Galapagos Day 5: Puerto Ayora & Santa Cruz Highlands

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This was probably my favorite day in the Galapagos because I always dreamed of going to the Galapagos to see giant tortoises, and on this day, my dreams came true! On day five we went to the Charles Darwin Research Center (CDRC), some lava tunnels, and to Manzanillo Ranch to see the tortoises in the wild. It was also Christmas Eve and this day just seemed like the best present ever!

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We started the day by disembarking at Puerto Ayora and walking over to the fish market. I loved watching the pelicans begging for scraps and seeing the fresh fish being arranged. We spoke to a man about the cost of lobster and he gave us a great cost per lobster. After asking the guide if we could get some lobsters and have it for dinner that night he said that we would have to talk with the chef first. So we kept walking to the CDRC.


Wow, this was the hottest and most humid part of the trip! After seeing so much diverse wildlife freely roaming the islands it was a big let down to see all of the tortoises penned up. Also, 80% of the CDRC was closed for remodeling, so maybe it would have been better in the other bits, but I will never know.  So add that disappointment to all of us being overheated, and you end up with just a few pics of the tortoises and iguanas in their pens and then everyone huddling under some meager shade. We were constantly wiping our dripping faces at the CDRC.


TIP: Remember to bring your sunscreen, hat, and A LOT of water for Puerto Ayora friends! I usually bring a liter with me whenever I leave the house, but that liter was gone FAST.

After the CDRC we had some free time. We grabbed some gelato, went to the mosaic garden, went to an internet café so I could check in with my banks since they weren’t letting me get money from the ATMs in the Galapagos, and then bought a couple souvenirs. Then we were informed that the chef gave us the go-ahead to purchase lobster from the Puerto Ayora fish market for dinner.


We went back to the market and the nice guy with the great per lobster price was gone. Instead his wife was there and she was charging by the kilo. We ended up getting about 10 lobsters of varying sizes and it ended up being $11 per person. The chef already had a delicious meal planned for us so we saved the lobster for Christmas dinner instead.  If I ever go back here I will make sure to get my lobster first thing in the morning, BEFORE exploring elsewhere!

TIP: If you are going to Otavalo market later in your trip save ALL of your shopping for that day because everything is WAY overpriced in the Galapagos.

After a little lunch and a siesta (probably to avoid the worst of the heat) we went to my favorite place in the Galapagos: the Highlands of Santa Cruz! As we pulled up to Rancho Manzanillo we could see giant tortoises and cows wandering along the road. Our guide told us that the ranch cut the lower parts of the fences to allow the tortoises to roam freely. We even had to stop at one point for a bit because a tortoise was too close to the road.



I was super jealous that Will got the only pair of bright yellow boots!


Then we got off the bus and found rubber boots to wear over our long pants. I didn’t know that boots would be involved so I had to wear them sockless- eewwwee! They were very clean looking so I didn’t mind once I saw how much mud there was everywhere.


When everyone was suited up with their rubber boots, rain jackets, and plenty of mosquito repellent, we started wandering toward a field with tortoises wandering everywhere. We saw tortoises mating, giving themselves a mud bath, and munching the greenery. I loved it!


After about an hour of exploring and taking pics, we went back to the main house, got rid of our muddy boots, and were treated to free coffee, and ginger lemon grass tea. Delicious.


My new friend Rahul took this opportunity to slide into an old giant tortoise shell at the encouragement of the guide. I sat on top of one as if it were a horse. Seriously, I wonder if anyone ever rode them before?!


On the way back to Puerto Ayora we stopped for about a half hour or so at some lava tunnels.  I like exploring tunnels like these now and then in Oregon so it wasn’t anything new for me, but it was still kinda cool.  Many of the others in my group didn’t seem too interested in climbing amongst the rocks, but I had to go in to see this green spot in the middle of the cave to satisfy my curiosity.  The others could wait!

Have you been to the Galapagos? What was your favorite spot? 


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