Puerto Ayora is the largest town on Santa Cruuz Island. It is the first major stop that you will take after landing on Baltra. Small enough to walk around, it is the gateway to organising and exploring the rest of the Galapagos Islands.
Puerto Ayora marina
The Galapagos Islands are not cheap to visit - but they are also not as expensive as what most people believe.
It seems that most people I had talked to had just looked at the price of the liveaboard trips and nothing else.
We took a flight on Tame from Quito, Ecuador for $350USD return and then paid the $100USD entry fee (this is now $200USD by the way).
We organised two days diving at $130USD each day prior to leaving New Zealand and booked a cheap hotel for about $40USD per night. Friends of ours actually arranged a hostel for less than half of that.
Puerto Ayora has a lot of travel agencies and dive stores and they can all help you to plan your Galapagos exploration once you actually get there.
Marine Iguana near Tortuga Bay
We walked down to the Charles Darwin Research Station and explored it on foot. We hung out with the tortoises and the land iguanas.
We met Lonesome George - the only tortoise of his kind left - and the stubborn little guy refuses to breed with any of the females that they introduce him too.
We walked over to Tortuga Bay and spent the day in the shade with the little finches and took hundreds and hundreds of photos of marine iguanas and blue footed boobies.
What's really great:
Las Grietas - the best swimming hole ever !
The Galapagos Islands are a nature lovers paradise.
There are so many different species to see and if you are lucky, some of them will stroll past you as you are walking down to the beach.
There are some lovely areas just hidden away from the main paths.
We were told to walk out to Las Grietas - as we were staying with friends just near there. If you take a water taxi from Puerto Ayora to the Finch Bay Hotel and then follow the signs you cant get lost.
It gets busy around lunchtime, but prior to then you have approximately 50 metres long and 20 metres deep to swim in. Las Grietas is fed with both salt and fresh water and its so clear !
nudibranch. taken at north seymour during a drift dive.
We booked diving through Galapaguide online.
The divemaster wasnt the best - the first two dives at North Seymour and Mosqueta were drift dives and I dont think we were well enough prepared.
However the following day, we went out to a dive site called Gordon Rocks were we were greeted with hammerhead sharks and turtles.
You'll be happy to know that some of the other islands have the most wonderful snorkelling sites - so good that a lot of the marine life you can see whilst diving can be seen whilst snorkelling.
Land tortoise at the CDRC
As I mentioned before, the Charles Darwin Research Centre is well worth a visit.
The Foundation is dedicated to providing scientific research, technical assistance and information to ensure conservation success in Galapagos. As well as protecting the species that live on the islands, they are also running programs such as the eradication of feral cats. At the centre you can learn of the history of the islands as well.
And as I also mentioned before, the most famous resident of the station is Lonesome George, a tortoise found on Pinta island who is believed to be the last of his sub-species.
Your description of Puerto Ayora reflects our experience there in 2006. In fact we were a bit disappointed when we arrived there. We took some advice and decided to take a small boat to Isabella which we found idyllic. We stayed there for several days and only left because we had our return flight booked.