Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Galapagos (pt. 1 - Santa Cruz)

The day we got to Quito we decided to book flights to the Galapagos. We got a great deal on flights that left two days later, which was a relief because Quito is actually pretty cold! We also wanted to find a good last-minute deal on a cruise during our two-week stay, and were able to book an 8-day, 1st class cruise for the second week of our trip for only a fraction of the going rate!

We flew to the Baltra airport and headed to the little town of Peurto Ayora on the Ilsand of Santa Cruz. Immediately, we were both amazed by all the foreign plants and wildlife surrounding us - we almost felt as if we were on an entirely different planet! During our first evening on the Galapagos, we settled down on a bench at the waterfront, grabbed some snacks and beers from the local supermarket, and sat in awe of the view (sorry, we didn't take a camera that time)!

The next morning we set off on the 2.5 km trail to Tortuga Bay. The path felt other-wordly, as it wove through giant cacti and other arid-tempered plants. We had to watch our feet due to the many lizards that crossed our paths, which was hard because we were busy looking into the trees at all the different birds!

Female lava lizzard.

Immediately we noticed how curious the birds were, especially this little mockingbird who decided he would help guide us to Tortuga Bay.

Finally, after nearly an hour (due to all the stops to admire plants and creatures), we saw the ocean!

Our toes were then greeted by the SOFTEST sand either of us have even felt - it had a texture and consistency that resembled all-purpose baking flour!

And although the beach was called "Tortuga" Bay, we saw only giant marine iguanas - and lots of them.

Just off the beach is a turtle-nesting ground.

We decided to follow an iguana for awhile...

Here is a little family of marine iguanas chilling by a mangrove. They subside solely on different kinds of algae.

Around the corner we found a calm lagoon surrounded by mangroves. We were told that one can see reef sharks and other fish snorkelling in this area, but we found the water too murky.

We did, however, swim with a pellican, who was busy chasing a little school of fish along the shoreline.

A view of Peurto Ayora (on Santa Cruz Isl.) from the trailhead.

A resident sea lion taking an evening nap at the Peurto Ayora dock.

On our third day, we ventured over to Las Grietas, a series of tectonic cracks filled with a mixture of sea and rainwater. We took a water taxi across the bay and took a trail that led us past a pink salt flat.

The water was pretty cold, but the surrounding rocks were nice and hot. Some of the local dare-devil teens were jumping from the top left rocks into the pool (a 50 ft or so drop)! We decided not to test our health insurance...

The boats outside the fish market at Peurto Ayora.

Below is a video of the fish market in operation!

On another daytrip, we ventured over to the Darwin Centre where we saw giant tortoises and land iguanas.

Apparently, nobody really knows how old tortoises can get, although it is speculated that they can live around 200 years. We were also informed they can survive without food and water for up to a year!

This happy little muncher is known as "Super Diego". This nick-name comes from his superior baby-making skills! He wasn't the largest or fastest tortoise we saw, but he was certainly the happiest!

Super Diego being super... with a theme song:

A very smily blonde land iguana.

And another very happy critter - a giant grasshopper (he was a good 5 to 6 inches long).

And an extremely happy cactus... a little too happy, in fact...

This guy didn't seem quite as up-beat as the others. His name is Lonesome George, and he is so-called because he's the last of his kind. Apparently all other tortoises like him are extinct (but scientists are still searching for another tortoise of the same species). He lives with two female tortoises of another species, but is unable to successfully mate with them to help save his tortoise race. We figure George may just be gay ("not that there's anything wrong with that").

Another tired looking creature is this "out-of-service" Monorail Lizzard!

And thus concluded our first week and our time on land... Next we headed off on our cruise (pt. 2)!!!

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