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Santa Cruz Island
We spent ten days on a cruise in the Galapagos Islands and while on our cruise we called in at a number of different parts of this island.
Santa Cruz is the second biggest island in the group and was originally called ' Indefatigable Island' by the British but thankfully the Spanish name is now used as the British name is not appealing to me. SantaCruz is 380 sq miles in size and is inhabited and indeed there are a couple of towns as well.
We didn't actually visit this port town until the last day of our cruise and we arrived on our ship into Puerto Ayora which is in Academy Bay on the southern coast of Santa Cruz . This port town is somewhere that feels really a bit hectic after spending ten days sailing around uninhabited islands. In Puerto Ayora you can find most things you might need and it is also the headquarters of both the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. In this small town is where you will find the hotels and other places to stay if you are not cruising or even if you want to have a day or two either side of your cruise to explore some more. There is also a small hospital, a couple of banks, a post office, and even a radio station as well as a few shops. If you want to book any tours or even change your flight then this can be done here. This little town is not unattractive but is quite a culture shock after sailing peacefully around uninhabited islands for ten days.
BLACK TURTLE COVE
A trip sailing around in this cove was our first afternoon trip. The sailing ship anchored a bit outside Black Turtle Cove which is on on the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island. We then got into the little zodiacs to look around this mangrove cove. It was late afternoon and light when we went out and so quiet as we were the only boats in the cove. The first animals we saw were pelicans sitting preening themselves on the rocks at the mouth of the cove. Once we were in the cove and near the shore or some animals the engines were cut and we just drifted in silence; it was perfect. We spent a couple of hours boating around looking at the different animals and by the time we returned to our ship the sun was going down and we enjoyed a beautiful golden sunset.
In the cove we found the sea was clear enough that by just leaning out of the dinghies we could see different shoals of rays swimming by and as we got closer to the mangroves we saw turtles and white tipped reef sharks too. We saw were really lucky and saw several lots of rays some were spotted eagle rays and others were golden rays, there was another type but I forget what they were called. The rays were lovely to watch swimming along and were easy to spot as they looked like shark fins sticking out of the water. They seemed to swim in a diamond formation in quite large groups.
The only thing I was less keen on were the mosquitoes; they seemed to think my special eco friendly repellent was some kind of pheromone to attract them. Apart from the pesky mossies this was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.
This area we called in to on our fourth day I believe and it is found on the far western side of the island and we visited using the zodiacs and as there is a jetty it was a dry landing so we had no need to paddle and then dry our feet to get our shoes back on.
Initially we saw a number of the black marine iguanas sitting basking on the rocks trying to soak up the last rays of sunshine in the afternoon. We walked inland a little and saw our first land iguana who was posing on a rocky outcrop almost like a sentry guarding the island.
The land iguanas are bigger than the marine ones generally and they really are such beautifully ugly beasts like small pre historic dinosaurs. They look really slow and clumsy but we found when we got closer than they wanted us to they could actually move at quite a pace.
We were told that there was a lagoon and that usually there are flamingoes on the lake but sadly we only saw
one lonely flamingo. I was quite sorry for this poor fellow and did wonder where all his mates had gone and why they had left him all alone. He didn't seem too bothered as he waded around eating. The sun was just right to create the most beautiful shadows in the water and he posed very patiently for us. Although it would have been nice to see a whole flock I have seen them before on Lake Nakuru in Kenya and this one was very lovely in this setting. There were a number of other wading birds on the lagoon but they couldn't really compete with this beautiful pink bird standing so tall in the water.
We walked around the lagoon and inland a bit more into the scrubby bush which had a number of large cactii and small bushes. We did see several more huge land iguanas; some sat and looked at us while others walked away into the peace and quiet of the bushes. There was one we watched for some time chomping his way through a large juicy cactus piece that had fallen to the ground.
Once again as we returned to the ship in the zodiacs the sun was going down and we enjoyed the most beautiful sunset which was a perfect end to another day in the Galapagos.
THE DARWIN CENTRE
We visited this centre on the morning of our very last day on the Galapagos Islands. This is where 'Lonesome George' once lived and attracted visitors to the centre. He was the last of his kind and sadly he died a year or so back having failed to reproduce with any of the females that he was put together with.
This centre has done an excellent job of bringing different tortoise species back from the brink of extinction on the different islands of the Galapagos. They have been very careful to keep the different breeds apart and try and keep the original species of each island as pure as possible. One of their many successes has been their first programme which was to take the last 14 tortoises from Espagnol in 1970 and now there are over 1,000 tortoises living on the island today.
Sadly we didn't have the time to see any tortoises in the wild. I wish we had booked a night or two in Puerto Ayora and then we would have been able to go into the centre of the island and see the colony on Santa Cruz. Anyway this was the next best thing. Most of the tortoises on the different islands are inland and away from places most tourists go which of course means they are left in peace and undisturbed.
If, like us, you have a bus journey after your visit I would suggest you use the toilets at the centre as they are pretty clean and it could be a while before you find another.
BEYOND THE DARWIN CENTRE
It was a bit of a rush our visit to the Darwin centre and then we had to drive along the Galapagos' longest paved road from Puerto Ayora through to the airport ferry at Itabaca Canal on the north coast. It was interesting to see the island, much of it farmed and several farm animals such as cows, goats and chickens beside the road. It was strange to see this after ten days of islands with only wildlife and no people. We then had to get on board a very small motor launch which was rather cosy but as it was a very short boat trip and sadly our last glimpse of the Galapagos islands we didn't mind too much.
Once we arrived back on Baltra we had to get onto one of the waiting airport buses which were basic and packed. Thankfully we didn't have our big bags, only our hand luggage otherwise heaven knows how we would have coped as there was no place for luggage and the seats were like school bus seats. There was no air conditioning and we were packed in like sardines; luckily it was only a five minute journey.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes I would say you must visit the Darwin centre if you are visiting the Galapagos just to learn about all their wonderful work. Santa Cruz may be populated but there are still parts of the island where there is no one and you wouldn't know that anyone lived on the island from either of the other spots we visited such as Dragon Hill or Black Turtle Cove so they do a good job or keeping the wild life free from human interference when they can.
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