We only meant to stay here in San Cristobal for a few days because we want to spend most of our allotted time on Isabela, further west. But our permit hasn’t arrived yet from Quito so we have to stay her until it arrives. No problem, there’s plenty to do. We heard from several people that a good way to cram a few sights in is to hire a cab for a couple of hours. We carefully wrote on a piece of paper the locations we wanted to go to and stationed ourselves on the corner where the cabs congregate. Our first try landed us a driver who speaks English and who’s been through the Galapagos Park naturalist training. Perfect! We saw other groups whose drivers just parked and pointed to where they should walk; our driver Jorge walked with us and pointed out plants and animals and birds along the way and answered all of our questions about life in the archipelago. It was a wonderful private tour for the price of a cab ride.
The route is standard on this end of the island. We started out at the Galapagos tortoise sanctuary where they shelter hatchlings until they’re old enough to survive in the wild. Originally they had no native predators but a couple of introduced species a long time ago have endangered them. The habitat is natural and beautiful and in addition to the tortoises we saw the ubiquitous Darwin finches and Galapagos mocking bird.
From there Jorge drove us to nearly deserted Playa Chino, China Beach, and he led us up the rocks to the top where we found the famous blue-footed boobies — our first. We sat on the rocks and watched them preening not ten feet away. The photos just don’t convey the incredible color, and you’ll notice the two sexes have different color feet. The lighter color is the male, the darker, female.
There was so much algae on the beach or in the water that when you walked on the sand you left green footprints.
Our final stop was the largest freshwater lake in a volcanic crater. By this time it was getting dark and it was very misty and Jorge stayed in the car and sent us up the steep mountainside on our own. When we crested the top we couldn’t see a thing at first, but as we started down toward the water the lake began to take shape. On a clearer day we could have seen more wildlife and plant varieties but even so it was a mysterious and peaceful place and we were reluctant to make our way back again.