Isla Santa Cruz Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Isla Santa Cruz

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    Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 22, 2012

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    On the afternoon of our day on Santa Cruz we took the pangas across the small bay to the harbour pier and from there boarded a small bus, driven by one of the Angelito’s owners, for our journey into the highlands. It was great to have this unexpected opportunity to pass on our appreciation of the boat and crew to one of the owners. Until recently one of them apparently skippered the boat for every cruise, but they are getting on in age now and have wisely decided to employ a captain, so we hadn’t anticipated meeting either of them.

    The bus drove through the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, giving us a brief glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of towns. As we left the town the road started to climb and we could soon see for ourselves how the vegetation of the arid and humid zones differed. The higher we went the more lush the greens, and we saw lots of pockets of cultivation – coffee, maize and fruit-bearing trees such as banana and papaya. There were cattle in some fields, and white cattle egrets.

    We arrived at our destination, a reserve where the Giant tortoises are protected and allowed to live in peace in the wild – but not before already seeing a few in nearby fields and passing one right on the road! At the reserve there was a small demonstration area, where Fabian gave us a talk about these amazing creatures. There was an empty shell there, from a long-deceased tortoise, and some of us took the chance to climb inside and “play tortoise” – a silly, fun exercise, but one that gave us a good sense of just how huge these animals are. Oh, and I found a perch on the top, as you can see in photo four!

    From here we went for a walk through part of the reserve. We saw quite a few tortoises on our route, including one enjoying a mud bath and several munching on grass and leaves. One came straight towards a small group of us, and we had to step aside and let him pass – he was clearly the boss and nothing was going to stop him reaching his destination. Sharing a narrow path with one of these enormous reptiles really does give you a sense of their size and strength!

    We also saw a variety of birds on our walk – a Smooth-Billed Ani, White-Cheeked Pintail Duck and Yellow Warbler among others. The reserve has a small but densely stocked souvenir shop which we checked out after our walk – Chris and I just bought a postcard (50c) while some of the others got a t-shirt or hat, at what seemed to me to be reasonable prices. There is also a little café / bar, where we got a drink each (Sprite and moccachino), and sat with the others from our party who’d variously opted for coffees, beer, soft drinks and snacks such as empanadas. Four of the group had left that morning, and a new passenger had joined the group here, so it was a good opportunity to get to know Eli from Israel and welcome him to our happy band!

    But soon it was time to leave as we wanted to visit some lava tubes on the way back to the Angelito.

    Chris and a new friend Playing tortoise Inside a giant tortoise shell
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    Exploring a lava tunnel

    by toonsarah Written Dec 22, 2012

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    A short drive from the Giant Tortoise reserve is one of a number of lava tunnels that can be found here in the highlands of Santa Cruz. These tunnels or tubes are formed when the exterior portion of a pahoehoe lava flow cools and hardens while the hotter interior lava continues to flow. Eventually the lava flow diminishes and there is not enough lava left to fill the tube, which is left hollow as a result. We had seen very small tubes on Santiago, but here on Santa Cruz some of them are large enough to enter. This particular one is accessed down a short flight of rocky steps, with a slightly rickety handrail. These lead you to the tunnel’s entrance, which is actually in the middle of it, as it has in the past collapsed at this point leaving one half exposed and easy to walk into, and the other half more or less buried in rubble (see photo four). More steps took us down to the bottom of the tunnel (photo three), which at this point was fairly smooth and easy to walk on. It even had electric lighting! If you didn’t know otherwise you would think that this were a man-mad tunnel, maybe dug as part of a mine or underground transport system. But no – this was all created by the power of volcanic activity.

    After about 100 metres of walking we came to a point where the tunnel roof has crumbled in places and made the going a little harder. Eventually that roof becomes so low that it is necessary to crawl. We had the option at this point of continuing with Fabian or returning to the minibus. About five or six of us, me included, chose the latter – there was no way with a dodgy knee that I felt like crawling on stony ground! But Chris and some of the others opted to finish the walk through the tunnel, though he later told me that apart from the satisfaction of having done it I hadn’t missed much. In the event they had not so much crawled, as the ground was not only stony but also wet in places, but rather had gone on hands and feet, their backs almost scraping the roof!

    Meanwhile I and my companions took a leisurely walk back through the tunnel, stopping to take more photos as we did so. Once we were in the minibus we drove the sort distance to meet the others, who had already emerged from the tunnel and were waiting by the side of the road. I confess I was relieved to see them, as it had occurred to me that if the tunnel had collapsed in the past it could do so again! But there had been no mishaps, and we all settled down in the minibus to return to Puerto Ayora and to the Angelito.

    This was our last visit on Santa Cruz on this day, but we were able to see another side of the island on our final morning when we took a short panga ride in Black Turtle Cove.

    Inside the lava tunnel Inside the lava tunnel Entrance to the tunnel Blocked entrance to other half
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    Black Turtle Cove

    by toonsarah Written Dec 22, 2012

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    On the final day of our Galápagos cruise on the Angelito we were again moored off Santa Cruz, this time in the channel to the north of the island that separates it from Baltra where the airport is situated. With only a few more hours left, we were all up early for a pre-breakfast final visit – a panga ride in Black Turtle Cove. This is a beautiful inlet surrounded by mangrove trees (three species – red, white and black). No landings are allowed here, and boats have to turn off their engines. The early morning light was lovely as Fabian steered us to a great spot where a small lagoon emptied into the cove. He grabbed a mangrove branch hanging out over the water to steady the panga, and we waited. We were rewarded by the sight of a succession of fish and other wildlife exiting the lagoon – several White-tipped Reef Sharks, Sea turtles and a couple of Spotted Eagle Rays. It was so tranquil there, just drifting slightly and watching these various creatures pass right by, or even underneath, our panga.

    After a while though we had to leave, and headed back to the Angelito for breakfast. On the way we saw a number of birds – a Lava Heron, Brown Noddies, several pelicans and a Blue-footed Booby.

    This is a rather different environment from any we had seen elsewhere in the archipelago and it was a special, peaceful spot in which to spend the last hour or so of a very enjoyable week aboard the Angelito.

    This is my last tip about Santa Cruz. Click here to return to my intro page.

    Black Turtle Cove Sea turtle White-tipped Reef Shark Pelican Black Turtle Cove
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    Land Iguanas

    by MalenaN Written Apr 10, 2012

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    Land Iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and they can be seen on several of the islands. For visitors it is easiest to see them on Isla Santa Cruz (at Cerro Dragon), on South Plaza and on North Seymour. I visited Cerro Dragon and South Plaza and saw several Land Iguanas at both places. The Land Iguanas on Isla Santa Fe are a separate species.

    It is not known how the Land Iguanas came to the Galapagos Islands, but probably by floating with vegetation from the South American coast. It is believed that they arrived after the Marine Iguanas though, as the Marine Iguanas had to adapt to feeding in the sea and shore line, so when the Land Iguanas arrived there should have been more vegetation that they could survive on.

    Land Iguanas have a yellowish-orange colour with a dark brown or grey back. During breeding season some males get a red colour to attract females. They have got spines on the back and head and they have a more pointed nose than the Marine Iguanas. Males will grow to a length of 1m and they can weigh up to 13kg. Females are smaller and have shorter spines. They are also less brightly coloured.

    It is in the arid zones that you will find Land Iguanas. There they feed mainly on Opuntia Cactus, fallen pads (including the spines) and fruits. Most of the water they get from their food.

    Males are very territorial, especially during the breeding season. The females lay the eggs in a nest under ground, where they are incubated for 45-50 days. The new born iguanas are very small and therefore preyed upon by the Galapagos Hawk, but also by introduced species. Introduced species are not only a threat to the Land Iguanas because they get eaten, but also because species likes goats eat most of the vegetation. If the Land Iguanas survive they can be as old as 50 years.

    On the cruise with Cachalote we visited both South Plaza and Cerro Dragon on Isla Santa Cruz where we saw many Land Iguanas. These photos are from Cerro Dragon.

    Land Iguana at Cerro Dragon, Isla Santa Cruz Land Iguana at Cerro Dragon, Isla Santa Cruz Land Iguana burrow Land Iguana at Cerro Dragon, Galapagos Islands Land Iguana at Cerro Dragon, Galapagos Islands
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    Marine Iguanas

    by MalenaN Written Apr 6, 2012

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    One of the highlights of Galapagos Islands is to see the amazing Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). They are endemic to the islands and they are also the only lizards in the word that swim in the sea. The Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land, but they feed on algae and seaweed. There are seven subspecies of Marine Iguanas in the archipelago and they can be found on all islands, often in the shore zone, on the lava rocks.

    During millions of years the Marine Iguana has evolved to be well adapted to its environment. With a flattened snout and sharp teeth they can effectively feed on the algae on the rocks. Their tail helps them swim under water and with their long claws they can stand firmly on the rocks. Sometimes you can see the Marine Iguanas snort, that is when they get rid of excess sea salt with help from salt-eliminating glands in their nostrils. Most Marine Iguanas are black or dark grey in colour but on some islands the male can have a red or green colouring, a colouring that becomes brighter during the mating season.

    Males become around 1m long, but some subspecies become longer and others shorter. The females are shorter than the males, and the spines along their back are not as large as on the male.

    Females and young iguanas feed along the shore when it is low tide. It is mostly the males that feed in the sea and they can stay up to an hour under water. As the water is cold the iguanas must get warm when they come up on land, and then you can often see them basking in the sun with their face to the sun and their body raised from the ground (they must get warm, but not too warm so by raising the body they will allow the air to circulate under the body).

    The Marine Iguanas are funny to see in the water. Twice when I snorkelled I saw them swimming. At Sullivan Bay I saw a Marin Iguana just as it took off from the bottom and swam up to the surface. As it reached the surface a sea lion got hold of the tail and played with it. Great for me to see, but I don’t think the iguana appreciated it that much. While snorkelling near Puerto Villamil I saw a whole group of iguanas swimming at the surface and just past me. It was wonderful.

    The breeding season is from November - March. The females will then lay the eggs in an underground nest where they are incubated for three months. The baby iguanas are small and are therefore vulnerable to predators. They risk getting eaten by owls, hawks herons or mocking birds.

    Marin Iguana at Dragon Hill Marin Iguana at Dragon Hill, Galapagos Islands Marine Iguana in Puerto Ayora Marine Iguana at Tortuga Bay, Isla Santa Cruz Marine Iguana at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands
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    Cattle Egret

    by MalenaN Written Mar 23, 2012

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    The Cattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis) is now resident on Galapagos Islands, but it was first recorded as late as 1964. It is often seen in the highlands around agricultural areas, where it feeds on invertebrates stirred up by livestock or tortoises.

    The Cattle Egret is a medium sized heron which is around 50cm long. It is quite compact with a short neck. The bill is yellow and the legs and feet are dark green. When breeding the plumage changes and orange-buff plumes are developed on the crown, back and upper breast. For a short while the legs become red.

    The Cattle Egrets nest in colonies and build their nest in mangrove bushes or trees near the coast.

    The last morning on the cruise with M/S Cachalote we visited Turtle Cove very early in the morning. In the mangroves there were lots of Cattle Egrets. They come down from the highlands to Turtle Cove to spend the night there. When we came closer they all started to fly, a lovely sight!

    Cattle Egrets at Turtle Cove, Isla Santa Cruz Cattle Egrets at Turtle Cove, Galapagos Islands Cattle Egrets at Turtle Cove, Galapagos Islands Cattle Egrets at Turtle Cove, Isla Santa Cruz Cattle Egrets at Turtle Cove, Isla Santa Cruz
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    Blue-footed Booby

    by MalenaN Written Mar 17, 2012

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    The Blue-footed Boobies are funny looking birds, but also amazing with their bright blue feet and their special mating ritual. The Blue-footed Booby on Galapagos Islands is an endemic subspecies (Sula nebouxii excisa) and it is a common, with around 10 000 pairs.

    As the name indicate the Blue-footed Boobies have bright blue webbed feet. The bill is greyish blue and the head brown and white. The under parts are white and the wings and upper parts are brown.

    Males and females look alike, but males are slightly smaller than the females and the pupil of the females looks larger than the pupil of the males.

    The Blue-footed Boobies feed on fish which they plunge dive into the Ocean for. When I snorkelled at Sullivan Bay (Santiago) one dived into the water just in front of me. They are really quick!

    The Blue-footed Boobies have a very interesting mating ritual. The male make a dance in front of the female, where he raises one blue foot at a time. He then points the bill to the sky and spread out his wings. The male makes a whistle sound, and the female who has joined in with the movements answers with a more guttural honk. They than offer each another sticks and twigs, for a future nest. I was very happy to see this courtship ritual on Isla Española and I have a video of it both on my Isla Española page and on my Galapagos Islands page.

    The Blue-footed Boobies form monogamous pairs and make their nest on the ground. The female lay 2-3 eggs, which both parents help to incubate. To keep the eggs warm they use their feet. After about 45 days the eggs hatch. If food supply is scarce the youngest and smallest chicks will be kicked out of the nest and only the biggest chick will be fed and survive.

    The name Booby is believed to come from the Spanish word bobo, which means stupid.

    The photo is from the visitor site Cerro Dragon on Isla Santa Cruz. There are Blue-footed Boobies on the rocks and out at sea is the boat M/S Cachalote which I made a one-week cruise with.

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    Sanderling

    by MalenaN Written Feb 3, 2012

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    The Sanderling (Calidris Alba) is a small wader that is common in the Galapagos Islands. It is a migrant bird and breeds in the Arctic areas. In the Galapagos Islands it can be found in the coastal zone, mostly on sandy beaches.

    The Sanderlings in the photos have got a non-breeding plumage. It is light grey on back, head and tail, and the belly is white. When in breeding plumage the upperparts are mottled in brown/rusty-red. The bill is quite long and black, and also the legs are black.

    In the soft sand at the tidal line you can see the Sanderling running around and plunging its bill into the sand looking for prey. They feed on invertebrates buried in the sand.

    The Sanderlings in the photos were running fast on the beach at Tortuga Bay; Isla Santa Cruz. They were never still so it was difficult to get a good photo.

    Sanderling, Tortuga Bay, Isla Santa Cruz Sanderlings, Tortuga Bay, Isla Santa Cruz
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    Semipalmated Plover

    by MalenaN Written Feb 3, 2012

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    The Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) is a small plover that is quite common in the Galapagos Islands. It is a migrant bird, but it can be seen year round on the islands. It mostly occurs in the shore zone, on sandy beaches or by small lagoons, but it can also be seen by freshwater pools in the highlands.

    The Semipalmated Plover has brown upperparts with a white collar and a white forehead. The underparts are white with a dark breast-band. When breeding the breast-band is black and the bill orange and black. When not breeding the breast-band is brown and the bill is darker.

    The Semipalmated Plover feed on crustaceans, insects and worms.

    The Semipalmated Plover in the photo was walking at the water edge of a small lagoon by the path near Cerro Dragon, Isla Santa Cruz.

    Semipalmated Plover, Isla Santa Cruz
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    Galapagos Flightless Grasshopper

    by MalenaN Written Feb 2, 2012

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    There is not a great number of insect species in the Galapagos Islands, but only something over a thousand. There are 22 species of grasshoppers and one of them is the endemic Galapagos Flightless Grasshopper (Halemus robustus), a small grasshopper without wings.

    The Galapagos Flightless Grasshoppers are quite widespread on the islands, but their brownish colouring make it very difficult to see them. This Galapagos Flightless Grasshopper was sitting on a flower of a Galapagos Cotton bush so it was easier to spot it against the light yellow background. If it had been sitting on one of the branches instead we would probably have passed without seeing it. The photo is taken along the trail to Cerro Dragon, Isla Santa Cruz.

    Galapagos Flightless Grasshopper
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    Short-eared Owl

    by MalenaN Written Jan 15, 2012

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    The Short-eared Owl in Galapagos Islands is an endemic subspecies, Asio flammeus galapagoensis. It is found on most islands and usually in open land and grassland. There are around 9000 Short-eared Owls in Galapagos.

    The name Short-eared Owl comes from the fact that there are tufts of feathers that look like ears on the head. The eyes are large and yellow with a black ring around. The facial disc can be light in colour but also dark brown. The beak is dark and hooked. The plumage is dark brown and mottled. The underparts are lighter with streaks. The Short-eared Owls becomes around 34-43cm long and the female is usually a little larger than the male.

    The Short-eared Owls are diurnal, but can mostly be seen hunting in the early morning or late evening. They eat rodents, large insects and small birds.

    The Short-eared Owls nest on the ground and they are usually monogamous.

    The Short-eared Owl in the photo was sitting on a pole just next to the dirt road near a farm in Santa Cruz highlands. Santa Cruz highlands was the first place we visited during the weeklong cruise with M/S Cachalote. At the farm we had seen a Galapagos Barn Owl, and now when we left we saw the Short-eared Owl. That was good luck, that we got to see both species of owls that occur on the Galapagos Islands, even before we had got to the boat.

    Later we saw a Short-eared Owl on Isla Genovesa as well. That one was far away and we looked at it through binoculars. The Short-eared Owls can often be seen on Isla Genovesa were it hunts for storm petrels.

    Short-eared Owl, Isla Santa Cruz Short-eared Owl, Isla Santa Cruz Short-eared Owl, Isla Santa Cruz Short-eared Owl, Isla Santa Cruz
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    Brown Pelican

    by MalenaN Written Dec 17, 2011

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    The brown Pelican can be found in many areas along the American Pacific and Atlantic coasts, but on Galapagos Islands you will find the endemic subspecies Pelecanus occidentalis urinator. They can be found by the coast on most islands.

    The Brown Pelicans are large birds with a length of 105-152cm and a wingspan of 203-228cm. They have very long bills with an elastic pouch which they use when catching fish. The male and female look alike, but females are usually a little smaller. They have a greyish-brown plumage and they have a chestnut and white marking on neck and head when breeding. When not breeding the neck is more greyish. The juveniles have the same greyish-brown colour, but a paler/white belly. The feet are webbed.

    The Brown Pelican feeds on fish and crustaceans and they can often be seen plunge-diving from the air into the sea to catch their prey. Under the water they fill their bill with water and fish, and then filters the water and swallow the fish.

    The Galapagos Brown Pelican usually nest in mangroves and low bushes. They nest in colonies or individually. The female lay 2-3 eggs and they are incubated by both parents for about a month. They breed throughout the year.

    The pelicans can live as long as 30 years.

    The Brown Pelicans in the two first photos are from Turtle Cove and the three others from Puerto Ayora.

    Brown Pelican at Turtle Cove Brown Pelican at Turtle Cove The Fish Market in Puerto Ayora Brown Pelicans in the mangroves in Puerto Ayora The Fish Market in Puerto Ayora
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    ALWAYS CARRY SUNSCREEN AND INSECT REPELLANT

    by DennyP Updated Nov 26, 2011

    When travelling here on the Equator there were a few things that I found that were neccesary to Carry. The sun can be really unforgiving here and it is a must to use a strong sunscreen when in the strong sunshine. I found that most Islands that I visited had very little foliage with little or no shade. There were certain items I found I needed ,and used most days..they were..
    A good strong sunscreen of 15+
    A small tube of moisturiser.
    A small tube of lip balm.
    A packet of wet ones , good not only for the heat but good for wiping small injuries clean.
    A small packet of tissues, in case you have to go.
    A good insect and mosquito repellant.
    Acouple of band aid strips..
    These are small items and take up little room. Dont forget your hat!!

    SUNSCREEN AND OTHER ITEMS THAT I FIND NECCESITIES ALWAYS CARRY A GOOD INSECT & MOSQUITO REPELLANT
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    Great Blue Heron

    by MalenaN Written Oct 18, 2011

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    The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) can be seen on most big islands of the Galapagos (you can also see them in the West Indies and North- and Central America). The Great Blue Heron is a wader and when you see one it will probably be near shallow water, where they are often seen standing still waiting for prey. They feed on fish, crabs, young marine iguanas, lava lizards, small birds and insects.

    With their tall legs and neck the Great Blue Heron looks majestic. The feathers are blue-grey and the head is white with a black strip. The beak is long, sharp and yellow. An adult Great Blue Heron can have a wingspan of over 2 metres and it can be over 1.30 metres tall. They are beautiful birds.

    I saw Great Blue Herons on Floreana, Isla Isabela and on Isla Santa Cruz. The one on the photos is from Tortuga Bay, just outside Puerto Ayora.

    Great Blue Heron at Tortuga Bay Great Blue Heron at Tortuga Bay Great Blue Heron and Marine Iguanas Great Blue Heron at Tortuga Bay
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    Los Gemelos/ The twins

    by malianrob Written Jan 16, 2007

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    These are also refered to as the craters. They are two sunken volcanic craters that you can see on the road that takes you from the ferry and the town of Puerto Ayora.
    It is pretty interesting to see these but most of the time you will have to go with a guide or you wont be able to get too close. I asked the taxi driver why do we need a guide and he wasnt sure.
    Bus loads of people come to see the craters.

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