Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Galapagos Islands.

San Cristobal : Time to see the sights

29th June – 6th July 2017

Over the next eight days we visited all the walkable sights around town, took an all day 360 degree boat tour around the island and grabbed a local taxi for a half day trip up to the highlands.

The photo below shows what goes on at the dinghy dock, so we always caught a water taxi in for shore excursions. It’s hard enough to clean sea lion poo off GWTW let alone in the dinghy as well!

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P6293909Just a few minutes walk along the waterfront from the town dock, our first stop was to visit the Interpretation Centre to learn more about these mysterious islands that are plonked in the middle of nowhere.  There is a wealth of information here and the centre is very well set out with both Spanish and English translations of the exhibits which deal with ecology, biology, geology and the first settlers who came here.  It took a few hours to digest everything we read and now that we were all boned up we took to the walking trails.

The master pavers had been hard at work here constructing interconnecting trails which led up hill and down dale through the scrub and cactus covered headland. We ambled along the deserted sands of Playa Carola, well it was devoid of humans that is. The beach was full of basking sea lions of all shapes and sizes and black marine iguanas soaking up every ray of sunshine they could get to keep warm. Brown pelicans dived for their dinner while massive frigate birds with wing spans of over 3 feet tried fruitlessly to pinch the pelicans catch.


P6293953Heading inland from the beach took us to a couple of scenic lookouts and eventually we ended up at Darwin Bay. It’s here that there is a huge statue of the man himself surrounded by sea lions and tortoises. Below this lookout was a beautiful bay with inviting calm, clear waters where sea lions frolicked with snorkelers and boobies and pelicans circled overhead, diving from great heights at unbelievable speeds to stun the unsuspecting fish below. As we didn’t have our snorkel gear with us we decided to come back another day to join in the fun ,and when we did we had a ball snorkeling with our marine friends

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Another walk at the other end of town took us out to a beach on the southwest side of the island called La Loberia. Being about 3 k’s out and with the heat of the day we decided to take a taxi rather than walk. As with all the bays and beaches we’ve seen so far this one too had a goodly supply of basking sea lions and the iguanas resembled statues as they perched all over the black lava rocks worshiping the sun.

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Following the advice from friends on S/V Balvenie, we continued past the beach and followed a well marked trail over the leg breaking, ankle twisting rocks and crawled up the hill to a cliff that overlooks the sea.

P7050346Chowing down on our packed lunch we watched as all types of birds whizzed past us at eye level, then to our astonishment way below us in the crashing waves we spotted about a dozen turtles and they were, wait for it .. surfing ! Yes you read that right, there were turtles surfing in the giant waves. These guys didn’t need state of the art boards, they just spread out their flippers and went for it riding the waves in and tuning back out just before they hit the rocks. It was an unbelievable sight and certainly a first for us. Sadly we were too high up to get any decent photos of them , so just use your imagination.

P6300011Day trips by tour boat is a popular thing on San Cristobal and given that GWTW has to stay put we really had no option but to jump on the tourist band wagon if we wanted to see more of this island. So we signed up for a 360 tour by boat. We were picked up from GWTW by water taxi and ferried about 20 feet to our awaiting speedboat where we joined eight other tourists. It was an overcast day and the sea was pretty rough as we headed up the east side of the island, and we started to wonder had we done the right thing. About an hour later the captain spun the helm to port and we headed at speed into shore, dodging the many rocky outcrops and shoals before backing up to a relatively calm beach .

P6300008Our guide (all tour boats have guides) led us on a path to a mangrove lagoon where we swam with our first giant turtle and saw our first sharks. I didn’t bother taking my camera in as the waters looked and were very cloudy. So no pics of that event. We’ve been pretty spoilt over the years with gin clear waters so we didn’t stay in for long, unlike the others in our party.

Back on board we headed further up the coast to Punta Pitt, a place were the blue footed boobies hang out. We did see some but it was too far away for the camera catch. Next up was a beach on the sheltered western side where I had my first swim with a sea lion and it was a hoot, Liam opted out of this one preferring just to sit on the sand instead. The sea lion danced and played around me, zooming straight toward my head then veering off at the last minute. It sure was a lot of fun. Our last stop of the day was at Kicker Rock. Famed for it’s diving, the snorkeling here was pretty good as well and the water was very clear and very deep, I’m talking 70 ft plus at least. There were turtles, sharks and fish of all sizes as well as a very colourful coral encrusted wall that slowly disappeared into the abyss.

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A trip to the highlands was next on our to do list, so armed with a copy of lonely planet we planned a four stop visit. After hailing a taxi at the town dock, well it was a ute  actually as they are here, and negotiating a price with the driver, Carlos, we headed off. At sea level it was a sunny cool day but as we drove up the winding road towards the hills the conditions got progressively more dreary with fog and light rain rolling in, but hey, that wasn’t going to deter us.

Our first stop in the village of El Progresso was at Casa del Ceibo where we ventured up a narrow swing bridge to a tree house . Perched in the branches of the world’s oldest and biggest Ceiba tree, for a fee you can spend the night there. 


It has two beds a fridge, balcony and bathroom. Down in the enormous root system accessed by a narrow ladder is a rather big cellar room, although the purpose of this was unclear. We enjoyed an organic cup of coffee made from coffee beans grown on the premises in the small café made of 22,000 empty beer bottles, and then hit the road again.

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DSCN1140Climbing higher up towards El Junco volcano crater, we intended to hike to the now flooded crater ,the islands only freshwater source, but the rain and fog became heavier so Carlos our driver suggested we try again later in the day. It wasn’t a hard idea to sell I tell you, so on we journeyed to the Galapaguera center where giant tortoises  roam in a semi natural environment. This is a rehabilitation and breeding centre so that the young ones can be reintroduced back into their wild natural environment in a few years time. The centre was well set up and Carlos led us around, explaining about the flora and fauna as we strolled along the path sharing it with with huge tortoises who were out for a stroll.


So far during our days here on San Cristobel we have not found one creature that shy's away from human company. It is one of life's true privileges to be able to get up close and personal with these special animals as they go about their business of daily living.

Leaving the centre we headed to our lunch spot at Otoy organic farm. The setting was lovely and the food incredible. After lunch we did a little walk around the farm and checked out the crops. They grow an amazing  variety and had we been leaving to cross the pacific tomorrow I would have been buying my produce from here for sure.


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We had two more stops along the way home  one to Puerto Chino, a lovely beach on the rocky east coast and to the El Junco lagoon to do the hike. Once again the weather won out and we decided it probably wasn’t  worth walking up to the crater in the heavy rain and mist so we just headed back to town instead. Our time here on this island was coming to an end as there are more islands to explore and more animals to meet.  We really enjoyed our stay here, and the town is really nice with lots of options for eating, drinking buying souvenirs and organising tours. Our next stop will be the island of Isabela, but more on that soon.


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