Having bought an Academy Bay day tour departing from the harbour of Puerto Ayora, we are waiting on the pier for our boat, George, to show up. We have bought this tour to get a chance to see some of the special animals on Santa Cruz in close-up along the coast, in the sea and on the small island in the middle of the bay – and we hope that we will be able to watch both blue-footed booby birds, reef sharks, marine iguanas, giant sea turtles and sea lions in their natural element.
Two of the benches next to ours are occupied by a couple of sea lions snoozing without taking notice of the people around. They are together with pelicans, frigate birds and a wide variety of other birds, hundreds of Galapagos sharks and a million of smaller fish in the water, part of the life on and around the pier.
Even if we have been in Puerto Ayora for some days now, we are literally still speechless with surprise of the diversity of animals in and around the sea. Even along the waterfront you will actually spot fascinating and endemic animals wherever you turn! It is rather a matter of keeping the required minimum distance of 2 metres (6 feet)! – which is not always possible, since the passages here are sometimes too narrow.
We jump on the boat, joining the fifteen other passengers going on the tour. All ages are represented, right from a not even one-year-old boy and his 2 years elder sister to mature adults. Soon we are thankful that we took a seasickness pill before departure. We are heading towards the sea lion island, Caamaño Islet, and the waves are noticeable.
When buying the tour we were assured that there would be life jackets on board. So it is, but they are seemingly not meant to wear. The life jacket gear is being used as convenient cushions on the seats. Noone seems to bother – it is just another practical function of life jackets. We must admit that, after a while, also we welcome these comfortable seats which keep the water, running back and forth inside the boat depending on the waves, out of our clothes.
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Our guide, who is also a national park ranger, is extremely curious about the Europeans in his boat (all the other passengers are more local). He asks us repeatedly if we are ‘happy’ and if we can experience similar things back home. We sense that he in particular wants us, the people from far away, to like what we see, imagining that it is a completely different world we come from – what it in fact also is!
Approaching the island we now spot two sea lions on the rocks. The younger one is playing and constantly jumping into the water and up again – only pausing to go for a refreshing swim. The ranger reveals that in the evening more sea lions return to the island to stay overnight. Also a couple of swimming marine iguanas come close to the rocks.
It is now time to discover new sides of our fellow passengers. We cannot believe our eyes when we see the young family with toddlers taking steps to climb out of the window. They leave the inside of the boat to get onto the roof, all happening while the boat is at open sea. The parents climb with each their child on the hip, asking us to pass their backpacks up to them on the roof! They apparently arrange themselves confidently with kids and luggage up there, despite the waves … and the risk of the toddlers falling overboard. Nevertheless, it seems that it comes naturally to them – and they end up spending all morning on the roof sunbathing!
Next stop is a quiet snorkelling spot where we can get to see impressive sea turtles. Our guide stops the boat and offers snorkel gear to everyone. He encourages one of us to go first to get the best view of the gigantic sea turtles. They may disperse with the whole group jumping in. It is a world of wonders that reveals under the surface where we snorkel with several colourful, tropical reef fish and five fabulous, giant sea turtles.
We continue by boat and come close to some rocks where we to our delight catch sight of a flock of blue-footed boobies. This is specifically what we had hoped for without knowing if we could really be this fortunate! The birds are strikingly beautiful and unique with their spectacular blue feet.
Our guide likes to see us pleased and asks again if we are happy with what we see. In particular, spotting the blue-footed boobies is not anything you can expect to happen on every boat tour. We might just as well not have been that lucky today, so indeed we are happy now! The blue-footed booby birds were precisely what we had hoped most for seeing on this tour!
We moor on the coast from where we take a trail on foot through arid cactus forest and volcanic landscape to Playa de los Perros. It is a tiny, rocky beach with an abundant wildlife. In particular, large numbers of marine iguanas gather and nest in the soil here. Some are bustling around the place and others are simply resting peacefully in the sun.
On the rocks, which now and then are being flooded by the waves, a plethora of the shining red and gigantic Sally Lightfoot crabs are crawling around. Our guide lets us know that when he was younger, they used to eat them in his family. However, today you are not allowed to touch the Sally Lightfoot crabs at all!
Soon after we arrive at a small lagoon with a breathtaking view down to several 3-4 metres (10 feet) slowly moving sharks and one of the most impressive, giant sea turtles, we have seen so far, swimming around.
The park ranger takes us to a gem, Las Grietas, an enchanting canyon-like crevice in the volcanic rocks. The scenery is absolutely magnificent with crystal clear and emerald green water.
In the past people used to jump into the water from the rim of the rocky walls, but this is now forbidden. Instead a wooden platform just above the water surface serves the purpose.
We cannot resist the temptation to plunge into the waters, characterised by a mixture of saltwater and fresh water, fed underground by both a river and the salty sea. The dip is exhilarating and gives energy for the walk back.
‘Do Bay Tour to See Blue-footed Booby Birds and Giant Sea Turtles’
The next day we take one of the numerous yellow water taxis to the Angermeyer Point near the Finch Bay Hotel. We look out for blue-footed boobies along the rocks since our host at White House Galapagos hotel has mentioned that he has spotted some there. However, there is no sight of any birds at all.
From the dock a path leads to Playa de los Alemanes, a fine snorkelling beach where we even find loads of fossilised corals. We are watching a lot of interesting birds, striped fish and various kinds of crabs. The water is shallow and it is so opportune that we, all of a sudden, spot a few eagle rays swimming in front of us and even a couple of times jumping out of the water!
The hike from the beach goes through a forest of giant Opuntia cacti and across a pink, salty lagoon, Las Salinas. The salt production previously served in the process of drying fish. Like everywhere else in the Galapagos Islands there is a rich biodiversity in this unique location surrounded by saltbush, mangroves and small lagoons.
- Caamaño Islet, sometimes location of sea lions.
- Snorkelling with giant sea turtles and colourful reef fish.
- Viewing blue-footed booby birds.
- Playa de los Perros with Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas.
- Visiting lagoon with sharks and giant sea turtles.
- Hiking through interesting Opuntia cactus landscape.
- A refreshing swim in Las Grietas.
- Snorkelling gear.
Various agencies in Puerto Ayora offer this Academy Bay day tour. You just ask around to find out where to get a good deal. We paid about $35 per person.
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‘Do Bay Tour to See Blue-footed Booby Birds and Giant Sea Turtles’
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