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Galapagos: Isla Santa Cruz
06 Jan 2014

After having Quito take so much out of us, both in possessions and oxygen, we were highly anticipating the distraction that comes with being in a new place. And what a new place we were heading to!

We started our tour of the Galapagos Islands at Isla Santa Cruz primarily because we didn’t know that there was another airport on Isla San Cristobal (which would have been much more convenient) and because we got stuck.

We had originally intended to land on Santa Cruz and then take a boat to Isla San Cristobal but due to our plane being late we couldn’t catch the last boat departure at 2PM. With what we know now I’m skeptical that we could possibly have made the boat given that they ask you to meet at the docks a half hour early.

Luck was with us, though, and we found a wonderful local by the name of Joffre who was renting out a set of rooms for $35/night under the title Galapagos’ Native. Given the average price of accommodations everywhere else on the island at about $100/night, this was a steal!

A quick tour of the city revealed that there was a really nice “main drag” along the water where you could find all of the touristy shops. This included at least 15 dive shops! We decided on the spot that we’d aim to get our Advanced Open-Water SCUBA certification while we were here and settled on the Silbestein Dive Shop.

Our certification ended up being quite an adventure. Alex, the head of the operation, liked to be overly-confident and, while making him likeable at first, often didn’t instill much confidence in us as to what it was we were supposed to be doing for our certification.

Our first dive destination was Gordon Rocks because it had been recommended to us by friends and other travelers. We discovered the night before our dive, however, that two divers had died there in 2012 and that the locals called it “the washing machine”. There are five different dive spots at Gordon Rocks and three are ok for beginners. Upon asking Alex which spots we were going to dive he simply waved his hands and said “it’s going to be great”. Hmm.

We thankfully didn’t die and the currents seemed forgiving compared to what we were expecting, so overall our first two dives went pretty well. We also spent about half an hour snorkelling before the dives. This turned out to be even more fun than the dives because we got to play with sea lions in the water - super fun!

For the rest of our stay on Santa Cruz we explored much of the town, saw the tortoise breeding center and nearby iguana beach, and spent many nights watching the sharks swim by the docks while talking with other tourists doing the same.

We had originally intended to go to San Cristobal island next but upon finding out that the airport there had the cheapest flights back to the mainland (SCY -> GYE) we decided it would be cheaper to end our stay there.

Arrival

Jan 06, 2014

from Quito, Ecuador

Departure

Jan 11, 2014

to Isla Isabella, Galapagos

Weather (Celcius)

Elevation (m)

Travel Planning: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Friday, December 06, 2013 17:47

http://www.quora.com/South-America/What-are-some-cool-places-to-go-in-South-America

My favorite island was Isabella–it’s isolated and is constructed of 5 volcanos. It is easy to see incredible sea life with just a pair of flippers and some goggles and you are surrounded by unique land creatures.

Facts

  • The highest mountain amongst the islands is Volcán Wolf on Isla Isabela, 1707 m (5600ft) high.
  • hot/rainy season, from December to June, when humidity is high and average temperatures are in the 80s F (26°-30° C)
  • Peak season for naturalist tours is typically December through May when the seas are the calmest and the weather the warmest.

Getting There

  • May be cheaper to fly in from Guayaquil instead of Quito.
  • The Baltra airport is a short bus ride, to a quick ferry trip, to another 45 minute bus ride to get to Puerto Ayora. It is not expensive, the full trip costs $2.30 per person ($.50 for the ferry & $1.80 for the bus), but it can be a bit inconvienent.

Flights

  • $373 roundtrip from GYE <-> GPS Jan 7 - 15
  • $349 roundtrip from GYE <-> GPS Jan 10 - 17
  • $350 roundtrip from UIO <-> GPS Jan 9 - 16

Use momondo to book flights from/to SCY, which is not found on chipmunk.

hipmunk queries

Do

SCUBA

San Cristobal

  • Playa Mann- One of the more popular beaches due to its central location, the waters are decently calm and there are many sea lions that play here.
  • El Junto- Here you’ll view a crater lake inside an active volcano. It’s fun to hike around the rim of the volcano and explore some of the forest trails.
  • Puerto Chino- Although a bit far out of town, this white sand beach offers calm, clear waters and the chance to see a lot of wild life and unique rock formations. Climb to the top of the big, black volcanic rock formation for aerial views of the clear water and marine life. When I was here, I actually witnessed a shark jumping out of the water.
  • Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center of Giant Tortoises- Here you’ll see the giant tortoises that the Galapagos Islands are so famous for. You’ll also see baby tortoises, walk through an informational museum and possibly see the tortoises in the mating process.
  • Diving at Kicker Rock is awesome.

Santa Cruz

  • Darwin Research Center- An easy (15 minute) walk from the center of town, here you’ll find a giant tortoise and iguana breeding center.
  • Ship Ports At Night- Visit the ship ports at night for some shark viewing. The animals are attracted to the lights given off by the docks. You may have to wait a bit, but if you’re patient, there’s a good chance you’ll see some. When I was there I saw baby sharks, manta rays, sea lions and many tropical fish.
  • El Chato Tortoise Reserve- Located in the highlands of the island, you’ll be able to observe giant tortoises and an array of bird life like Darwin Finches, Short-eared Owls, Vermillion Flycatchers and Paint-billed Crakes. Here, you’ll also have the option to visit El Chato Lagoon.
  • Hike to Media Luna Hill- Media Luna means “half moon” in English, and the hill is named after the shape of this ancient volcanic crater. It’s about a two-hour uphill hike from Bellavista.
  • Taxi boat to beach isla Las Alemana - beautiful beach.
  • Taxi boat to isla Las Rietas - jumping cliff.

Isabela

  • Volcan Sierra Negra- This picturesque hike will allow you to see great views of northern Isabela.
  • National Park Tortoise Reserve- Here, you’ll be able to see a species of tortoise that isn’t found anywhere else in the world.
  • Laguna Concha Perla- This is a prime snorkel spot where there are manta rays, sea lions, fish, penguins, sea turtles and more.

Getting Between Islands

Isabella -> Santa Cruz at 6am is $25.

Cruises

Does not include

  • $10 “visa” fee
  • $100 entrance upon arrival in cash

Sleep

LocationCostAvailableEmailed
Blue House Suite on Santa Cruz$50/doubleJan 6Yes + $18 cab +593 052-527-378
Casa Mabell on San Cristobal$40/doubleJan 6Yes + $30 water taxi/person
Hostal Leon Dormido on San Cristobal$40/doubleJan 6Yes + $30 water taxi/person
Galapagos Twins$115.90/queen bedJan 6Yes
La Fortaleza$80/doubleJan 6Yes
Galapagos Hotel Fiesta$100/doubleJan 7 one nightYes
Galapagos Safari Camp$500/doubleUnknownFuck it
Hotel Galapagos Inn$90/doubleUnknownNo
Red MangroveUnknownUnknownCalled, no response

Casa Mabell on AirBnb

Once you arrive in GPS, you will take a bus, then cross the canal, then take another bus that will bring you to the port/pier where the boats are, you can buy your tickets there. You basically follow the crowd (Galapagos style). Yeah, the room you were inquiring about got taken today. But we have this one available https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2051589 (spacious one bedroom apartment) it’s only $10 more than the other one, but it’s twice as big. with new tile. You will have Free wi fi, cable tv, private bathroom with hot shower, ample closet space. We are located one block and a half away from the pier where you will be arriving from Santa Cruz.

Twin Suites Galapagos

3.5 X 6 meters with bed Quen Zize private bathroom hot water, hammocks in the corridor against nature attached photo for your approval the price is $ 115.90 dollars includes tax, breakfast daily in the restaurant, WIFI

Hostal Leon Dormido

The hostal is a short 9 minute walk from the airport and a 2 minute stroll from the main municipal dock if you are arriving in San Cristobal by boat. The pavements and streets are well maintained if you are rolling your luggage instead of carrying it. Another option is to take a taxi that should cost you no more than $1.00.

If you are coming from the airport follow the only road the leads out of the facility. Turn left when you reach Jose de Villamil (Barrio Los Cactus Parque is on the right hand side). Hostal Leon Dormido is two blocks down on the left hand side, right before the waterfront.

To reach the hostal from the municipal dock, take a right when stepping off the dock and walk 2 minutes along the waterfront, turning left on Jose de Villamil. It will be on your right hand side.

El Castillo

La Fortaleza

Hotel Fiesta

  • Availability starting on the 7th.

Blue House Suite

Posada del caminante

Isla Isabella

Flying from Quito to the Galapagos Islands

Monday, January 06, 2014 07:08

So excited to head to the Galapagos Islands!

TimeLocation
5:15AMWoke up.
6:15AMIn a cab.
7:15AMAt the airport. Paid for tourist card ($10/each).
7:34AMChecking bags. Mine’s at 17.2 kg.
7:39AMThrough security.
9:22AMBoarded.
9:36AMTake off!
10:11AMTouch down in Guayaquil.
11:38PMTake off. Wow they have lunch on this plane!
12:14PMLanded in the Galapagos Islands! (One hour behind)
12:40PMPaid for entry ($100/each), got our bags.
12:57PMOn the bus to the canal.
1:03PMWe’re movin’!
1:20PMOn a boat to cross the canal.
1:30PMCrossed the canal.
1:47PMPacked into a cab.
2:37PMArrived in Puerto Ayorta. Too late to catch a boat now sadly.
3:02PMCan’t make it to our airbnb sadly, so we had to find a cheap hostel nearby.

Omg Mantaray!

Monday, January 06, 2014 13:18

Haven’t even left the airport yet and we saw a manta ray!

We learned afterwards that this was, in fact, an eagle ray!

Galapagos' Native

Monday, January 06, 2014 15:21

Found this place for $35 a night. The owner, Joffre, is super friendly and the room is decent.

Contact Info

  • 0998 906 020
  • 05 2 524 730
  • jrogel.galapagaos@hotmail.com
  • Tomas de Berlanga s/n y 12 de febrero

Unnamed Almuerzo Restaurant

Monday, January 06, 2014 16:06

Really tasty fish soup and chicken.

Geocaching

Monday, January 06, 2014 17:37

Found one!

El Chocolate

Monday, January 06, 2014 19:26

Had carbonara spaghetti and a weird tasting piña colada. The food was not super good for the price.

Darwin was an ass

Monday, January 06, 2014 21:41

I started reading Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, specifically the part about the Galapagos. There are some pretty hilarious quotes.

Talking about aquatic lizards:

A seaman on board sank one, with a heavy weight attached to it, thinking thus to kill it directly; but when, an hour afterwards, he drew up the line, it was quite active.

More comments on said lizards and the fact that they prefer staying on land when threatened, even though they can swim fine:

I threw one several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the retiring tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I stood.

About the land-based lizards digging their burrows:

I watched one for a long time, till half its body was buried; I then walked up and pulled it by the tail; at this it was greatly astonished, and soon shuffled up to see what was the matter; and then stared me in the face, as much to say, “What made you pull my tail?”

On creating lizard fight clubs:

If two are placed on the ground and held together, they will fight, and bite each other till blood is drawn.

Iguana Beach

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 17:00

After exploring the turtle nursery we hiked through a small trail onto a rock and iguana-covered beach. We saw more than 20 of these critters lounging around on the rocks.

Fish Market

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 18:02

This open-air fish market attracted a lot of attention (both of the avian and bipedal variety). The fishermen were cutting up fish and tossing them to the pelicans and sea lions, the latter of which acting like hungry dogs at a dinner table.

Tropic Bird Restaurante

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 19:02

Really good burgers for 4.50!

Diving the Galapagos

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 08:14

We took our first two dives in the Galapagos today at a site called Gordon Rocks, also known as “the washing machine”. From our research online the night before we learned quite quickly that two people had died there in 2012 and that you need at least 30 dives before being allowed in the water near the rocks. We had four.

We didn’t die, but it was definitely an adventure. To get to Gordon Rocks we had to ride in a pickup 45 minutes back to the canal on the northern end of the island. From there we transferred to the dive boat and rode an hour out to our check dive location.

Check Dive at Plaza Sur

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 10:07

Our check dive was super fast and mainly involved getting us used to our wet suits and the cold water. We did some quick exercises and then dropped our gear off at the boat and went snorkelling. This turned out to be one of the most relaxing and entertaining parts of the day because we got to play with sea lions!

Snorkelling with Sea Lions

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 10:20

These sea lions were a blast to swim with. They move so fast and effortlessly through the water that it’s mesmerizing to watch them.

Close Encounter

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 10:21

One would repeatedly swim straight for us and about 6 inches from our face turn at the last second, completely scaring the shit out of us (many laughs and screams were had). This is the best picture we could manage with our crappy underwater camera, but it gets the point across.

Schools of Fish

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 10:36

We also saw plenty of fish schools swimming around while we were snorkelling after our check dive. We’ll definitely be taking some time to snorkel around the islands while we’re here because it seems like a pretty easy (and cheap) way to see aquatic life.

Gordon Rocks

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 12:25

After we’d finished our check dive we moved on to Gordon Rocks. These rocks are an epic sight towering over the sea. We were pretty excited at this point to get to the dive spot and maybe see some hammerhead sharks!

The water at this point was incredibly choppy and people who felt seasickness were starting to not do well. We geared up though and prepped to dive, all the while thoughts racing through my head of the two people who had died diving here only two years past.

A 1-2-3-go! and splash! We were in.

The waves at the surface were probably 2-3 feet tall so we had to have our regulators on even while we were surfaced, or drink periodic mouthfuls of seawater. Once we’d all collected our instructor gave the down signal and we all deflated our BCDs.

The descent was fairly straightforward, but once we got down to the rocks we quickly learned why this place was called the washing machine. The currents were strong enough to move you quite a distance and they would oscillate back and forth so that, over the course of a full cycle, you’d move back and forth 5-10 meters. We had to grip on to the rocks at the bottom with all our fingertips’ might just to stay still. We weren’t given gloves for any of our dives which was a bit weird we thought - there were tons of sea urchins and one of the other divers cut his hand on one of the rocks. As a result it was incredibly difficult to hold on - think rock climbing but with buckets of water being poured on your head.

After a few moments of clinging to the rocks our instructor told us to move along, so we began a slow crawl of hand-over-hand movement along the rocks. More than a few times my body got twisted by the currents as we swam and I spun around my anchor point, my fins hitting the rocks (and other divers). It sounds worse than it was because everything was moving in relative slow motion, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

An Underwater Surprise

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 12:40

We swam along and saw some turtles and manta rays and a few schools of fish which was definitely cool, but sadly never saw a hammerhead shark. What we did see, however, was apparently much more rare (and cool, in my opinion): the “Mola”, or Ocean Sunfish. This was quite easily one of the strangest looking animals I’d ever seen both on land and sea.

We captured a video of it, but it hardly begins to do justice to the magnificence of this fish. It was easily 7 feet tall and equally long, but its width was barely a few inches. It’s like a fish that evolved in a two-dimensional reality and somehow breached into our own for a brief moment. The picture of it here is from the wikipedia article.

So while we didn’t get to see any hammerheads I was thankful to have gotten to witness such a rare fish. Other divers with far more experience than us (150+ dives) had never seen a Mola in any one of their dives, so it’s definitely a rare occurrence.

Manta Rays

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 13:27

Saw these while at Gordon Rocks! They were just hanging out at the bottom, seemingly taking a nap.

These are also Eagle Rays, oops!

Hotel Silbestein

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 17:00

We had an awesome dinner at Hotel Silbestein with two friends we made while diving Gordon Rocks. The food was delicious and reasonably priced and we spent hours cracking jokes about everything from internet cats to our newly acquired “citation needed” fun from New Years.

I had a coco chicken plate which was served with plantains and rice. I completely devoured it after a day of diving. We ended the dinner with a lava cake and ice cream and were completely satisfied.

Bird Fish Watching

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 21:42

We weren’t the only ones watching the fish.

Advanced Open-Water Certification: Day 2

Thursday, January 09, 2014 08:29

Today was our second and final day of advanced certification and damn were we tired. We ended up staying up late the night before reading about the new Burning Man theme and ticketing process, resulting in another night of very little sleep as we woke up at 6am to get to the dive shop on time.

Dive Spots in the Galapagos

Thursday, January 09, 2014 08:30

These are all of the dive spots in the Galapagos Islands.

North Seymour

Thursday, January 09, 2014 09:25

From the docks at northern Santa Cruz we took the dive boat north to North Seymour, a dive spot that we were told would have good likelihood of seeing hammerheads and flocks of other fish. The rocks here weren’t as memorable as Gordon Rocks, but our snorkel session to start the day certainly was!

In Search of Fishes

Thursday, January 09, 2014 09:41

We had some fun taking pictures of us diving underwater with the snorkel gear.

Snorkelling Shots

Thursday, January 09, 2014 09:48

We spent most of our time snorkelling chasing after these Razor Surgeonfish trying to get a good shot with our crappy underwater camera. After a few minutes of following a couple lone fish around we spotted a giant school right on the edge of our visibility and swam straight for them! We managed to get a couple half-decent shots, but if anything this has just made us really want to get a GoPro for proper underwater photos.

Garden Eels

Thursday, January 09, 2014 10:28

I thought that these were plants when we first came up to them, but it turns out these are underwater garden eels!

Diving in Mosquera

Thursday, January 09, 2014 11:52

After we finished our dive at North Seymour we did a super fast skill dive to practice using a compass to swim in a square. It was not much of a challenge and we were a little sad to have had to ascend after only having been in the water for 10 minutes. We wanted to see more fishes!

So off we went to Mosquera just around the corner. This diving spot featured a large reef wall that we swam along and saw a few white-tipped sharks and a floor composed of what looked like seaweed, but upon closer inspection turned out to be hundreds of snakes poking out of the ground!

After we ascended we climbed back in to the boat and passed the hell out. We slept on and off all the way back to the dive shop, where we waited to receive our certification. The instructor was nowhere to be found though after half an hour of waiting, so we decided to come back later that night.

At about 7PM we officially became advanced open water divers!

Eeeeeel

Thursday, January 09, 2014 13:03

This guy was hanging out in a hole in the reef looking all menacing and such.

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Thursday, January 09, 2014 19:38

Rest. Pizzeria Playa Sol y Mar

Amazing casado dinner. Really good sauce with the meat and the beans were super tasty. They had a solid ají hot sauce which went well in the rice and beans.

Hiking to Tortuga Bay

Friday, January 10, 2014 14:09

We made the 40 minute walk to Tortuga Bay - it was like being baked for 40 minutes.

Iguanas at Tortuga Bay

Friday, January 10, 2014 14:36

Didn’t see any turtles but we did see plenty of iguanas running across the beach! This beach was fairly pretty but its lack of shade made it a hard sell for staying long. The two travelers we met while SCUBA diving had gotten roasted cajun-style by going here and we could definitely see why.

Lonely George Burger

Friday, January 10, 2014 19:15

Omg adorbs. Gonna nom it so much.

This burger was actually delicious. The sauce on the meat was perfect and the bun wasn’t actually that unwieldy.

Restaurant Sol y Luna

Friday, January 10, 2014 19:33

Not as good as Sol y Mar for dinner.

Galapagos Art Cars

Friday, January 10, 2014 21:17

We had a tour of Puerto Ayora on this awesome art-car-like contraption.

Taxi Boat from Isla Santa Cruz to Isla Isabella

Saturday, January 11, 2014 13:35
TimeLocation
1:25PMAt the ticket booth waiting for instructions.
1:36PMAt agriculture inspections.
1:54PMStill waiting for our boat.
2:01PMOn a taxi boat.
2:16PMOn board with captain Gaby.
4:42PMTransferred to a taxi boat.
4:57PMPaid $5 entrance tax to the island.
5:05PMIn a taxi for $1/person. Adolfo. 099 415 0865.

Arrival

Jan 06, 2014

from Quito, Ecuador

Departure

Jan 11, 2014

to Isla Isabella, Galapagos