiful place to swim.

We were lucky to see the total eclipse of the moon peeking out from behind the clouds. Dining wise, we enjoyed Almar twice, beautiful view of the harbor and delicious food. In Los Kioskos, an outdoor dining area with many competing local restaurants, we recommend La Pirata for delicious fish. For Italian, Il Giardino and for ceviche El Descanso del Guia, delicious food, service not so great. For a delicious local experience, try the hamburger at La Sazon del Negro—BYOB.

When it was time to leave, it was a crazy morning. First, we hired a taxi to drive us across the island to the ferry to the airport. The inlet of water we crossed was about 100 yards wide, where there awaited buses to take us to the airport. This is the only way to get to the airport which is on Baltra Island. From there we returned to the mainland and Guayaquil for a couple of quiet days. See you in Chile for our next adventures.

The hamburger man at La Sazon del Negro. Excelente!

The hamburger man at La Sazon del Negro. Excelente!