The Galapagos Islands: Do It (Part 3)

The remaining days of our Galapagos trip were fantastic. Our third day of the trip started on Isla Isabella with an early morning departure for a Volcano hike in the high country. We departed early for the hike at 7a, stopped to get a picnic lunch, and spent the next 40 minutes driving up to the high country to the starting point of the Volcano hike. The terrain changed quickly from the flat beaches to the hilly, tropical highlands and we spotted a tortoise or two on the drive up.

Volcano crater

We arrived to the start of the hike and waited for our guide, Wilmer, and our hiking companions (many of them). We mistakenly thought it’d be a small group excursion, but it ended up being almost 25 people on the trek, most of whom spoke Spanish, putting us at a disadvantage with our guide, as most of the guiding he did was indeed in Spanish, with a basic phrase or two (that I had already read in the guide book) about the Volcano. It was a bit disappointing on that front. The scenery more than made up for it.

Shiny volcano bits

We hiked up through a tropical jungle for a bit, maybe less than 2 miles, and then arrived at the top of the crater, where we then hiked for about 5 miles around the top of it, pausing frequently to take in the views. We made it to the last section of the crater, blackened by the most recent eruption around 2005. After finishing the hike, we doubled-back on the trail and made our way down, where a driver was waiting to take us to an “eco lodge” for lunch. Luckily, we made it to the car before the pouring rain started! We felt like we didn’t need a guide for this hike—but apparently every attraction in the Galapagos needs a guide to promote the economy.

 

The eco lodge was about half way down the mountain and it was a sleepy farm with a few canvas tents and a quiet restaurant. We had a simple pre-ordered meal and then spent a few minutes walking around looking at their tortoises and eating plums off of one of the trees.

We returned back to our hotel and got our snorkeling supplies to spend the afternoon snorkeling a local spot near the boat dock called “La Perla.” It’s just on the other side of the main harbor, accessed by walking on a boardwalk littered with marine iguanas through the mangroves. Crowded with tourists and locals alike, La Perla’s waters are cold—perfect for spotting sea lions and penguins! Our guide for this adventure was Joesph, who was an enthusiastic (read: complete spaz) who was determined to have us swim with the penguins. I appreciated his commitment to that effort, as we spotted eagle rays, a good number of fish despite the cloudy water, and an amazing encounter watching a penguin dart through the water for fish! Definitely a highlight of the trip.

Snorkeling with a penguin–a very fast swimmer

A leisurely dinner followed by a quiet and relaxing breakfast, versus our usual speedy breakfast schedule. We were scheduled to take the boat back to Santa Cruz, and were dreading it a bit, hoping we wouldn’t get the loud serenade we had on the way over (luckily, we didn’t). Our trip back was easier, as we wore our noise canceling headset and sat outside in order to enjoy some breeze.

The view from the boat

Walking into town, we discovered a cool replica of the mailbox barrel on one of the other islands—it’s premise is that you can mail something, but then you also take something that’s nearby your home and try to deliver it to someone else! The fish market was hopping and we noticed the “Shrunken Head” museum, with a full on replica display out front (we skipped it). It was nice to have a bit of time to relax and wander, and we enjoyed our last dinner at the hotel.

Shrunken Heads!

Our flight the next day was mid-day, so we took the morning to head over to Tortuga Bay, a popular surfing beach on the outskirts of town. Other tourists had been calling it “Torture Bay” as it involves a 3km somewhat hilly and very warm hike to the beach. We took a taxi over to the entrance and walked the cobblestone path—the trees and cacti were interesting and the walk wasn’t too bad (but it was warm and steamy, for sure). We had brought snorkel equipment, but the surf was rough. The beach was amazing! Powdery white sand stretched for half a mile on a wide, mostly empty, beach covered in marine iguanas lounging and surfing. The snorkel area is at the far western end of the beach, but the surf was still too high and the snorkel area was quite tiny. It is a perfect beach for relaxing and riding waves and hanging out with the marine iguanas. We walked to the end and checked out the iguana camp. They certainly are funny little creatures!

Tortuga Beach

Our Galapagos Islands adventure finished with the drive/ferry/bus ride back to the main airport. We were early, and grabbed lunch at the snack stand outside (where all the local airport employees were enjoying lunch…a good sign). The airport is tiny and easy to navigate, with a handful of souvenir stalls and snack shops.

These guys are all over

 

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