Charles Darwin Research Center & Las Grietas: Galapagos Day 3

I told Fierce we could have a down day so we slept in until 7am because honestly it’s really hard to ignore the roosters. It gave us time to grab an early breakfast at our hotel. I had a cup of coffee and he chilled while playing a Spanish game. He was also really excited that they had hot chocolate and pancakes today.

Afterwards, we went back to our room so he could watch shows and I could try to upload pics into this blog…I got restless and sorry kid, but we are only here once. I packed us up and caught a cab to the Charles Darwin Research Center. It’s supposed to be free, but because of Covid they are only letting small groups in at a time with a tour guide and thus it is now $10/person. That out of the way, we entered and our guide pointed out candelabra cacti and the prickly pear cacti. Tortoises have tough skin, so they plow right through the spiky terrain. They can also eat the leaves of the Poisonous Apple Tree which is extremely dangerous for humans to consume. He talked and we walked.

Soon we came to the giant tortoises. Some have a dome shell and these eat plants close to the ground. Others have a saddle back shell and long necks allowing them to eat plants that are higher off the ground. We saw several slowly munching leaves. One actually stood up, crawled to the water hole and drank water so slowly you could see the gulps as they traveled down their throats. In the next sanctuary, we saw one male move “fast” to chase after a female tortoise and she skiddattled “faster” until he gave up the pursuit and went back to lounging. Apparently, when they mate it can take up to four hours before they are finished so even that is slow. Oh the things you learn on a tour. Just beyond the giant tortoises are the 5 year olds which Fierce thought was pretty cool. Then there are some little babies and they are split up based on their origin island. Lastly, we were able to see Lonesome George who is now taxidermied. He was the last of his species and although he did mate with two females that were from a similar species none of the eggs survived. There are 11 species of tortoises remaining on the Galapagos and the islands work very hard to preserve these tortoises.

The guided tour drops you off at the Charles Darwin Museum. Inside, kids can pretend they are poking out of a tortoise shell. Then there is a display of Darwin’s desk and his finches. There is a demonstration of the different sand types on the islands ranging from white, black and even red. But all of this surrounds a giant skeleton of a whale. The skull alone looks unbelievably large and other earthly. I think this was actually my favorite part of the museum.

Outside, Fierce and I drank some blackberry juice and he had a cookie. Then I changed into my suit so we could go to the beach that is at the research center. It is pretty small, but has a nice set up with benches under the shade of branching trees. The sand is rocky and upon further inspection full of tiny broken shells of all different colors. We waded into the water and were pointing out a few fish trying to blend into the sand or rocks. All of a sudden, a seal swam not two feet in front of us. We both jumped back and stood up straight quick! We watched as the seal swam with a huge parrot fish in his mouth. The seal took the beautifully colored lunch about 30 feet away and started smacking it on the surface of the water then taking a bite and repeating this process until I saw just the teal blue tail fins disappear into the satisfied seals mouth. This blew me away. I don’t think I have ever been in a natural environment where the realness of the life cycle was so directly in front of me and the animals just treated me like another mammal in the sea.

We headed out to see if any seals or sea lions were out and about near the fish market. Along the way, we stopped for a couple souvenirs and empanadas. When we arrived, we saw a few, but they were pretty sleepy so we went to the docks further down and rode a water taxi to the other side of the channel. We walked a good 15 minutes to the entrance of Las Grietas which I read was like a swimming hole amidst red rocks. We had to pay for a guide to the “free” entrance fee again. Then we hiked over a very rocky terrain. For any kid who loves to climb rocks, this is for them! Watch you step, some are loose, but it’s pretty safe all in all. When you get to the top and begin your descent, you are met with the most beautiful water scene. It looks like the teal and deep blue water just sliced right through the red cliffs. It is not a water hole. It is deep and the water is so clear, you can see the rocks below with precision. It was way to deep for Fierce and he didn’t want to go in even with a flotation device. I swam the length and looked up to the sky above. The thought that came to mind was that I was in some pirate cave. Simply amazing. I swam back and asked Fierce if he would take a picture and he said he wanted me to jump off the dock. His eyes had changed from resistance and leeriness to a twinkle of mischief so I went over and looked down. I didn’t give myself much time to think about it, looked at him and saw him egging me on, told him “This is for you,” and jumped.

It really turned the mood around. We were both laughing as we walked back. We made a small stop at a beach we had seen on the way and swam as if we were seals and then raced back to the docks to make sure we made it to the water taxi before they stopped running. When we got back to our side of the channel there was a local volleyball game going on at the skate park area. We watched and I explained the game’s rules to Fierce. It was a relaxing way to end the day.