The journey to Tortuga Bay is special in itself. Starting in the capital town Puerto Ayora you stroll (or take a taxi) to the west side of the town where you arrive at some towering lava formed cliffs, their black bolderous forms hung with green foliage like a natural hanging gardens of Babylon and topped by a green forest crown. There is a steep winding stairway up the cliffs and as you rise it has the feeling of scaling Tepui Mountain in Amazonic Venezuela, a flat top mountain that is home to the 'Lost World' of dinosaurs in the 1960 film of the same name.
Once the stairs are scaled in the blistering 35 degree heat you arrive at a small hut. The top floor is a simple lookout (for dinosaurs?) and the ground floor is a small office at which you have to sign in so they know you are going to the beach. This is partially to stop anyone camping there, and to make sure everyone comes back ok, due to the seclusion of the bay. This hut marks the beginning a trail through a mysterious cactus forest. The path is narrow with two short walls flanking either side, and to the left and the right is dense cactus forest. The cactus' here are the only species in the world that actually have trunks and are enormous. Noises crack and rustle from the cactus trees, is something lurking or is it just the breeze? The path runs more or less straight, however the rise and fall of small hills means you can't see very far. As time goes by, you don't see anyone else, the paths keeps going, small but colourful lizards scuttle along the path and disappear again, you are sweating from the heat of Equatorial sun, even in the shade of the forest. It's too late to turn back, but it doesn't seem to end, keep following the yellow brick road, right?
Over half an hour later, you think you are lost in Jurassic Park but suddenly you here the sound of waves, is that..? Over the next rise of the hill suddenly a panorama of glittering blue Pacific Ocean comes into view, then a stretch of the most golden sand. Welcome to Paradise, Tortuga Bay.
The path comes out onto the East end of the beach, you look West, the beach seems to go on forever. Immediately on a stretch of black volcanic rocks we see a couple of different crab species scuttling around, one red (the Galapagos crab) and one purple. We wander on, encountering an enormous black Marine Iguana lumbering across the sand, and further on we see little crabs dashing in and out of holes in the beach, leaving tiny balls of sand as they go. At the Western end of the beach sits a peninsula and as the mangrove starts we see a couple of other explorers in the water, we join them. We first notice the black iguanas, they are covering the beach here, but even stranger still some of them are surfing. Yes, surfing! Not on surf boards but on their bellies. I have never seen anything like it, later we find out that these Galapagos Iguanas are the only lizard species in the world able to live and forage in the sea. They also spit a lot, we thought they were doing this because they didn't like us, but apparently it's normal to eject salty seawater from their noses!
|These Iguanas were in Love. Cute.|
On the other side of the peninsula is a small, protected beach with a large bay of turquoise water. Here we swam and relaxed, until I was bitten by what I can only describe as a giant horsefly, which left actual bleeding fang marks in my leg. There are things in the Galapagos that want to eat you!
The journey back felt even longer than the journey to the secluded Tortuga Bay but well worth the trip. This place is quiet as it's not the easiest to get to and looks to be avoided by the bus loads of tourists that visit the island by cruise, as there is no where to dock a boat either. Anyone slightly more adventurous should not be missing it though, definitely a highlight of my stay in the Galapagos Islands!
When to go: December - May, the sunniest seasons (although it's never cold here)
How to get there: Find the path at the west end of Puerto Ayora, get a taxi driver to take you for $1 if you think you might get lost.
What you can see: Galapagos crabs, lots of different types of bird, white tip reef sharks, tiger sharks, turtles (although rarer), marine iguanas.
Don't do: Swim on the main beach, rip tides can be dangerous, and it's prohibited. We paddled by the mangroves but that was it.
Do: Swim in the second part of the bay on the other side of the peninsula where the water is calm and safe.
Make sure: To sign in AND back out past the hut at the entrance. They sell ice creams too.
Just to note, these photos have been lifted straight off my iphone, it really is this beautiful and much more so.