We were sad to leave Isabela and the town of Puerto Villamil, mostly because of the amazingly delicious pan de chocolate that we found at a local bakery (well, the only bakery…). Isabela is worth visiting just to buy one of those buns!
On our last day there, we went to the Centro de Crianza (free), another tortoise breeding center. We arrived right at feeding time, and so the air was filled with the sounds of a thousand giant tortoises, of varying ages, munching and munching on greens. It was a fun and fascinating center, not only for the tortoise, but for the little information center that told us why breeding centers were needed in the first place. In short, the introduced cattle, pets, and pests onto the island made it virtually impossible for the baby tortoises to survive to a size where they wouldn’t be threatened anymore, so the breeding centers allow them to reach that size to give them a fair chance in the wild that has so drastically changed since humans arrived.
After a gut-wrenching 2 hours on a speedboat, we arrived on San Cristobal island, the second-most populated island of the archipelago, where we would be spending our last days in the Galapagos. The town itself reminded us a lot of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, but smaller and with a much nicer boardwalk. One kilometer outside of town, there’s a great little “Interpretation Center”, where they have displays and information on the history of the Galapagos, which is rather fascinating. There were many failed attempts at colonizing the islands, and in the early days, Floreana island was said to be cursed. In the 1930s, the Galapagos were international news because of this murder and sex scandal story. Who knew??
I had come down with a 24-hour bug, and even though I felt guilty about it, I spent most of our first day in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (what a mouthful!) in bed. Luckily, by the next day, I was feeling pretty chipper, and Craig and I ended up renting a kayak to explore the port a bit more. The first half of the trip was spent getting absolutely soaked and arguing about the usual things couples tend to argue about when trying to maneuver the same piece of equipment at the same time. The second half was spent being followed by a young sea lion, who swam under and around us, obviously delighted that we were trying to paddle with it. When our hour was up, and we ground up onto the beach, it actually followed us and stared at us while we dragged the kayak out, as if to say, “What, are we done? Why don’t you want to play with me anymore?” It was somewhat heartbreaking, but also a really wonderful experience.
All of the Galapagos islands seem to have sea lions on them… even tiny outcroppings of rock in the middle of the sea had one or two sea lions lazing about on them. But San Cristobal island seemed to have many many more than anywhere else. One day, I even saw one in a fountain on the boardwalk! They look extremely cute (especially the puppies!), but they can be massive and if you get to close, they’re not shy about making rude noises at you. It can be intimidating, to say the least… they’re obviously much more graceful in water, but those guys can move on land pretty fast if they wanted to!
On our very last day on the Gallops (as we ended up calling them), we walked to La Loberia, a beach about a mile outside of town. It was surrounded by rocky shores and cliffs, but faced a protected lagoon that was supposedly very good for snorkeling. Craig and I were very eager to see more sea turtles, which we had decided were our favorite marine sighting (besides perhaps that giant manta ray–but it’s one thing to see one of those from a boat, and another while snorkeling!), but we didn’t want to get our hopes up too high. We hadn’t been able to see any before or since our Los Tuneles tour, after all.
After watching two young sea lion pups playing with each other in what seemed like an elaborate, graceful dance, we finally got what we were hoping for. Not one, but three young sea turtles swam into view! That definitely doesn’t get old, let me tell you. Craig was ambitious enough to keep walking up the coast to a viewpoint, where he saw an immense number of them floating down below the cliffs. The sun came out and we had a great day at the beach. We both thought La Loberia was a definite must-visit for the Gallops, and of course, it was totally free!
It was a great way to end our Galapagos Adventure. If we had had a little more money, we heard that Kicker Rock (León Dormido) would have been a great day trip, but alas, you just can’t do everything. Still, we saw and did so many things on our budget, that we’re quite pleased with our decision to go. I’ll never forget all of the awesome sights and experiences we had… I understand now why so many people say it’s a dream trip or vacation.
What’s worrying is how quickly the islands are changing due to the increased tourism, and whether or not it’s sustainable. If the Galapagos is one of your must-see destinations, then I would suggest going sooner, rather than later… you never know what kind of impact all of this development will have on the wildlife, and it really would be a true shame to miss any of it.