Feb 14, 2012
One of the bad things about traveling alone on Valentine’s Day is that many other people are traveling in couples. I saw lots of couples walking, holding hands, kissing, having romantic dinners today and I was all alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just stating that Valentine’s Day in paradise isn’t really so perfect without your special someone. booo hooo.
Now my little pitty party is over and I’ll move on. After all, it is only a day where people spend lots of money on the one they love when they should be showing they care all along!
Ok, now I’ll move on 🙂
After my early morning breakfast, I headed to Charles Darwin Street in Puerto Ayora. It’s about a five minute walk from my hotel. Unfortunately, at 8:30am, I was already too late for all of the boat tours except for the Bay tour that I had done the day before. I talked to the guide about other options and discovered that I have seen most of what Santa Cruz island has to offer. He made several suggestions for tours, but they were things that I had already done on the way in from the airport on my first day. In the end, he suggested I head to Tortuga Bay which is a beautiful beach within walking distance.
It is named Tortuga bay as it is an area where turtles come to lay their eggs. Unfortunately I didn’t see any turtles here today. They usually only come in to land at night for laying eggs.
The tour operator, along with several other people told me that it was about a 30 – 40 minute walk to get to the beach. This is technically correct … from the starting point of the park. I walked through town and up a really huge hill to get to the park entrance. Did I mention that at 9am the sun is already at it’s hottest for the day? A huge hill, no shade … 2 kms of walking already!
I also made a quick stop along the way to rent snorkel gear from a really nice hotel – Sante Fe Suites. They wanted me to leave ID in order to take snorkel gear. All I had with me was my visa, so I left it. I wouldn’t have done this with just any business, but this particular place was very nice and appeared reputable, not sketchy.
At the entrance to the park, you stop at a reception area and sign in. They check each night to make sure that everyone has left the park as it closes at 6pm. The man there told me this is because the turtles come in at night to lay their eggs.
From the entrance, you walk along a lovely path. It is sturdy walking as it is made of some kind of brick or cobbelstone. Easy, except for the sizzling heat and the hills!
The walk took me at least 40 minutes, maybe even 45. I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who is elderly or has mobility issues. Or maybe just not at 9am when the sun is at it’s hottest!
When I finally got to the end of the path, the trees opened up on to a vast beach, beautiful teal waters and islands in the distance. It stopped me in my tracks and I’m pretty sure I murmured ‘WOW’ to myself. Who else am I going to say it to?
So, this is where I spent Valentine’s Day morning! If I’m going to be alone on Valentine’s Day, I might as well be somewhere beautiful! Paradise isn’t quite the same without someone special to share it with though. None-the-less beautiful!
After marvelling in the beauty of the beach for a few minutes, I began to focus on black ‘rocks’ strewn about the beach. Oh wait … those aren’t rocks … they move! They’re land iguanas. They are absolutely everywhere you look. They are walking beside you, in front of you, on the rocks, in the shallow water cooling off and hiding in the shade of the mangroves.
You can get to within about a meter of them before they start to get skittish. And it really depends on which one. Some of them I was able to get close too. Some of them I looked at once and backed off! They are mean looking creatures aren’t they? They look like small dinosaurs. It is absolutely incredible how colorful and textured they are. And those spiky things down their backs are awesome!
Once I had walked around a bit and taken some photos, I found a bench under the shade of a mangrove and plunked myself down. I set my camera down and dug out my bottle of water. When I turned to dig in my backpack I realized there was a big iguana only about three feet from me. He was snoozing in the shade and didn’t seem concerned with me at all. I rested a bit and then snapped a few photos of him and the birds that were coming and going. Earlier when I was taking photos, I had thought it would be nice to be able to get closer to the iguanas without them running away, but every time I carefully inched closer, they would take off. This guy, however was just enjoying the shade … as was I!
After about 10 minutes of rest in the shade, I noticed the iguana yawn and lick his lips. I put my camera up hoping he would do it again and that I could catch it. Next thing I knew, he turned directly toward me and paused. Snap, snap, snap and I got this …
Then he came for me, I swear he did! They don’t move all that fast, but when they are only three feet away and head straight for you, it seems like they are lightening fast! I don’t seriously think he was licking his lips and thinking about snacking on me. I think I was just sitting in the direction that he wanted to go. Regardless, it didn’t take me long to get out of his way!
Another great thing about this beach is it’s pelicans. It is hard to imagine just how large they are until you are somewhat close to them. They stand about 3 feet tall and their wing span must be close to double that. I enjoyed watching this one dive for it’s food, swallow an then take off and dive for the next delicious sushi meal! Check out the wing span.
Off to the side, on the rocks was another bird. I’m not sure if it was a pelican or not. He looked particularly large and had an orange beak. The other pelican’s didn’t, so not really sure what this one is. Something about him reminds me of an old man though.
After walking 5-7 kms and taking all of these pictures I was hot! You quickly have to get used to being soaked all of the time here. If you aren’t drenched in sweat from walking, you are drenched in the almost daily afternoon rains. Quite honestly though, the rains are nice and refreshing. No one seems to hide from the rain here like we do at home. Everyone goes about their business as usual and lots of people are just out walking around or kids playing in it.
I took a few minutes to drop my things off in the shade of a mangrove tree and then I headed to the water of the second beach … the ‘bay’ of Tortuga Bay. You aren’t allowed to swim at the first beach because of strong currents, so they recommend swimming in the bay. I was disappointed that the water wasn’t colder. I was hot and it wasn’t nearly cold enough to bring my temperature down! The water was also slightly murky, not clear like the waters I was swimming in yesterday. So, I didn’t even use the snorkeling gear that I had paid $3 to rent at a lovely hotel along the way!
Once I was out of the water I could see that rain was coming, so I decided to pack up and start on my way back as it would be another 40-60 minutes for me to get back out of the park on foot.
When I say that you could see the rain coming, I really mean it. You look up in the sky, off in the distance and there are huge black clouds sticking together. Then you can see separate streams of rain coming from those clouds. The photo I captured was earlier in the day, so you can’t actually see the rain, but it’ll give you a good idea of the foreboding sky that I was rushing to avoid!
You can also see a red line in this photo. It is a string that is up for nearly the full length of the beach reminding people not to go into the vegetation because it is pelican nesting grounds.
I’ll leave you with a couple more photos from the day. Along with all of these other great things I’ve talked about, there is a huge abundance of different birds here. I’m not a bird watcher per se, but put me in paradise with a bird in front of me and I’ll probably take it’s picture. Here are a few dainty little birds.