Set off for Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos located at the center of the island group.
Primicias is a private ranch and is the natural habitat in which world famous giant tortoises live. They prefer the higher parts of the islands, where the weather is cooler and humid. Close to this place, there are lava tunnels that once were rivers in which hot lava used to run.
Puerto Ayora is a city of approximately 20,000 people where the offices of the Galapagos National Park Administration are located. The Charles Darwin Station is located here, famous for the captive breeding of giant Galapagos tortoises which can live up to 150 years. The station was created in 1964, and features a Natural History Interpretation Center that manages educational programs at the service of the Galapagos National Park. This station is also an operation center for foreign scientists to conduct research.
The Kicker Rock Islet is the remnants of an antique volcanic cone. Its waters are the favorite of submarine swimming professionals and also of scuba divers that get to go as deep as 100 meters in their immersions. There are two vertical underwater walls with a gap in the center that make a paradise for the hammer shark, the grey reef shark, the white-tip shark, and the Galapagos shark. You can also see barracudas, rainbow fishes, octopuses, stingrays, and seal lions. Red-chest royal frigates and hundreds of blue footed boobies can be found in the arid landscape. There are several walking trails here, including one to the Obelisk, a rock emerging from the sea.
Next visit Lobos Island across a canal from San Cristóbal. This island is named after the several species of sea wolves (sea lions) in the area. Also observe the South American fur seal, marine iguanas, Chatham lava lizards, East Galapagos snakes, blue footed boobies, and common frigates. During your time on the island, you can take a speedboat ride and see brown pelicans and shorebirds, or go diving to see underwater life. An 850-meter trail passes through an arid vegetation zone, volcanic floor, and sand zone. Approximately an hour is needed for this walk.
Head to Gardner Bay, located on the eastern coast of Española Island. The white coral beach is ideal for viewing sea wolf colonies, green sea turtles, and albatrosses, especially during mating and nesting season. A great amount of both local and migratory birds are found here, including the Galapagos dove and Darwin finches. Opportunities abound for walking among fantastic wildlife, or, if you prefer, for swimming or diving among amazing marine life.
Access to Champion Islet is restricted for landing due to a history of human disturbance. The Floreana mockingbird has been affected the most, thus speedboat rides are the best way to see this beautiful bird in its natural habitat. In addition to its famous mockingbird reserves, this islet has vegetation of interest such as giant opuntia cactus mixed with croton scouleri bush vegetation. In the sea, keep an eye open for dolphins.
Post Office Bay is a historic location reminiscent of the whaling days. A whaling boat captain placed a barrel at this site in the 18th century so that those who passed through the island left their mail and took with them the ones that had their destination. This tradition continues today. To participate, remember to take a postcard with you when you land on the bay for your family or friends. It doesn’t need a stamp and in return, take and deliver one or several cards that have an address close to you. Post Office Bay also has the remains of a fish cannery built by the Norwegians as well as a lava tunnel.
The east coast of Santa Cruz is home to a small island called South Plaza. It has an area of 0.13 km and a maximum altitude of 23 meters. Despite its small terrain, it is known for its amazing flora and for its large number of species. It was formed by lava streaming up from the bottom of the ocean, and offers amazing sights from the top of its steep banks. The colorful Sesuvium ground vegetation can be intense green in the rainy season to purple and orange in the dry season, a sight to see!
Volcanic in origin, Chinese Hat is one of the most emblematic and recognizable islands in the Galapagos. Shaped in the form of an old Chinese man's hat, this island can be experienced via a visitor trail that begins at a splendid beach. Continue past a colony of endemic Galapagos sea lions to a lava field with views off a cliff to the waves below. American oystercatchers and lava lizards are abundant here.
Return to Baltra to disembark the Nemo II and continue your independent travels.
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