Last stop in the Galapagos :0(
So with a "smidgen" of anxiety for 4 out of 5 of us (Matt's tough) we jumped on board the "Speedboat" for our transfer to Santa Cruz. It held 24 passengers and was powered by 3 x 200HP outboard motors. We knew the 2 hour trip was going to be fast! We placed ourselves at the back of the boat with the best chance of getting a healthy dose of fresh air. We'd popped into the pharmacy earlier that day and purchased some sea sick meds (at the huge expensive of 15c US each) which we'd all taken an hour prior to leaving so with a couple of airsick bags in my pocket "just in case" we were ready to roll - so to speak!
The engines were started one by one and we were off. Hang on a minute one of them was missing quite a bit. All good though the captains assistant came down got out a big knife and a can of WD40 and we were good as gold. Had it have been the only engine I would have been somewhat more concerned.
Off we set. It was rough and rolly but apart from a couple of rogue waves was tolerable. The effects of the meds soon set in and Toby and Bella were out to it. They got the best trip of all. I have several times admired their ability to drop of to sleep where and whenever they have needed - especially their "I'm scared - oops now I'm asleep".
Our accommodation was at the Galapagos Cottages. Four cottages surrounding a swimming pool. The kids were very excited about our first lot of accommodation with a pool. Owned by Charles Wittmer a descendant of one of the original German families to settle in Santa Cruz if anyone has watched "The Galapagos Affair" on Rialto.
Santa Cruz is the most developed of the Islands we have visited with many shops and restaurants. It again was very different from our other two stops but had a real buzz about it which we enjoyed. Our first day we had our one and only tour on the island. A highland tour visiting sinkholes, lava tunnels and a tortoise ranch. As part of booking all the day trips with Sharksky we were guaranteed tours would go ahead regardless of numbers. On this occasion it was just us which was great. The sinkholes visit were a real bonus. They were spectacular and Jimmy our guide was a great at explaining how they form, even drawing pics in the dry dirt with a stick how the volcano erupts and magma chambers are formed and then collapse. Great for the kids to understand and appreciate.
One of the sinkholes
The Lava tunnels were fascinating also. Massive chambers of lava that flows on the surface only the top layer that is in contact with the air cools and hardens. The rest of the lava continues to flow towards the sea, eventually emptying when there is no more lava flow. Resulting in these massive empty chambers you can walk in.
Exploring a lava tunnel
Our last visit was 2hrs at a tortoise ranch. We got to wander around with these massive creatures. The kids had fun taking Tortise selfies - as they can only move 250m in an hour its hard for them to escape the camera. The entire area of the highlands is protect regardless if it's national park or private land. The fences between private and government land left enough room at the bottom for the giant creatures to roam freely.
It is estimated there are 5000 tortoises in the highlands of Isabela now. This number has been built up with breading programmes over the last few years. There were over 250 000 before pirates, buccaneers and Charles Darwin decided they were delicious to eat. They had worked out they could be stored on ships alive stacked upside down without being fed for a year before been eaten as fresh meat!
Our free days on the island were spent visiting the Charles Darwin Centre which wasn't a patch on the centre on San Cristobal. Shopped like crazy kids getting our last Galapagos souvenirs and ate every night at the open air food market - a street of vendors who every night put tables and chairs out on the road and sell fast, fresh cheap food. This we loved - Lobster and whole fresh scorpion fish. At $25 for a whole fish it fed the entire family.
The boys and their "new dos"
We enjoyed visiting the fish market and watching the cheeky pelicans and seal lions compete to get a fresh feed from the fishing boats as they came in with their catch. The Sea Lions were like cats nuzzling up to the fishermen in the hope of being thrown some scraps from the filleting.
There is also a nice beach at Tortugas Bay though the day we took the 40min walk there we managed to arrive 10 minutes before the beach was closed for the day - a quick dip and then a 40 min walk home.
The highlight was our two trips to Los Grietas. A short water taxi ride (for which we paid 70 cents each) and a 15min walk from the town of Puerto Ayora is an amazing crevasse you can swim and snorkel in. It's a narrow canyon with 10 metre high walls an was probably around 20 metres deep - quite spectacular. We enjoyed our time there so much the first day that we went back again with our snorkelling gear the next day. One of the days we stopped for lunch at a cafe across the bay deciding this was a nice clean spot we ordered the ceviche 3 ways which was tuna, shrimp and octopus marinated in lime juice. It was delicious, the kids were encouraged to have a wee try too which they all did but poor old Bellie got a bit anxious that the octopus sucker might stick itself half way down her throat - she took quite some convincing!
Rach's spectacular entry into the water
Tob's dives deep
Our time in the Galapagos has been everything we had hoped for and more. The ability to be close to all the wildlife is thrilling and will be etched in our memories forever. You constantly wonder when will they run/swim away? Not being a threat is a really nice feeling. It's been a true once in a lifetime experience.