Posted by: Gideon | January 4, 2012

Galapagos Islands…with Kids. Day 1: Santa Cruz Island – we meet Sally Lightfoot for the first time.

Galapagos Cactus

Once on board and settled down, we sailed to Santa Cruz Island, one of the inner islands. Our destination – the beach at Las Bachas.

Las Bachas is a frequently visited site, and it was a great first experience. The National Parks have delineated paths on every island – you have to stick to the paths, and they often end up at some seemingly arbitrary place. On the beach, we were not allowed to advance further than a crest of sand high up on the beach, and then our guide pointed out nesting spots for sea turtles, which lay their eggs in huge sandy depressions. There is no doubt that without a guide and the warning signs, I would have walked straight up on to those nests.

On our hike, I was struck by the incredible cacti – huge, with arms that made them look almost monster-like. Just imagine what some horror movie producer could do with that idea!

Snake eel, Galapagos

Walking around the beach in another direction, we saw a pink flamingo, and our first “real” Galapagos creatures – the famous red and orange Sally Lightfoot crabs, which scurry over rocks everywhere, sea lions and of course some of the great sea birds of the islands. We saw our first amazing marine iguanas – unbelievably ugly reptiles, seemingly straight out of the age of the dinosaurs, waddling through a muddy pond. We now saw first hand how tame the creatures of the Galapagos are – you can walk right up to them – only the crabs ran away. We were told never to touch sea lion pups – our smell might drive away the mother.

Following our walk, we snorkeled off the beach. I had just bought an underwater camera, a Pentax Optio – and this was an opportunity to put it to its first use. The sea was warm and calm, and we saw some amazing sights – a snake eel, turtles swimming next to us, multicolored fish and more. As for the underwater camera – well, not great, but a whole lot better than my Sony DSLR, which is useless for any underwater photography.

Something I had not previously realised now became very apparent – the Galapagos is a land AND sea adventure – if you stick to the land you just won’t see everything, as there is a huge amount of wildlife in the oceans, and while you don’t need to be a diver, you really must get into the water with a snorkel, flippers and mask. Back on board, we showered and took it easy, and got ready for a long overnight journey to our next island.

PS These days I plan great family trips to the Galapagos. Click here for more info:

Gal gives me the thumbs-up as she gets used to her snorkel gear.

Sally Lightfoot

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