Santa Cruz is one of the 4 human-inhabited Galapagos Islands; there are 13 main islands in total. About 30,000 – 40, 000 people live among the islands. Santa Cruz has one of the biggest ports, Puerto Ayora, where we stayed. People on the Galapagos make about $600/month, which is double what people on the mainland make, but everything is a little bit more expensive than on the mainland. The biggest difficulty in my opinion was finding your way around because even if you had a map, the street signs were not always clearly visible. The islands are much safer than the mainland and more “touristy”. You can only live in the Galapagos if you were born there, or if you married someone who was. You can work there, but only up to a year, if you were coming from another country.
On Santa Cruz we went to Tortuga Bay, which is one of the top destinations in the Galapagos. It is a sandy white beach where we saw a small Portuguese-Man-O-War jellyfish (on the beach), and a small baby shark! We also saw a velella, which is a small marine invertebrate, similar to a jellyfish, which I recognized from my second-year Invertebrate Zoology lab. Interestingly enough, my lab instructor from that course came on the trip so I could talk to her about it. I also got to witness a marine iguana sneezing out salt water, which is an adaptation for them to be able to swim in the sea.
We visited a reserve in the highlands that wild tortoises use as a migration path when they move to the lower arid areas to mate. This reserve consisted of rainforest, flat grassland, and a small pond covered in algae. I saw about 15 wild giant tortoises. What surprised me the most is how frequently they actually moved. Apparently they move about 200 meters/day. The tortoises were about 15 years old to 65 years old and older. They are able to retract into their shell if disturbed, which we got to see. At the same reserve, we were able to climb inside one of the shells of a tortoise that had died!
The last main sight in Santa Cruz was the Twin Craters. They aren’t technically craters, but very large sinkholes, that formed when lava build-up collapsed into underlying magma chambers. The guides went through a very thorough geology lesson to describe their formation; most of the terminology I remembered from first-year Geology and first-year Physical Geography class at Nipissing.
– Vincent Evans-Lucy