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SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Puerto Ayora | Santa Cruz Island | Galapagos Islands | Ecuador Jan 15-20, 2012

sunny 37 °C

On Jan 14th, 2012 (our 4yr wedding anniversary) we flew from Belize City, Belize to Isla Baltra in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Most people assume that the only way to see the islands is to go on a very expensive cruise. Not true. In the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island there are tons of hotels to choose from. Just book yourself a flight from Quito or Guayaquil to Isla Baltra (Santa Cruz Island) or San Cristsobal. $400 roundtrip with LAN Air. We stayed 5 nights at the Casa Natura Hotel for $150 per night. It had a pool & free breakfast. There were cheaper hotels, but we thought we needed a pool. Turnt out to be a waste to pay extra for the pool, as we were never at the hotel cuz we were too busy sightseeing. It was located 5 blocks from the main street along the ocean. Once there you can book yourself onto many excursions to nearby islands. Just do your research and figure out what you wanna see / do. From Santa Cruz we saw everything we wanted (except penguins ... there werent any when we went) ... sea lions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, lava lizards, yellow land iguanas, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, beaches, volcanoes, lava tunnels, craters, etc. There is seriously no need for a $5000 per person cruise!

Our hotel was within walking distance to the Charles Darwin Research Station.
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These Cactus Trees were everywhere ... they have regular tree trunks, but cactus instead of leaves.
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Desert Flower
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There was a wooden boardwalk you had to stay on that meandered through the park.
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Giant Tortoises!!!
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Baby Giant Tortoises ... they were so tiny they coulda fit into the palm of my hand!
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Darwin's Finch
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There were also Yellow Land Iguanas here and lots of tiny Lava Lizards scurrying around
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Lava Lizard
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We walked along the main street that ran parallel to the ocean. Its lined with shops, restaurants, tour agencies, a marina, etc. We stopped at the Sol y Mar Hotel for a drink, and look who was snoozin' in the restaurant! A sea lion! All animals here are unbelievably tame! They dont run away, or growl, or anything. Half the time they dont even acknowledge you. Even the birds dont fly away! Its the easiest place in the world to get great wildlife photos, they practically pose for you :)
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I was so close to him I could smell his fishy breath!
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Another sea lion jumped out of the water right by Kevin, then proceeded to strut its stuff past the pool and onto a lounger and pose for some photos! LOL! There were several sea lions always in this hotel ... they seemed to own the place :) They'd be in the lobby, at the bar, by the pool, and in the restaurant. And no one seemed to mind. Same with pelicans & marine iguanas. They just wandered around like it was a hotel for wildlife. None of the hotel's employees ever shooed them out ... they were always free to roam wherever they pleased. I loved it here!!!
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Kevin hangin' with a sea lion by the lobby.
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Sea lion 'feet'.
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Me & a sea lion at the bar :)
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Sea lion, marine iguana & birds at the pool. You could approach them and they wouldnt move. Barely blinked an eye! So completely opposite of Kenya last year! I'm sure I could've laid down beside the sea lion all he woulda done is put a flipper around me :)
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Marine iguanas outside and inside the restaurant. You definately dont have to go in search of wildlife here! Its everywhere.
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HUGE marine iguana! Look at his claws!
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Little guy sneaking into the hotel
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Every day after sightseeing we'd head to the town's marina where the fishermen would be filleting their catch. Sea lions and pelicans would be lined up looking for scraps! Tourists were always gathered around taking photos.
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40lb Yellowfin Tuna
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This pelican managed to snatch a fish head! Theres no way it could physically swallow it, but he sure tried!
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Yellowfin Tuna
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One day we hired a taxi (all the white trucks you see everywhere are the taxis, not the traditional yellow cabs you see elsewhere) and ventured into the highlands to see the Giant Tortoises in the wild! Before we even got to where we were expecting to see them, we came across this guy on the road!
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There were about 30 Giant Tortoises roaming around!
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Me + Giant Tortoise
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Pond full of Giant Tortoises!
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Kevin and a Giant Tortoise
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Eating grass
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Tortoise bum :)
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You really had to watch where you stepped ... tortoise poop was everywhere! And it was the size of my foot!
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Tortoise foot
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Me inside a tortoise shell
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Kevin beside a tortoise shell
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Less than 5min from where we saw the tortoises, was a lava tunnel! Get your driver to drop you off, and then meet you at the other end. Theres lights along the way, but its still quite dark, and slippery. This is the entrance to the lava tunnel.
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Me inside the lava tunnel
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At one point we had to get down on our hands & knees and crawl through this narrow part! If you are claustrophobic, or quite large, theres a chance you wont make it through. But the good news is that this narrow part is only about 4 or 5ft long and then it completely opens up again.
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We spent 2hrs at Garrapatero Beach. Theres no shelter for shade here, and its incredibly hot (thats what happens when at the equator). Theres also no where to buy h2o, so be sure to bring some along. Our driver dropped us off and it was a 15-20min walk down a hot trail. We were the only people here! Now this is the kinda beach I like! I hate crowded beaches with fat guys in speedos and beach vendors hassling you to buy their crap non-stop! Get your driver to wait for you, or if you trust him to pick you up a a designated time, you can do that also. Theres no way to call another cab, we were literally in the middle of no where.
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Busy sand crab
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Marine Iguana struttin' down the beach
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Cactus Trees and lava rocks at the beach instead of palm trees
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Colorful Marine Iguana. They were everywhere in the lava rocks. At first we didnt see them, but if you look hard you will see them everywhere!
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Marine Iguanas are the only sea-going iguanas in the world, and they only live one place ... the Galapagos Islands :)
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Thats it for Santa Cruz Island. We did 2 boat tours to the nearby islands of North Seymour and Bartolome, but those will be in the next post :)

Posted by ChantelleS 16:56 Archived in Ecuador Tagged wildlife beach volcano galapagos ecuador

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