Our own personal paradise – Tortuga Bay
Tortuga Bay, one of the most perfect stretches of sand and sea, lies just a short ways from the main town of Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz. The area is part of the park, but it’s not required to have a naturalist guide with you. Before leaving Canada, I had read over and over again about the beauty of this beach, so as soon as we checked into our hotel, we set off to explore. After a quick 5-minute walk through the town, we reached a set of stone steps leading up to the entrance. After signing in, we were told that the park closed in about an hour. We would have just enough time to make it there, look around a bit and then we’d need to walk back. Not wanting to waste a minute of our time in the Galapagos, we set off at a brisk pace. The walk led us down a paved brick path and through a wooded area for about a mile or so. The reward at the end was entirely worth the effort (and the flip flop blisters). Just before sunset, the nearly deserted beach took my breath away – literally. I actually gasped, and then did lots of jumpy claps. Clearly, we would need more time to explore this incredible area.
The following morning, we arrived early at the park. This time, we walked the path at a much more leisurely pace, stopping plenty of times to admire the abundant flora and fauna. We spotted countless Galapagos mockingbirds and flycatchers and several species of Darwin’s finches, as well as lava lizards, carpenter bees and several butterflies.
Tortuga Bay was just as beautiful in the morning light and we were nearly alone, with only the crabs and birds to share the beach with. We made our way towards a stand of red mangroves in the distance. There were a few people snorkeling with a bunch of small, whitetip reef sharks and pelicans were fishing all around us. One even landed with a huge splash about 2 feet in front of me! Upon looking a little closer around the mangrove roots, we got our first close look at the Galapagos marine iguana. They are fascinating to watch, and in the Galapagos, there are plenty of opportunities to observe them everywhere.
After swimming a bit, we continued on and came across a path leading through some Opuntia cacti. The path led us to a smaller bay with very calm waters. We saw a few local families with kids, but we had the other end of the beach completely to ourselves. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any snorkeling gear with us, but we still managed to see a sea turtle poke his head up for air and a whitetip reef shark. The shark came nearly right up to the shoreline, and circled around my feet for a long time.
After a quick snack of salty chifles, (plantain chips and a fast favorite) we headed back to Puerto Ayora, sunburned and full of anticipation for our week in the Galapagos. We could have easily spent the whole week enjoying Tortuga Bay, but other islands and adventures awaited us.