I had read that Galapagos moonrise tours http://www.galapagosmoonrise.com and Santa Fe tours http://www.santafegalapagos.com.ec are amongst the popular tour companies in puerto ayora. So we headed to moonrise but got outsourced by them to Santa Fe tours for a day trip to the uninhabited Santa Fe islands at an excellent price of $165 per person. The price initially quoted in emails by them was $ 200. But then again this might be due to the so called low season and also because we booked in the last moment. In the peak season I am not sure if I would recommend taking the risk of booking in the last moment. The tour was divided into two parts. The first part was the beach landing in which we went for a short hike and the second part was snorkelling. Lunch was included in the price.
Seeing a few sea lions lying in Santa Cruz pier was surely exciting but for an experience to be overwhelming, we needed to see a bit more than a ” few sea lions”. And what can be better than seeing a “few sea lions”. But of course a whole colony of sea lions!!!
Our tour company was very professional. The tour starts in the morning. Our English speaking guide came to our hotel to pick us up at around 7:50 a.m and quickly took us to a wet suite rental shop. Then we reached the Santa Cruz pier from where we started for the Santa Fe islands. There were a few more people with us going to the Santa Fe islands.
A quick description of the Santa Fe yacht. It was an excellent yacht , cozy at the same time spacious enough for a few passengers. It had all the amenities required for a day trip. There were seating areas with tables in the main deck, in the captain’s deck from where he was steering the yacht and also on the top deck. From The top deck there was an excellent view of the ocean. It had toilets and a fully working kitchen to prepare hot meals.
Keep your eyes open while going to the Santa Fe islands because u might be in luck and spot dolphins and hammer head sharks. Some of us saw a few of each. The open air top deck is pretty refreshing if you feel sea sick. The waters were very choppy even though it was in the early hours of the morning. That’s due to the humboldt current coming from Antarctica. We reached the Santa Fe islands after around 2 hours of sailing.
We had to board the panga from the yacht which took us closer to the beach. It was a wet landing which means that u will have to get down in the waters from the panga. The water was reaching till our leg calves, so it was not a big hassle. Even if it would have been a problem none would have paid much attention to it coz there was right in front of our eyes a beach ladened with sea lions!!! We walked to the beach with sea lions swimming beside us. They were of all sizes – babies, juveniles, females, males. They were remarkably active and playful, doing there own natural sea lion dance, frolicking around merrily, sunbathing on top of each other. Basically they were doing every possible activity that u can possibly imagine a sea lion doing. The males are the largest in a group so it is easy to spot one. One male generally has a harem of females. Touching or feeding them is not allowed for their good and yours coz if they feel threatened in any way they might bite. But u can certainly stand close to them given that u still maintain a safe distance from them. Some young ones will come by themselves to sniff u which is so fun and so ticklish. Some of them were equally inquisitive about us as we were about them and some of them were totally unconcerned with what was happening around them living their unfettered lives. We also saw a couple of manta rays in ankle deep waters. The Santa Fe island is an uninhabited island and it was indeed uninhabited when we landed there coz there were only 9 of us including our guide, and no other yacht which had come in. Seeing wildlife in the wild is truly an overwhelming experience and to see them in an uninhabited island takes it to to a different level altogether.
Our hike to see the land iguanas of the Santa Fe islands endemic to these islands was an easy hike, a little rugged and uneven but otherwise fine. We saw four or five of them. Each of them was guarding their respective cactus trees. Our English speaking guide was there with us through out filling us with a lot of information about the island and its wildlife.
When we came back from the hike it was time for snorkeling. Yo ! We changed into our wet suites and boarded the panga or dingy ( a small boat) from where u dive in the ocean for snorkelling. In the Santa Fe island u have to jump from the panga to start snorkelling unlike a few other islands where u can start ur snorkeling from the beach in shallow waters. So it meant that the water was at least 12-14 ft deep. Ok so here is the dampener. We ( my husband , my 8 year old son and myself) are a family of non swimmers. My son knows a bit of swimming in the swimming pool to be fair but had never swam in open waters before this . Anyway we were all ready with our wet suits on and snorkelling gears and life vests with the only doubt being whether to jump in the water or not !!! Not such an ideal situation, right !! Haha! Anyhow we mustered up the courage to jump since we had life vests on and also had the life tubes to hold on to. Since we jumped from the panga we could also hold on to the handles of the panga whenever we needed. Santa Fe islands are famous for snorkelling with sea lions. We saw a few of them under water , the water was crystal clear And we saw lots of colourful fish. The guide also kept moving the panga from one spot to the other so that we could keep moving with the panga. It was actually pretty cool. Snorkeling not in the real sense may be, but we were quite content with the whole experience. After 45 mins of the activity it was lunch time and time to head back.
Lunch was freshly prepared grilled chicken, rice, salad and mashed potatoes and fresh fruits for dessert. There was nothing more we could have asked for. On the way back though it was afternoon , the waters were very calm and we had an enjoyable ride back to the puerto ayora. We reached in the evening around 5:30 p.m. and called it a day .