Swimming with iguanas, walking through underground lava tunnels, snorkelling in a deep dark canyon, sunbathing on white sand beaches looking out to the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen. This really is some kind of paradise.. All this adventure for $1.60usd
This morning we set off at 7.30am and headed for the central mercado to find something cheap for breakfast. We ended up sharing a very traditional Ecuadorian breakfast. A plantain and cheese ball (bolon verde) with a fried egg and chicken sauce, accompanied by a blackberry juice (mora) for $3.50. It all sounds a bit strange but was very delicious and a good opportunity to eat with the locals.
This stodgy market breakfast gave us the adequate energy required to bike 2kms up hill to the lava tunnels lookout. The archipelago is full of these tunnels which are formed when flowing lava cools on the surface and hardens but the lava beneath is still molten and continues to flow. When the flow finishes a perfect tunnel is left, and over time the tunnels become deeper and wider due to erosion. The tunnel we explored from this particular viewpoint was just a short one, but it gave us the example we needed of this ancient process to satisfy our curiosity.
Next we locked the bikes at the main pier and took a water taxi for 80c each across to the beginning of the walk to “Las Grietas”. The walk is about 20 minutes but it’s beautiful passing resorts and a little beach known as la Playa de las Alemanes (German Beach). We hung our bags in the mangroves here so we could take our new snorkels for a test drive ($65usd in Guayaquil Subacqua Deporte). The tide was quite far out so the beach was a series of black rock and white sand pools which entertained us for a good hour. There were plenty of fish to be seen as well as sea urchins, but my highlight was looking next to me and seeing an iguana swimming along beside me! Very random!
The next thing you come across on your path is Las Salinas. This is where the local people still harvest seawater to collect the salt, they use it to make the famous galapagos dried fish. It’s an interesting example of how the locals have managed to source ingredients to make life just a little more enjoyable. The pools are very other worldly in shades of pale pink water trimmed with white crystals.
We decided to go to Las Grietas upon the recommendation of our hostel owner and I didn’t actually know what we’d come to see. All I knew was that we would be able to snorkel there. When we arrived we found a deep canyon filled with the clearest water and huge fish. According to the sign Las Grietas (directly translated as the cracks) was formed by cooling lava and is a special place on the island as it is where fresh water from the highlands mixes with the salty water from the ocean. We arrived at the same time as a rather large tour group so took an alternative trail to kill some time in hope that the crowd would thin. The trail led to a stunning view of the canyon from above, and from here we could see there were two parts. The first part (where all the tourists were) looked as though it ended at a blockage of large rocks, but we could see that if you climbed over the rocks it led to another part which was empty, apart from even more fish! The fish are a species of Galapagos Parrot fish, which were at least half a metre in length, big enough that we could see them perfectly from about 20 metres above. Once we were in, looking under the water through the mask took my breath away. The water is so deep and so clear it feels as though you’re suspended 10 metres in the air, just floating there. It tested my fear of heights in a whole new way but it was amazing.
After we were done exploring we squeezed back through the crowds and took the 80c boat back to the main port, then back to Charles Binford street for another $4 menu lunch.
Because we’d had such an early start on the day we still had an afternoon of sunshine to fill with more laughs, so we decided to walk to the famous Tortuga Bay. You can pay $20each to take a water taxi but from Charles Binford its only about a 30 minute walk. The road leads to a paved path which goes through some surreal fauna, then leads to a beach. Here you walk along the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen for about 15 minutes and although you can’t swim here due to currents it’s a stunning walk. The sand is so white and soft and the water is a soothing pale blue. At the top end you are greeted by an iguana nesting site where tribes of black sea iguanas loll around in piles snorting salt water from their noses, occasionally hitting an unsuspecting tourist. Tourtuga Bay itself is surrounded by beautiful mangroves and is very peaceful. Perfect for swimming and soaking up the afternoon sun! Unfortunately visibility wasn’t great for snorkelling on the day we were there but we saw a friendly sea lion come in pretty close so would be a good place to check back on if time permits.
All up including food and accomodation we spent $65usd ($87aud) between the two of us, so a pretty cheap day by anyones standards I’d say!