When I woke up and looked at the alarm clock, it felt odd that it was 8:00 AM. Every other day on the tour we had been moving by 8:00 AM, yet here I was under the warm covers. Today was going to be a pretty relaxed day. We were to get breakfast at 8:30 AM, then catch our boat back to Santa Cruz Island at 9:00 AM. I got to breakfast extra early so that I could finish early and freshen up one last time before we checked out for good. I also made sure I had EVERYTHING I would need for the day in my backpack because as you may remember, my cabin bag and roll-aboard would be checked and tagged before we left the Island, and because of this, I wouldn’t have access to the contents of my bags.
We all gathered in the lobby after breakfast and loaded all of the bags onto a pickup truck. Then everyone climbed back into the modified truck/bus to get to the pier. At the entrance to the pier, there was a small booth with officers who went through your bag thoroughly to ensure that you were taking nothing natural off the island. To give you an idea as to how through these officers are, I was told to brush gravel from the grooves of my hiking boots from the previous day’s hike. They also took out one of my fellow traveler’s swimsuit out and asked her to slap it against something so that all of the sand came out. Once everyone had passed through the checkpoints, and everyone’s baggage was sealed, the process of loading luggage into the water taxis, boarding the water taxis, and finally boarding the speedboat was repeated.
The wholesome breakfast we had just eaten combined with the sun shining through the windows of the boat, and the breeze as we moved was enough to put most of the people on the boat to sleep. I, however, borrowed a book from one of my neighbors and read about the social cues given off by criminals before a crime is committed… a very sunny topic as you can see :). At some point during the cruise, I realized I had nodded off. Our boat slowed considerably and we seemed to be idling. Most others were waking up too seemingly noticing that the constant rocking motion of the boat had stopped. Then the Captain came down and told us that a pigmy whale had been spotted in the area. We ended up waiting for a little while, but we didn’t see anything. It was still exciting though.
After the two hour journey, we pulled into the small harbor of Santa Cruz Island. We once again used the water taxis, and since now, everyone was used to the process, we had made it onto the dock within 3 minutes of pulling into the harbor.
Buses were waiting for us and took us directly to the Darwin Research and Conservation Center. While many similar centers existed in the Galapagos, the Darwin Center is the biggest and is the most public-oriented center. We got to see the tortoise repopulation program which included being able to see baby tortoises! We learned about the different tortoise species and what makes them unique. We also got to see the taxidermy of Lonesome George, who was believed for several years to be the last member of his species before they found more of his species after his death :(. In addition, we saw iguanas, other lizards, and THE GIFT SHOP! It was a great visit, and very informative!
As we exited the station, we were all famished, for it was now 1:30 PM, and we had eaten last at 8:30 AM. From the station, we drove to lunch, which was delicious! We even had live music during the meal, and we were right on the water so we could see boats moving along the restaurant. After we finished lunch, we were told that our next activity was a visit to Tortuga Bay, which is a beautiful beach on a different part of the island. We had two options of getting to the secluded beach. We could either take a 15-minute boat ride to get there for $10 per person, or, we could take a 1-hour walk to the beach. We weighed our options heavily… JUST KIDDING! You should have seen us make a run for the boat company’s ticketing office. Our reasoning was, that we had just eaten, and we didn’t want to exert ourselves. Also, we would have more time to spend on the beach.
15 minutes later, our boat pulled up to a rock shelf that was to be used as the dock. We climbed off one by one and once we had gained our balance on the rocky platform, looked out towards the beach. We were overwhelmed by its beauty. Crystal blue waters met a white sandy beach. it seemed to come straight out of a postcard from Miami or Hawaii. We walked from the “pier” to the beach and after putting all of our stuff in the shade, made a B-line for the cool water.
Soon the other members of our party who had decided to hike also made it and our group was together again. As I had mentioned before, I am not one who likes the ocean, but even I was having a good time. But soon, my friends and I were more than 30 feet out, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I started to swim back towards the beach. I was maybe 5 feet from the beach when off to my right, I heard a shriek. For a moment, everyone on the beach stopped dead in their tracks, and then, chaos ensued as everyone rushed out of the water. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, all I knew was that I wanted to get the heck out of the water! Thinking back, there was a moment during which no one knew what was happening. I recall people yelling, more shrieking, crying, and frantic yells and waves to bring people who were way out, like my friend, to come back in. I noticed that to my right, a small circle had formed, and I could hear someone crying in the circle. Someone yelled for medical supplies, and I thought to go get my bag because I had band-aids and antibacterial wipes and such in it. When I ran up to the circle with the bag, people parted, and I saw a young boy with a gash on his shin. He was crying, and his parents, who were also from the USA were trying to console him. Between gasps, he said some gibberish of words, but I was able to make 1 out. He said the word shark. A shiver ran through my body. I handed gauze and band-aids to the father of the boy, who happened to be a doctor, then my group was moving so I had to leave. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain more about this very soon).
The tour group moved away from the circle of concerned beachgoers to regroup. Some people from our group still didn’t know why everyone had run out of the water. As our tour director explained what had happened, gasps escaped the mouths of my fellow travelers. A shark had bit the kid. But before you dismiss this let me explain further. As we stood and talked next to a small alcove, we actually saw a shark, a small 1-foot shark pup who was either the same shark who bit the kid or very similar to the one that bit the kid. Our tour director explained that it was most likely the shark pup mistaking the boy’s leg for being a fish as the boy moved around. I won’t get too deep into the story, but we ended up meeting the boy and his parents later the next day. The boy needed stitches, but he was expected to be fine. The family explained, that the boat ride home, an ambulance to the hospital, getting stitches, and medication cost all of $17 dollars. We were taken aback by how cheap treatment like that had been. In fact, in the USA, the ambulance ride alone would have cost hundreds of dollars. Overall the boy turned out to be completely ok.
The decision was made by our tour director to return to the hotel where everyone could relax in the pool instead of continuing to stay on the beach. My group decided to walk back this time. Although we were a little shaken about what had just transpired, my friend and I put on some music and sang all the way back to the hotel. At the hotel, everyone went straight to the pool. The pool was in the perfect location because it faced west and was on the terrace, so we had a great vantage of the sunset. After getting out o the pool, and changing, we went out for a delicious dinner, then came back to the hotel for a good night’s rest. The next day was going to be BUSY!
Hope you enjoyed! More content about my Ecuador trip to follow! Until next time!