The breeze flows inside the cottage, like a soft lullaby rocking a baby to sleep. In between the mixture of the wind with the ripples from the waves, the sea lion sleeps on the dock´s bench, and the bright red sally lightfoot crab stands on one of the black volcanic rocks. This is the perfect scenario for any nature fan. Sea gulls swirl around a fishing boat that has returned from the early morning catch. Through the unpleasant fish smell, they lazily struggle to steal whatever they can as the fishermen pull the net. The morning brings the first townspeople to their feet, some opening their stores, and arrange their merchandise to showcase most of the colorful artisanal souvenirs that can be handpicked by travelers. Parents riding their bikes, their child sitting on the bicycle handle Tourists get to experience the life of locals in this town in a unique way.
The weather is ideal for sightseeing. Not too cold to wear a sweater, not too warm for flip-flops. The tourism website suggests a walk along Tortuga Bay. The sand stretches smoothly like a white blanket while the crystal-blue waters decorate it. A perfect place for pictures. And no need for filters. Everything appears to be normal until you spot something unusual in the water. It’s hard to notice at first, until it starts approaching the shore. As if pulled out from a prehistorian movie, it claws its way through the sand stretching its scaly body and makes its way to the shade of the trees. It is Something beautiful, unique, something you won’t see anywhere else in the world: a marine iguana.
Tortuga Bay is one of the many touristic attractions of Santa Cruz Island. It’s one of the most targeted places by tourists and it’s a great way to start off your Galapagos adventure. North of this white-sand beach is Puerto Ayora, a town filled with a diversity of restaurants, touristic attractions, art galleries and souvenir stores. Giving yourself the opportunity to try typical food is a must in this area, as well as enjoying a cocktail in the evening or taking a bike ride to explore all the town has to offer.
An unlikely but definitely a place to experience is the Puerto Ayora fish market. Set your alarms early and enjoy the sight of fishermen arriving with the catch of the day. Don’t mind the smell of fish and watch as pelicans, sea lions and other animals gather around and try to get ahold of the scraps of fish, co-existing in a unique way, each one struggling to get their breakfast, while people prepare and sell their products.
These are not the only things that are part of the Galapagos experience in this small island. A tribute to Darwin and his contribution to science is physically embodied in the Charles Darwin Research Station. It is a sanctuary in charge of protecting endangered species, particularly the giant Galapagos Tortoise. Tourists can walk throughout this natural shelter and contemplate different subspecies of these astounding creatures that are raised in captivity with focus to be released in their natural habitat once they’re strong enough to fend for themselves in the wild. In the highlands of Santa Cruz and immersed in exuberant vegetation, you can spot these giant tortoises living in their natural habitat, so make sure to scratch off these ranches from your to-do list!
Galapagos tortoises are an emblem of the endemic diversity that Galapagos has. Due to the introduction of species such as dogs, goats, rats and cats, as well as illegal hunting made these chelonians vulnerable and on the verge of extinction. The station’s breeding program provides hope for them to keep on trudging slowly and dazzle the thousands of tourists who visit the islands every year. Despite these efforts, there is one particular story with no happy ending. A lonely tortoise was found by a Hungarian scientist in 1971 alone in Pinta Island and was brought to the research station a year later. He became known as Lonesome George.
In the years following after his discovery, scientists made every effort possible to find a female of his species while he resided in the foundation. Two females from a similar subspecies were brought to him, though it has not been proved that he was able to leave any offspring. Unsuccessful to find him a partner, he remained alone until his death from natural causes in 2012. It is estimated that he lived over 100 years old! Now a conservation icon, he was embalmed and is displayed in the station as a symbol of the importance of the conservation species and its positive effects on our environment.
The marine “environment” surrounding Santa Cruz is another wonder that has to be explored. For all those seawater fans, the island offers diverse options in different locations. Las Grietas (“The Cracks” in English) can be a good head start. Formed by volcanic eruptions into an earth fracture, it created two rock walls where two types of water collide: sweet water flowing from the river and salt water from the ocean. Crystal clear brackish water, perfect for snorkeling, diving and exploring.
Located north of Santa Cruz is Las Bachas Beach, another site perfect for people of any age and physical condition. It gets its name after the remainings of US Military barges from World War II that are visible on the shore, which are mostly buried underneath the white, coral-formed sand. This spot is another sea turtle choice for laying their eggs and also serves as a perfect home for the sally lightfoot crab, creating a perfect contrast between the white shores and their red or orange crab shells.
Santa Cruz is one world inside a small piece of land so diverse that it would take weeks to explore it all. Its central location in the archipelago makes it the ideal place for any wildlife explorers and passionate adventurers. All you need is an experienced naturalist guide and personalized trip to get the most out of the “Enchanted Islands”. We can offer you something you’ll never forget with only a click away: FIND MY TOUR.
We hope you will enjoy this experience as much as we wish you to. See you on the other side!