Last night was terribly rough. It was our turn to dine with the captain and all four of his guests were extremely sea sick. None of us could eat, let alone hold a riveting conversation and one by one, we all excused ourselves to go and curl up in a corner as the ship was thrown around like a bobbing cork.
We awoke in the harbour of Santa Cruz where we boarded a bus and headed into the highlands. The further we climbed, the more the scenery began to change. From a coastal fringe with aqua waters to lush greenery – almost tropical jungle like. We wound our way through all seven vegetation zones found in the Galapagos.
Our first stop was at ‘the tunnels’, the largest lava tubes found in Galapagos. The lights inside the tubes/caves were out so we could not see too much, but it was interesting to learn that lava has passed through these tunnels over 200,000 years ago causing this unique formation.
As we continued driving, giant tortoises punctuated our route. They were in the fields next to the road, on the side of the road and some even on the road. It was not what I expected at all, but very cool just to see these massive tortoises free range in the highlands. There are around 2000 wild tortoises on Santa Cruz.
Our next stop was ‘Las Primicias’ one of the private tortoise farms in the highlands where we encountered giant tortoises in their natural habitat. This farm was sprinkled with tortoises as we walked through the long grasses sticking to our legs in the wet and passed tortoises wallowing in mud pits or taking a dip in ponds. Some of them were absolutely massive, others still quite small.<
We made our way to Los Gemelos, Spanish for ‘The Twins’, a pair of large sink hole type craters caused from volcanic collapses. This was just a quick photo stop.
Following a brief siesta back on board, we returned to shore to visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre aka Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena. We visited the tortoise enclosures of the baby tortoises that were a year old. They all had numbers painted on the back of them which we had hoped were for racing them after them after dark, but no, they were to identify which island they had come from.
We walked along, each corral, for different aged tortoises and from different islands. All of them kept separately. We viewed the enclosure previously the home to the Lonesome George, or Solitario Jorge, who passed away in June 2012, his enclosure now home to two females from Floreana Island.
The brightly coloured land iguanas were next on our walk. In the process of shedding their skin, these large reptiles were also kept separately in individual pens to keep them from fighting.
We saw Super Diego, another celebrity tortoise who is obsessed with mating. Apparently all he does is mate, mate, mate even when it is not breeding season, hence his name.
The reminder of the afternoon and early evening was spent in town exploring the many souvenir and dive shops, followed by a few sundowner cocktails and dinner. The town itself had a bit of a buzz to it. Santa Cruz, home to 24,000 people, was certainly busy. A school Christmas concert captured the attention of many in the main square which was actually a giant collection of basketball courts all purposely built next to each other.
Before heading back to the ship, we walked down the jetty towards where our panga was to meet us only to find a sea lion blocking the way. Some nearby children were tormenting another sea lion that was a fair distance away from them down a ramp on a separate jetty but not to teased, the sea lion put his running boots on and clambered his way up the ramp as quickly as he could on land only to frighten the children and send them running and screaming to their parents. That will teach them.
Crooked Compass travelled with Ecoventura on board MY Eric.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.