We left after a week in San Christobal to travel across to Santa Cruz. It is about 40 miles between the two anchorages so we left at dawn with our new friends, Jade and headed out with no wind and a calm sea to get across in the daylight hours. It was a pretty tedious crossing other than seeing the breakers on the small uninhabited island of Santa Fe. We got a little close and got a good amount of reflected wave from the island.
It turned the water into a bit of a washing machine which wasn’t that pleasant. Lesson learned. Next time, go into the lee of the island and get a flat sea……
Santa Cruz is the main tourist island of the Galapagos and Academy Bay is the main anchorage. it is the home of the majority of big tour boats and the largest town in the whole of the island chain. Unfortunately the anchorage is exposed to the swell which predominately runs from the SW and the first few days here were unpleasant. Imaging sitting just outside the point where the waves break on a beach and you will understand the swell type. It caused lots of problems with a huge surge and roll for the monohulls and even the cats were bucking about. Taranga, our Danish friends were extraordinary lucky. In the middle of the night, they woke to a bang but finding they weren’t moving, they headed back to sleep. The next morning, the dived on the anchor only to find it wasn’t there anymore and their chain was jammed between two rocks. The surge had broken their anchor swivel and only sheer dumb luck had kept them from going onto the reef 50m behind them.
Thankfully the waters calmed after a few days but it is still the worst anchorage we have been in for a long time.
The first big plus of the anchorage is no sea-lions and the daily assault of guano on the nose has gone! There are, however, a large population of sharks with baby Hammerheads and Blacktips in the bay. The largest we saw around us was about 4’ long.
The town is the normal tourist trap with the bars offering happy hour cocktails, lots of poor t-shirt shops and a huge number of the “best Galapagos tour – ever!” signs. We have heard mixed results from those having gone on tours. Some are good but most have been a quick whip round and a charge of $100-160 per person per day. Not cheap and often disappointing. We, of course don’t have the kind of money that will allow us to go on lots of these trips but we have found the fantastic Tortuga beach about 40 mins walk away where we can see both plenty of wildlife and as a bonus, learn to surf. As you might see, the kids did somewhat better than their parents. Hannah has got it! We had a good crowd there with kids from Tika, Quatra, Jade and ourselves. Our thanks to Rusty from Tika for the lessons.
Tortuga Beach is lovely. The red flag flies there due to the rip which builds in heavy seas but we found that it was perfectly safe at the S end.
We did one small trip to the sink holes, tunnels and tortoise sanctuary. Well worth the value of $40 a head for the day. The sinkholes are particularly impressive.
We did find one very quiet beach. Nick from Jade had a wonderful time near drowning the kids. They loved it.
The wildlife was great too. A great collection of birds, land crabs and Marine Iguana, an animal we have decided must be in the running for the laziest in the world. Watching the Storm Petrol’s seemingly walk on the water as they feed is a special sight. See below for a collection of exotic birds (sorry Jane and Gill!).
I’ve also been enjoying the diving. Whilst the dives I did in San Christobal were just about ok, we didn’t really get to see a huge amount. Here through? Wow, just wow. We were lucky that as the sea calmed down on the anchorage, so did the visibility improve generally around at the dive sites. I dived at Gordon’s Rock, just off the NE corner of the island and rated as one of the two best dive sites in the Galapagos chain. We dived twice to no more than 60’ and saw so much wildlife. Galapagos, Black Tip and White Tip sharks, sea lions coming to play, rays, turtles and so many pelagic fish. The highlight was the sudden appearance of a school of Hammerhead, sodding huge things, which had us racing for the safety of the rock face. Glorious, if a bit nervy! I came up after the 2nd dive with just 200psi left in the tank. Guess I was breathing heavily!
Sadly most of my photos didn’t come out well but we pooled our photos once we got back to the shop. These are some of the best. Mia from Taranga was my dive buddy who provided more than half of the photos below. It was great to be back diving with an expert, something I’ve missed since we left Almost There and Robert’s kind tuition. Mia will be joining Skylark for a month in the Marquesas so I’m hoping we will be able to get some more diving in then too.
We have spent a little more time than we were intending here due to our wait for replacement rudder parts from France. Not that we are complaining. There are worse places in the world to get stuck in!
Whilst I’d love to point the finger purely at Ecuadorian Customs administration, the inefficiencies of FEDEX have been exposed here too. Our parcel left France on the 20th Apr and arrived in Ecuador on the 24th and we got a mail to say the parcel was in Customs. We found out on the 29th that FEDEX had raised the customs paperwork for the parcel on the 22nd but never got around to sending us a copy with the amount or who to pay. They are impossible to talk to here in Ecuador. It took a week of badgering and help from a local to get a bank account number to pay the 70% odd duty. We may get the parcel on 3 May, fingers crossed.