Jul 21, 2018 | Written by Patricia Murphy

Galapagos Day 1: Baltra and Santa Cruz Island

Are you like, “get to the islands already?”

Okay I am too! I’m so happy tell you all about our time in the Galapagos.

Here’s one thing I loved about Ecuador: Victor dropped us off in Quito, and Peter picked us up in Baltra. All the while we were in great hands!

Peter is a native of the Galapagos, and his brother is the mayor of Floreana, an island with a fascinating past that includes a mysterious story about a love affair and murder that was made into a movie staring Cate Blanchett.

But we had chosen our itinerary based on variety of fauna, so we would skip Floreana and instead head west and north during our eight days at sea. We learned quickly that Peter was knowledgable about all the islands, and he also had a hilarious sense of humor that would keep us in smiles and laughter for our entire trip. He often teaches a photography class as well, so he had a lot of advice about how to capture the best wildlife shots.

Our Itinerary included 8 days and 7 islands.

Baltra, our first of seven, is a small flat island created by geological uplift. It is very arid and vegetation consists of bushes and prickly pear trees that have trunks so that the tortoises can’t eat their pads! The landscape is barren and looks much like the Sonoran Desert.  We could see building foundations dating back to WWII when the US Army had a base there so that they could patrol for enemy submarines in order to protect the Panama Canal. After the war, the area was given to Ecuador, who still uses it as a military base.

From the airport we took a bus to a boat to a bus. We traveled to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, our second of seven. This area was cloudy and sported deep green vegetation that was lush with Scalesia trees. We stopped and ate a traditional lunch then donned Wellies to tour the lava tunnels and Tortoise Breeding area. The lava tunnels, over half a mile long, are underground and walking through them is a unique, surreal, slippery experience.

The bus took us then to Puerto Ayora, the most populous town in the Galápagos Islands, with more than 12,000 inhabitants. It is on the south end of Santa Cruz Island, which is 381 sq mi with a high point of 2,835 ft.

Santa Cruz is the second largest island after Isabela. We took a short panga ride to our boat, and were excited to see our rooms for the first time. We had a delicious dinner then went to sleep as the boat traveled to Isabela Island.