We started our second day with a trip to Tortuga Bay. The hike is a nice stroll through scrub brush, giant cacti and really cute lava lizards along a paved path that rises and falls with the landscape. It is a very easy hike, but it is long. You can hear the waves crashing long before you can see them, which only makes it seem that much longer.

After walking about 1.5 miles, the end was finally in sight. We had reached one of the two beaches on the bay, Playa Brava. This beach has a really strong current and waves, and is good for surfing, but not for swimming.

The view was incredible. The islands are formed from volcanoes, so there is volcanic rock everywhere, obviously. I especially enjoyed the contrast of the black volcanic rock against the white sands. I was simply enjoying (and photographing) this view, when I realized the rocks were moving. A closer look revealed some marine iguana, which can only be found in the Galapagos. This was the first time I had seen the marine iguana, and the closets I had been in the wild to any iguana. Did you know they snort at you if they aren’t happy? Did you know that if you are close to one when they snort, that it sounds like a fire-breathing dragon? Side note: I’m not crazy about that feeling you get when the hair on the back of your neck rises and you have no peripheral vision because you are looking through a lens.

As we walked on, we saw more and more iguana. They are fascinating animals. We have a type of iguana here in Guayaquil, so I am used to seeing them, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed by them. They look like a dinosaur. Seeing them on the white sand and swimming in the ocean was so fun. They have to sun in order to store heat and energy for swimming, which they do to feed on marine algae. I saw one swimming back in, and following him into a mangrove stand led me to some beautiful Sayapa Crabs. These are an amazing orange color, which I found out is only in the adults. The babies are black and the young crabs are red. This is another thing that is endemic to the Galapagos.

We walked on, and turned a corner away from the beach and found ourselves face to face with a huge number of iguanas. Can I just tell you, large numbers of iguana = large awful smell. But still, it was so cool to watch them. I would get carried away photographing one thing, and forget to keep my eyes peeled, and then I would here the snorting, reminding me that I was pretty much surrounded by them. I also have a bad habit of putting a knee down without looking to stabilize myself for a shot. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I used to have a bad habit of putting my knee down…

We rounded another corner and saw an amazing stand of mangroves surrounded by the most clear water. It was beautiful. And then we saw what may have been the highlight of the trip for me – blue-footed boobies. These birds are just adorable. We felt very lucky because not everyone gets to see them. There were five or six hanging out on a rock cliff that overlooks the second beach of Tortuga Bay, Playa Mansa. I could have spent so much more time watching and photographing them, but as is always the case when on a tour, there just wasn’t enough time.

We finally made it to Playa Mansa, and the sight was unbelievable. The water was turquoise and smooth. It is protected by a reef, and so it is very calm water. Julie, Miranda and I rented kayaks for an hour and paddled around inside the bay. We did not get to see any of the sharks that are suppose to be common, but we did see a few sea turtles. It was a beautiful experience, and way too short. By the time we got done, it was time to head back because the hike was about 45 minutes and we had to keep on schedule. I wanted so badly to just lie on the beach and relax under the warm sun. My aching muscles and my swollen feet wanted that, too. But we pressed on, continually amazed at all we were seeing.

After the park we had lunch and rested a bit for our afternoon in the parte alta or high part of the island, where we saw volcanic craters, a volcanic tunnel, and giant tortoises. I’ll have that up as soon as I can!

See today’s photos here.