Once we landed in Santa Cruz we had four more days to explore the Galapagos. If you arrive at the airport there is great information on how to get where you need to be if you’re not hopping on a cruise ship. See pic below:
Since we were still feeling a little wobbly from the cruise we decided we would stay on land overnight in Santa Cruz. I was surprised to see how populated this island was and how much there was to do there. Walking around was easy and the area was extremely safe even late into the night.
Later that afternoon we visited El Chato Tortoise Reserve where we saw incredibly large tortoises roaming freely around the property. Here we walked through an astonishing lava tunnel and felt like we were in the middle of the earth.
The following day we booked an afternoon ferry to Isabela Island for $50 per person round trip. The ride was rough and although they promise it would take 2 hours to get to Isabela it really took about 3. We popped our seasickness medicine before the ride, hopped in a tiny speedboat and hoped for the best.
We finally arrived in Isabela around 5:30pm with no accommodation booked. We walked around the island and found that most of the receptions for the hostels were empty. We were getting desperate until we go to Janet’s Hostel where we were able to book a private room for $50 per night. I would highly recommend visitors book their accommodation in advance before getting to Isabela. Still woozy from the ferry and the pills we had dinner and called it a night. We needed to be ready for an early tour the next day.
We booked a tour to the Tunneles with Rosedelco Tour Company. We found their service to be excellent and for $85/pp we were provided with snacks, lunch, transportation, pictures, a great guide and snorkeling equipment including a wet suit.
They promised that we would see a variety of marine life and they really came through. Our first stop was a dry landing and a short hike on lava formations. On land we saw more blue-footed boobies wobbling about and had a fantastic view of sea turtles and penguins swimming around in the clear pools below.
At the second stop we snorkeled around caves and tunnels observing brightly colored fish and graceful manta rays. Our guide and captain helped us as we dove into the water and swam through remarkable underwater caves. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.
We then stopped in another area where we spotted a huge seahorse. We snorkeled out a bit further and were able to dive deeper to observe numerous white-tipped reef sharks inside the caves. Manu was brave and stayed longer underwater while I was slightly frightened as this was the first time I had seen them. It was eerie to go into the dark cave and wait for your eyes to adjust only to see five huge sharks staring back at you! Despite the fear we dove another two times to see more of these majestic creatures.
I was watching as gorgeous school of fish elegantly swam past me and was hypnotized by their synchronized motions. Suddenly a reef shark quickly swam directly in front of me after them! Needless to say I did not stick around to see what happened next. According to the guide this sighting was rare as these sharks normally feed at night, I felt lucky to have witnessed it.
To top off the experience the group spotted a massive sea turtle swimming near by. Feeling brave after all the snorkeling I had done over the past week I held my breath and dove into the water by myself to get a closer view of this magnificent creature. It was the largest turtle we had seen during our entire trip and it felt surreal to be swimming in the same ocean as this marvelous animal.
We headed back to Isabela that afternoon where we had dinner at El Velero with some friends we met during the cruise and some new friends we made on the island. The food was tasty and the beer was cold! We all stayed up late to watch the blood moon and enjoy the great breeze on the island.
The next day we geared up mentally for the boat ride back to Santa Cruz in the afternoon. To get our minds off of that for a bit we rented bikes for $3 per hour/pp and toured some of the sights on the island. We visited the Tortoise Breeding Center where we saw adorable baby tortoises munching on breakfast. Next we visited the flamingo lagoon and got some great pictures of these magnificent brightly colored birds. We then decided to visit the Wall of Tears, a historic wall built by prison laborers in the 1950’s.
The scenery along the trail was breathtaking! We visited some of the most scenic desolate beaches while tip toeing around marine iguanas sprawled around the path. We witnessed tortoises casually walking along the trail on their way to their next destination. After a long uphill ride we finally reached the Wall of Tears, which was an astonishing sight all in itself.
To my surprise the long 3-hour ride back to Santa Cruz was fairly smooth. We arrived hungry and tired but grateful that we were able to have such an incredible experience over the past couple of days. After being a tad (a whole lot) over our budget in the Galapagos we decided we needed to eat something good and cheap! “Bueno, Bonito y Barato” like they say in Colombia.
We found a tiny gem called El Agachadito that had some mean shrimp tacos stuffed with pinto beans, cheese and pico de gallo. They were served with fries, a fresh guacamole and a delicious garlic sauce all for $7. It hit the spot and was the perfect way to end our trip.
By now you’re probably sick of hearing superlatives after reading about all the places we have visited so far. Galapagos definitely takes the cake and it’s hard to put in words just how special this place is. Magnificent. Incredible. Astonishing… Ok I’ll stop now…