Where to See Baby Tortoises in the Galapagos

Originally published in August 2015. Updated August 10, 2020.

Back on Santa Cruz, there was much more to see!

We got ourselves together for Marcos to take us on our next adventure, and our first stop was… A water taxi! Our not-so-favorite. And the seas were rougher than they had been the days prior! Fortunately for us, we only needed to take the water taxi across the port, not out onto the open sea! One can only get to where we were going on a water taxi. There are no roads there, even though it’s on the same island!

There are a couple of fancy hotels and restaurants over on the other shoreline. It’s very picturesque, being right there on the water. So we got out and started walking down a well-worn trail to a beach where we were supposed to rent kayaks, but Marcos advised us not to on account of the rough seas. He said it was up to us, but we decided to skip it in favor of kayaking later, on a calmer bay. We are adventurous, but we know our limits! So we kept walking. Along a rough and rocky trail we wound.

We saw beautiful things!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit the Galapagos

At last we got to Las Grietas, literally “The Crack!” It’s an amazing swimming hole! It’s also a fjord, which I thought only existed in Scandinavia, and I recently learned there are some in Northern Africa. It’s very deep, and the sea life that call it home have had to adapt to live here. We had so much fun swimming around and looking at the fish. Marcos had to point them out to us at first, then once we knew what we were looking for, we could spot them on our own!

This way to Las Grietas

We probably swam there about an hour, then it was back up the trail to check out the surf again. It was still too rough for us, so we opted to wait and kayak in Tortuga Bay that afternoon. Marcos dutifully got us across the inlet in the water taxi and gave us suggestions for lunch. He showed us the way to Tortuga Bay, and we were left us to adventure on our own for the afternoon! He really was an awesome guide, and I was sad to see him go!

And onward we went! We found found our way on the road to Tortuga Bay and arrived at the guard post to check in, just as Marcos said. It’s free to go, but you must sign in and out. Probably as a security measure to make sure everyone who goes in does come out. Anyway, we downed a couple of meal bars to tide us over and started toward the sea! The very nicely paved trail is about a mile and a half each way, so we took our time and enjoyed the local flora and fauna along the path. Did I already mention they have cacti here? It’s like you’re at the desert and the ocean all at once! They grow very tall here, and the land iguanas sometimes eat them!

Tiny lizard.
Keep reading: Our Favorite Animals in the Galapagos

We also saw lizards–the ladies are pretty because they have red coloring on their chest, and males are all black and brown. There are only a few flowering plants here, at least this time of year, and they are mostly yellow and white.

When we got near the ocean, we could tell it by the sound! The waves were really crashing! We got to the beach and were astounded by the size and ferocity of the waves! They came all the way up on the shore, in some places even past the barrier we were supposed to walk in front of! (To protect sea turtle nests.)

On down the beach a ways, we saw a bunch of rocks on the sand. Or… Maybe short logs? But no, we were wrong on both counts. They were marine iguanas! Probably 30 or 40 of them, or more, of all shapes and sizes! Mamas, daddies, babies, adolescents, everyone was all piled up keeping warm!

A mountain of marine iguanas!
Get more: 10 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos

Continuing on… We walked just a bit farther and found it: Tortuga Bay! It really is amazing. In just a few yards, you can go from crashing waves and rough seas to a tranquil inlet with wildlife to be seen! Well, most days there is wildlife to be seen.

Same iguana. Sane expression.
More here: 10 Things to Do in the Galapagos

We rented a kayak for an hour and made our way around the bay where we were told there would be rays, sharks, turtles, fish, and more. Unfortunately, maybe because of the rough seas or maybe the time of year, we didn’t see much, just some dark things we couldn’t make out in the water. Oh, and it rained on us. But we had a ball! Steve and I work so well together. We each try to consider the other’s wants and needs, and we don’t really get on each other’s nerves. We make ourselves laugh! We are so blessed to have found each other. I wouldn’t have half as much fun traveling here without him!

Rowing is serious business!

So we finished up with the kayak and took a quick dip in the bay. Even though the water was sort of cloudy, it was truly beautiful! The black lava rocks are so stark against the blue water and the white sand. It looks like nowhere else I’ve ever been before!

Time to start back toward the hotel! We knew we had about a 3.5 mile walk ahead of us, and we wanted to see one more thing, so we needed to get going! We went back across the bay beach. Back across the iguana spot. Back across the big rough waves beach. And back through the wilderness on the nice path! We checked ourselves out, walked back to town, and found our way to the lunch place that Marcos suggested. We were really hungry by then! It was a little late for lunch, but that just meant we had the whole restaurant to ourselves! We split a couple of things (we didn’t want to overdo it because we knew we had a nice dinner coming to us), and with something in our bellies, we felt fueled enough to keep on going! Onward to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we found baby tortoises!

My pal, Darwin!
More here: Gear Up for Summer Travels

This place was built in the 1960s or 1970s for research purposes and for breeding every type of tortoises from every island. Did you know that the sex of a tortoise is determined by the temperature of the egg? The warmer eggs are girls, and the cooler eggs are boys. So the people in charge get to pick who will be what! All the tortoises were entertaining. The little ones were cute! The big ones were funny! They really do look like dinosaurs. There was an adventurous one we named Whitney. All the others were resting, but she was on the move! We knew it was a she because the number on her back was pink! We also saw a loner with a blue 43. We named him Steve.


The big ones are actually quite majestic. Pre-historic looking, even! They look to me like a dinosaur should look: reptilian, sort of wrinkled, old. The way they look at you is so funny! And yes, they move slow, but they can weigh up to 500 pounds! They have to be pretty strong to move at all. You try to move with a house on your back! I love them. They’re so cute!

Meet our new friend Stretch!
More here: Travel Rules You Don’t Know Unless Someone Tells You

And then it was time to head back to the hotel! Louis met us there to check in with us and make sure we had all we needed for the next few days. Also, because of the prolonged and post-sunset Floreana experience, the owner of the ferry service said she wanted to buy us dinner that evening. And what did we get? SUSHI! Louis told us it would be there around 6:00. And in good Ecuadorean fashion, it arrived around 6:30. It was amazing!

The one to the far left has bananas on top!
Hungry for more? What to Eat in the Galapagos

Stay tuned for our next and final Galapagos adventure… Isabela!

Need more tortoises in your life? Check out all my Galapagos posts on my Ecuador Page!

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