Santa Cruz is the second largest of the 19 Islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago. It is the most populated of all the Islands making it a great to wine and dine. Branch out and eat something you wouldn’t usually (like ceviche) as you only get to do this once!! There are also many “must-dos” when visiting Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands – So let’s get into it!!
Tortuga Bay is an isolated white sand beach on the southern side of Santa Cruz. This place is one of the most incredible beaches I have seen in my travels through South America (sorry Brazil).
There is a wide array of wildlife here, but my favourite are the little marine iguanas. We found a spot in the shade near some rocks and watched them sneezing out the salt water and take the occasional dip in the ocean. Just a quick fun fact – these little guys have been noted to dive down to 9 metres to gather food – that’s pretty incredible!!!!
It should take you about 10 mins and cost you around $1-2 to get here from Puerto Ayora, depending on where you stay. Tortuga Bay is about a half an hour walk from where the taxi drops you off and relatively long hike to the beach. Make sure you take PLENTY of water with you (you can thank me later)!!
Oh gosh, where do I start?! This was, and still remains today, the absolute BEST dive I have EVER done!!! There are so many marine creatures to see ranging from the smallest of fish to the playful sea lions. But, the main reason Gordon Rocks is such a popular dive site – the Scalloped Hammerhead sharks. There is a sizeable population of hammerheads year round, however, between June and November each year hundreds migrate and spend time here so this is a better time to visit.
There is plenty of other things to see e.g. rays, reef and pelagic fish, birds, turtles, sea lion, cleaning station, white-tip reef sharks -the list goes on… If you are an experienced diver I would not miss this dive!!
The current can be a bit strong at times so make sure you are a good swimmer/ diver. It can also change from nice and warm to freezing cold when the current changes and raises the cooler thermocline so I suggest getting a slightly thicker wetsuit than you think you would need.
Charles Darwin Research Station
HOLY TORTOISE!!! If you came to see the tortoise, you will see them in abundance at the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Research Station is about 10 mins out of Puerto Ayora by taxi (roughly a $2-3 trip). Here you will see some very old Galapagos Island tortoise and lots of baby ones. There are plenty of other animals to see here as well such as lizards and birds – it’s definitely worth a visit. The Research Station is a not-for-profit scientific organisation, so if you are feeling generous donating a few dollars can go along way for these guys- they do great work throughout the Islands and deserve a pat on the back every now and then!!
Puerto Ayora Fish Markets
After a long day, a quite stroll to the Puerto Ayora Fish Markets is quite a sight to see (just off Charles Darwin Ave). Now if you have read my About page you would know that both my partner and I are marine biologist, what you wouldn’t know is he specialises in fish biology so there was no way we were not going down to the fish markets.
The fish market was quite the spectacle. Set in the open air under a small shelter alongside the ‘marina’ the fisherman unload their catch and start cutting the fish into pieces for sale. As the locals sort through the fish and choose their dinner for the night, the cheeky sea lions sit patiently and wait for the discarded fish (the birds are not so patient they just take what they want and go!). I found this a very clean fish market and a great place to people/ wildlife watch as my partner got in amongst the action!! Definitely worth a visit if you have a free afternoon.
Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to visit Las Grietas but from what I have heard it’s beautiful. It is a place where the earth opened up many thousands of years ago to reveal a calm swimming spot, perfect for snorkelling. It is a common cliff jumping place for locals that live on Santa Cruz so if you don’t feel like swimming then you can sit back and watch the action. Some great information on it can be found here.
Santa Cruz is a great place to explore Lava Tubes which formed thousands of years ago when the volcano was still active. Lava tubes form when the lava’s outer layer hardens from the outside air creating an insulative layer, protecting the internal lava from hardening. Eventually the volcano stops producing lava draining all that is left on the inside, leaving long hardened tubes.
Did you enjoy this post? I hope it has inspired you to travel to Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands 🙂