ISLAND HOPPING IN THE GALAPAGOS – ISLA SANTA CRUZ
Swimming with turtles, sea lions and sharks, sun bathing on a beautiful secluded beach, eating fresh lobster and watching a amazing sunsets – all in one day? That’s life on the Galapagos Islands. The following blog posts will all be dedicated to my experiences on the secluded archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, 973 km off the coast of Ecuador. There will be one blog post for each of the main islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal. The last post will be dedicated to useful tips and tricks for the Galapagos Islands.
Isla Santa Cruz was the first island I visited and is probably my favorite one. With its 12.000 inhabitants it is the highest populated island of the Galapagos and the main town Puerto Ayora is the highest populated town as well. Needless to say that Puerto Ayora is also the busiest place in the Galapagos. The town is made up of different “hostales”, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and tourism agencies that sell day trips for snorkeling, diving and hiking or last minute cruises. The overall flair is very special and after a few days on the island, you keep running into the same people, say hi to them and have a chat, which makes you feel at home right away.
My personal highlights on Santa Cruz:
Charles Binford Street
Charles Bindord Street is the place to be for lunch, dinner, or drinks. There are multiple restaurants next to each other, where both locals and tourists go to get good, local and affordable meals. During lunchtime, every restaurant offers lunch menus, including a soup, a main dish and a juice for only $5. This type of offer is very typical for some countries in South America, including Ecuador. Try the ceviche! If you return for dinner, the street will have transformed completely. While it is busy during lunch time, it is packed during dinner time. Every restaurant sets their tables on the street, and that is where life happens. Dinner options vary. There are European priced offers but if you go to the right place you can again get a meal for only $5 consisting for example of two big pieces of tuna in the typical ajillo sauce (garlic sauce), with French fries and a salad. But the best meal I had was the lobster. If you have someone to share the meal with, you can get a big lobster for around $25, including side dishes such as French fries, salad and rice – and it’s delicious.
On every one of the three islands, I booked one snorkeling trip. From Santa Cruz I went on a tour to Pinzón, an uninhabited island west of Santa Cruz. The tour consisted of three stops. In the Galapagos Islands you differentiate between islands and rocks, the only difference being the size of the formation. The first snorkeling spot was at a rock on the way to the island of Pinzón, the second stop was at Pinzón (though you don’t set foot on the island) and the third stop was at a nice beach, which was also a great place to snorkel. On the trip I saw sharks, star fish, stingrays and manta rays, swam with sea lions that came up really close to us, wanting to play. I was there during the season of cold currents so the water was very freezing. If you’re there during that time of the year, make sure you get a long wet suit. To find out when that season is, check the article “tips and tricks for the Galapagos Islands”
Tortuga Bay is the only beach you can reach by foot and without booking a tour on Santa Cruz. Sadly, you walk at 30 to 40 minutes to get there, and weather changes quickly in the Galapagos. We left our hostel when it was bright and sunny and the minute we finally reached the beach, it started raining. We stayed anyway and after a while it cleared up and we enjoyed the waves. You can also rent surfboards and bodyboards in town before you leave.
Rancho el Chato
There are two different Ranches on Santa Cruz: Rancho el Chato and Rancho Primicias, I chose to go to Rancho el Chato. On the ranch you can see giant turtoises walking around freely and discover lava tunnels. Both of the Ranches are located close to Santa Rosa, one of the small towns on Santa Cruz. What many people don’t know: there is a public bus that takes you from Puerto Ayora to Santa Rosa for only $1. From Santa Rosa you will still have to walk for about 30 minutes, but it’s an easy walk through a beautiful landscape, where you will already be able to see some turtoises. Most people book a taxi to get there, that waits for them and takes them back to Puerto Ayora, which can cost up to 40$.
Once you get to the ranch, you will be asked for a $5 entrance fee. They sell organic Galapagos coffee that can be tasted (unlimited) for free. They also provide rain boots for free, in case it has rained before and the paths are muddy. We entered the lava tunnels first. There are three of them, the last one is the biggest and really nice. Afterwards we strolled around at the ranch, where giant turtoises just “walk” around freely, or rather just chill in the grass. Definitely a great experience!
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