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Tortuga Bay gives a wonderful idea of the scale of geological time. It is made from the ground up spines of the pencil spined sea urchins that we saw whilst snorkelling on Floreana as well as the excrement they produce after eating the white corals found offshore. The sand formed in this way is very fine and a beautiful shade of white. Just imagine how many thousands or even millions of years that it must have taken for these echinoderms to form the tonnes of sand that make up most of the Galapagos Islands’ beaches.
The beach is reached via a two kilometre path through the dunes from our hotel in Puerto Ayora. At the beginning of the path you sign in and out again to make sure that nobody is left on the beach when the gates are locked at 6pm. The long beach receives most of the ocean swell that comes from the south.
I went there on Wednesday afternoon to check out the waves to see what sort of board I should hire. On arrival I was disappointed in the waves – a strong onshore wind was blowing the shape out of what offshore swell there was. I walked the length of the beach in the shallows (a favourite occupation of my wife, dog and I).
When I got to the end I got a shock as I saw what I thought was a dead marine iguana washed up on the beach. Upon closer inspection I saw it was breathing. I looked around and there were many more. They were just basking as we had seen them doing on Floreana, they just looked particularly strange against the white sand. I think most were females as they lacked the vivid colours of the larger males that we had seen on Floreana.