While there is no doubt that Santa Cruz Island is best known for the tortoises and Darwin Center, there is lots to do on the island besides visit the giant creatures.
Like go to the supermarket and check out the craft beer! Yes, we did that too…
But not before taking a fantastic walk out to Tortuga Bay. Santa Cruz, like all of the islands in the Galapagos, has stunning scenery and beautiful beaches. I think Tortuga Bay is probably one of the prettiest, though it does have a lot more people than some of the other islands (Santa Cruz is inhabited, so that’s no surprise). It has a expansive white, sandy beach that is really shallow for quite a ways out so it’s easy to wade and play in the waves. They do occasionally have a rip-tide there, so be aware and know your limits.
There are multiple ways to reach Tortuga Bay, but we walked in from town (Puerto Ayora). On the way there, a lot of the trail was still in the shade–but be aware, it can be a super, super hot walk–particularly on the way back when the sun is higher in the sky. Take a TON of water and remember to reapply your sunscreen. I want to say its about 3-4 kilometers with some steep hills mixed in.
There is SO much to see on the beach–tons of marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, and so many baby sharks in the water! Like little 1-2 foot black-tip reef sharks. They are very cute and like to get in the shallows where it is really easy to see their fins. I know some people may be wary of these fellas, but they are very small and much more terrified of you than you are of them.
We kept walking along Tortuga Bay to kayak in the cove nearby. I actually did kayak here, because it was super calm and not on the open ocean. The environment is a bit different than the rocky, barren climate we’d become accustomed to–it’s full of mangrove trees. We saw marine iguanas swimming, tons of sharks, lots of rays, blue footed boobies, and a turtle. The water is very clear so you can sit in your kayak and just watch all the sharks and rays swim beneath you–lots of young sharks here as well, the mangroves are a popular place for shark pups!
While we had kayaks on the boat for all other kayaking excursions, we rented kayaks off the beach at this little cove, so even if you aren’t on a organized trip, you can just rent them off the beach which is nice. I didn’t see anywhere to get food or drink though, so as I said before, take that into consideration, particularly if you are walking to/from the beach. There is a water shuttle, though, if you’d prefer that route that will pick you up and drop you off at the main port.
All in all, Tortuga Bay is a great way to spend the morning if you are in Puerto Ayora.