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Discovering San Cristobal

As the bus climbed higher into the hills, the scenery became greener, the clouds descended, and it got noticeably cooler. If it wasn’t for the occasional banana tree, sticking up between the fern on the side of the road, we could have easily been in the Highlands of Scotland not Highlands of San Cristóbal in Galapagos! It was a stark contrast to the sunny, humid conditions at the coastal town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which we had just left.


We were on a half-day tour with the World ARC rally participants, which was a great introduction into the diversity of San Cristóbal. After a half-hour bus ride, we reached a parking area close to El Junco Lagoon, a freshwater lake 700 metres above sea level, which was formed by the collapsed caldera of an extinct volcano.  It was a short hike up to the top for a wonderful vista over the lagoon and surrounding countryside.

With a depth of six metres, El Junco is the only sizable freshwater lake in the Galapagos, and its volume varies with the seasons. This area is great for bird watching, especially for spotting the frigate birds who like to rinse their wings from the salt in the fresh water. Other species spotted here are white cheeked pintails, common gallinules, Bahamas ducks and the endemic San Cristóbal mockingbird.


Our guided tour also visited La Galapaguera, which is part of the national park on the southeastern part of San Cristóbal. La Galapaguera isn’t just a sanctuary for giant tortoises, but also a research and conservation centre, designed to help tortoises repopulate while living in a natural setting. These pre-historic looking tortoises, who can live for a couple of hundred years, weren’t at all bothered by us walking with them, as they ambled around slowly, eating their food.  As they reproduce all their lives, we were lucky enough to see some of their off-spring.


The final stop was a short hop, skip and jump to the isolated and beautiful beach at Puerto Chino, which was the perfect opportunity to get into the aquamarine water to cool off. This popular swimming spot is renowned for seeing Galápagos green turtles, stingrays and blue-footed boobies - as well as sea lions - and we were delighted when a couple of sea lions demonstrated just how much fun it is to surf in to the beach on the waves!


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