On the way to our hotel in Puerto Ayora from the Santa Cruz dock we made three stops which the taxi driver was more than eager to make as it gave him a chance to earn a bit more. Taxi drivers here are pretty honest. So that shouldn’t be a worry. To make the stops taxis will charge around 30 usds extra which is a fair deal. It is recommended to do these while going to puerto ayora because they fall on the way. The stops are as follows –
1. Los Gemelos- They are the twin sink holes formed by the collapse of magma chambers. It’s a pretty easy hike and you can spend around 15 minutes or so here.
2. Lava tunnels or lava tubes formed by molten lava- There a 2 lava tunnels. One is near the El Chato tortoise reserve and the other one is near the Primicias tortoise reserve. We had visited the one near the primicias tortoise reserve and it was pretty exciting. The hike was for around 10 – 15 mins and the tunnel was well lit. Please do wear hiking shoes as the path is rugged and at some places a bit slippery and wet. At a couple of places we had to crawl on all fours to pass through a low stretch of the tunnel. Since we were the only ones in the tunnel it was exciting and had an aura of adventure to it.
3. The Primicias Tortoise Reserve- This is located in the highlands. Seeing a tortoise will not generally excite me that much, but seeing the long necked Galapagos tortoises is a different experience altogether. Given their longevity of 100 years or more, some of them must be around since the First World War. Phew !! They are ancient yet not history ! It’s there sheer size and their boundless evolution which commands respect. We saw around 40 of them scattered everywhere we looked. They were pretty active in the best possible way tortoises can be, constantly feeding and moving around. If you are a little finicky like me keep your eyes open for their poops lying around practically everywhere. Luckily for us as it was the dry season so all were in their dried form. Lol. We didn’t require boots coz it was not at all wet and muddy but if u are going in the wet season boots are recommended for obvious reasons and are available in the reserve.
After we reached the hotel we headed out to explore Puerto Ayora. Cheerful faces of natives and tourists, bustling restaurants, loads of souvenir shops made the small town quite lively. And our first sightings of sea lions, pelicans and baby white tipped reef sharks in puerto ayora pier were among the few things that made my heart jump with excitement in anticipation of what we will get to see in the next few days. You will be able to spot sea lions and pelicans in the pier at any time of the day but the white tipped reef sharks are spotted only after 7:00 p.m when the pier is well lit and you can see the sharks swimming in the crystal clear water. Even though they were quite small in size it was quite fascinating to see them. Don’t worry !! we got see too many big ones in Isabela. In the morning some days you can catch a glimpse of a team of baby manta rays from the pier.
The next day we were supposed to leave for Puerto Villamil ( Isabela ) in the morning which is a 2 hour ferry ride from Puerto Ayora. Luckily for us the taxi driver who had dropped us to the hotel had also the tickets for the ferry. He was associated to some tour company I guess. So instead of running around for the next day tickets we bought them from him. These ferry tickets can also be bought from the numerous tour companies in puerto ayora. And they all charge the same – 30usd per person one way or 60 usd per person both ways i.e Puerto Ayora to Isabela and Isabela to Puerto Ayora.
The ferry time from Puerto Ayora to Puerto Villamil and vice versa is as follows :
Departure from Puerto Ayora – 7:00 am , arrival in Puerto Villamil – 9:30 am
Departure from Puerto Ayora – 2:00 pm , arrival in Puerto Villamil- 4:30 pm
Departure from Puerto Villamil- 6:00am , arrival in Puerto Ayora- 8:00 am
Departure from Puerto Villamil- 3:00 pm , arrival in Puerto Ayora- 5:15pm
After we returned to Puerto Ayora from Isabela we sailed to the Santa Fe islands. We went to the Charles Darwin research station in puerto ayora and la grietas neither of which according to me were up to the mark. Did some souvenir shopping , went to the fish market in Puerto Ayora which was very entertaining to see the sea lions and pelicans in a feeding spree and chilled around in the pier watching numerous frigate birds flying above us and a few warblers and finches coming and sitting right in front of us.
If u are interested in bird watching specifically u can go to north seymore , south plazas are famous for their yellow land iguanas and also sea lions and bartelome famous for its landscape and Galápagos penguins.
To catch our return flight from Baltra airport we had to repeat the same modes of transportation one after the other as we had done when reaching Puerto Ayora.
While we were waiting to catch the ferry to cross the Itabaca channel from Santa Cruzport to Baltra port we saw another magnificent phenomenon. There were a few blue footed boobies initially which were sweeping down in the waters hunting for fish, by the time we had boarded our ferry there were loads of other birds doing the same. Truly one can witness extraordinary acts of wildlife in every nook and corner of Galapagos.