Our first taste of the Galapagos at Tortuga Bay

After a quick zig zag across South America from Lima, via Panama City – we arrived in Quito, capital of Ecuador.

We had a night to ourselves in a budget hotel, before transferring to the Hilton to join our tour the next day. With a full 4 days in Quito after our Galapagos trip, we decided to spend the next day or so relaxing and catching up on emails and blogging.

Apart for an unsuccessful trip to find a DHL to ship excess luggage home ($400 for 5kgs), the furthest we got were a couple of local restaurants for dinner. It was a nice break however – especially in the comfort of the Hilton.

On the second evening we met our group for what was a relatively pointless briefing – the only information of benefit was that breakfast started at 4am, ahead of a 4.30am trip to the airport for our flight. Our main question – ‘could we book some scuba diving?’was met with ‘speak to your guide tomorrow’.

After the briefing we headed out for a few beers with fellow travellers but retired early to get some rest.

The 6.50am morning flight to Galapagos was uneventful, although bizarrely the large Boeing aircraft stops to refuel in Guyquail – very 1980s!

After touching down in the Galapagos we were greeted by our guide for the day – we asked about scuba diving but were told ‘speak to your guide on the boat tomorrow’.

From the airport we boarded a bus for the ten minute ride to Itabaca where we caught a ferry across to the main Isla Santa Cruz. At the ferry port dozens of sea birds hovered overhead before a pelican spectacular swooped and dived into the water – flipping over and emerging with a fish which it quickly devoured. From the north coast of Santa Cruz we drove for almost an hour to the capital city, Puerto Ayora, a bustling tourist town with waterfront packed with restaurants, bars and shops.

After checking in to the hotel and a quick change, we headed out to Tortuga Bay. After a short walk we reached a National Park entrance with a 2.5km boardwalk through protected habitat, which winds its way down to the beach. We passed dozens of finches, tiny lava lizards and hundred year old cacti before reaching the white sands.

Once on the beach we took a gentle stroll along the perfect fine sands, stopping to take photos of a Heron fishing and dozens of sunbathing Marine Iguanas. The rough ocean meant there was opportunity to swim in these waters.

At the end of the beach, we cut inland to a pristine bay where you could hire kayaks. We decided to brave it and set off in our two seater to explore the mangroves.

The shores of the mangroves were teaming with brilliant red crabs, while Frigate birds and pelicans nested in the bushes. As we paddled into deeper water we saw bubbles in the water, followed by little heads popping up and darting under. The whole bay was home to dozens of turtles, and we spent ages paddling gently around spotting them. Our interest in the turtles was only broken with the large fin of an Eagle Ray broke the surface, before gliding under the water and out of sight.

After returning the kayaks we had the not so thrilling prospect of a 4km walk back to the hotel – although we broke it up with stops to photo more Iguanas.

With another early start planned for the next day, we opted for a group dinner in an outdoor market, before calling it an early night.

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