When arriving in the Galapagos by a private vessel such as Rhapsody, there are only three islands at which we are allowed to anchor, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela. All other islands are off limits to protect the wildlife.
San Cristobal is usually the first island that cruisers stop at because it is the closest to the mainland of South America and it is the first land you encounter when you get to the Galapagos. It is the home of the greatest number of sea lions and is has the capital city of the Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Exploring here is a good introduction to the area with a small museum and hiking trails to acquaint you with the flora and fauna. The anchorage is called Wreck Bay and of the three islands we anchored at, this was the calmest, the least rolly and hence the most comfortable.
Many cruisers choose Isla Isabel as their second island to visit. This is mainly because Santa Cruz is the easiest and cheapest island to check out of when leaving the Galapagos , so they save it until last. Our plan had been to cruise in the typical order, San Cristobal, Isla Isabela and then Santa Cruz, but because of continued electrical issues we knew that the best place to find an electrician was in the most populous island, Santa Cruz so we went there next.
Of the three islands, Santa Cruz has the most people, the biggest infrastructure, the most tourist trinket shops, the rolliest anchorage and the worst internet. On all three islands we used water taxis to get to shore and to return to Rhapsody. Those in Santa Cruz were by far the easiest to use due to the higher volume of taxis and the extended hours they ran. In addition to cruisers getting to and from their boats, tourists use them to get to restaurants and to beaches around the bay that are more easily accessed by taxi.
|Sculpture at the Darwin Research Center made from sea trash|
Santa Cruz, like San Cristobal, has good opportunities to enjoy the wildlife and terrain both above and below the water. The Darwin Research Center was a pleasant, quite warm walk near the edge of town. We were rewarded there with informative exhibits and a variety of displays explaining the history, wildlife and, dare I say, the evolution of the Galapagos islands from first discovery to present day.
|Another view of the same sculpture showing the clever use of materials|
|The true source of Darwin's theories|
We enjoyed diving, hiking, exploring, and a surprising selection of vegetarian/vegan food. The higher elevations along the sides of the volcanos are a hotbed of organic farming and the variety of the usual fruits and vegetables are augmented by indigenous delicacies. We took the opportunity to save more of the food we have provisioned for our passage to French Polynesia and enjoyed eating out more than usual.
|Fruit we got to pick from a farm. Red bananas, regular (Cavendish banana) and our favorite dessert bananas. The other fruits are red pears, a new delicacy for us.|
Santa Cruz also has a pleasant waterfront and we enjoyed strolling along the malecon without having to step over sea lions. There are several galleries with arts and crafts along with the plethora of t-shirts and touristy items for sale.
|Mural along the malecon in Santa Cruz|
We also found a same day laundry service. When we went to pick our clothes the woman asked for 8 dollars. I looked surprised and she misinterpreted my reaction, thinking I did not understand that Ocho meant Eight. In reality I was surprised at the low amount. In the past, particularly in the Caribbean, we have been presented with bill of $40-$50 for our laundry. I was very happy to pay the $8 and will be taking advantage of this again before we leave the Galapagos.
We did find a good electrician who solved our charging issues and it is good to have our solar panels fully charging our batteries each day.
With fully charged batteries, clean clothes and a restocked pantry we moved onto Isla Isabela.