Galapagos day 3, Santa Cruz island: giant tortoises, sea kayaking and the beach

As always, these days start early. We were dropped off on Santa Cruz at about 08:30, where we hopped in a bus for a drive into the highlands. There, we would have a chance to see giant tortoises in the wild.

It was muddy up there, very different from other islands we’d been on, so we were issued rubber boots to walk in. Now I understood why they’d recommended that we bring socks, which I hadn’t!

We took a short walk through the forest with our guide, who explained about these tortoises and the ones in the breeding center, as well as pointing out the various birds along our route.

Giant tortoises look, if they’re not moving, a lot like boulders. We almost ran right into this lady while she was snacking. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between the males and females. Males are larger and have concave lower shelves, for mating with the females.

We also had a chance to try on a male shell while learning interesting things about tortoises. Lifting them is more awkward than anything else, since our joints don’t bend at the correct places.

We watched this guy swim across a pond. In the first 2 pictures I took, his head was submerged, which made him look very much like the turtle island/ wise one from the Neverending Story.

The black shininess of the shell is due to a covering like our fingernails, which falls off when they die. That is why the shell we tried on was white. It was only bone.

After seeing some tortoises, we took a very short walk into a lava tube. Lava tubes are pretty similar everywhere, and we’ve been in lava tubes near Mt. St. Helen and on Iceland. We were only able to walk about 100-200 meters into this one due to a pond. It was much taller than other tubes I’ve been in.

And then it was lunch. After lunch, we rested in hammocks and chatted or napped. Some people played soccer. Obviously, we were not among the lunatics!

Eventually it was time for a short downhill bike ride to the beach, which was fun but almost uneventful. One of the little girls crashed and burned on one of the steeper slopes.

Leaving the bikes at the entrance to the beach, we continued on foot.

It was a lovely beach, and nice cooling off in the water. We swam and kayaked. Matt and I were almost the last people back from kayaking, except for Wayne and the Peruvian guy, who had been chasing sharks in solo kayaks out towards open water last we’d seen them.

Just before leaving, we saw a pink flamingo. Flamingoes, it turns out, do not start out pink. Their diet means they consume a lot of carotene, which colors them pink over time! I didn’t know!

Wayne joined us just in time for the bus back to the panga back to the boat. I had a good look at the pier there, at Puerta Ayora, since that’s where we’ll be for the 2 days after our cruise finishes.

Before dinner we had a next-day briefing with our guides. At dinner, our dining companions from the Frigates group (we are Boobies) told us that they’d heard that we could extend our cruise 4 more days. The extension would take us to the northern islands and therefore we’d see penguins! Because they are trying to fill their occupancy, it would only cost $600 more (which is very much worth it). Very tempting! However, if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to see the market in Otavalo, which was where we were hoping to pick up any souvenirs. Still, it’s just a market. We’re going to have some serious thinking about it overnight.

Dinner was followed by a band playing Ecuadorian music for us to dance to, but a group of us went up top to star-gaze and chat.

Matt hadn’t joined, so after a while I went looking for him. He was helping Roger, a very interesting older guy from Colorado, pick out his next tablet. Roger bought me a glass of wine, but I pooped out without finishing it, and went to bed.

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Location:Galapagos, Ecuador