We had a two hour flight to Baltra, an island that contains nothing but an airport and some native trees and bushes. The flight was kind of rough and for Ms. Mac, who does not like flying, the three children sitting behind us, who all screamed in sheer terror as the plane took off, made it a bit harrowing. But we landed safely, yet were only half way to our destination. We were next ushered onto a small boat for a half hour cruise over to Santa Cruz island, where we took a pick up truck for another 45 minutes, before arriving at our hotel.
Immediately immersed in nature, we were so appreciative to be in this awe-inspiring place by the ocean. As we walked out the door of our hotel, onto the back deck, we were surrounded by at least seven lounging sea lions and piles of Marine Iguanas.
After a nice meal, we were whisked into a car and journeyed to the highlands of Santa Cruz. There, we visited a sanctuary for giant tortoises, who we learned can live to be 160 years old! The Ecuadorian government is working to prevent the extinction of these creatures, as several distinct species have already gone extinct. We were up close and personal with the tortoises, but we were told not to touch them, not only to honor their space, but because their shells are contaminated with salmonella.
Our first guide, Ricardo, was born here, and shared stories as we drove about when his grandmother moved to Santa Cruz over 70 years ago. At that point, there was no town on the island, but she was tied to the beauty of the place and stayed. She had twelve children, and our guide pointed out several places where his family members live. He seemed genuinely thankful for being a part of this close knit community.
We also visited some collapsed lava craters that day. It is interesting how the island is made up of volcanic mass, and as the lava flowed across the land, it created hot streams through the ground which eventually cooled into tunnels.