From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galapagos
Nov 13, 2012 - National Geographic Endeavour
Santa Cruz Island
For a change of pace from the secluded beaches and trails, we stepped into civilization this morning, as we disembarked for the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. A cool mist greeted us upon our arrival at the Charles Darwin Research Station. We learned about the breeding programs that have taken place there, particularly with the giant tortoises. Another program we learned about was an effort to educate and provide locals with native plants for their homes, to stop the introduction of exotic plants in the islands. We saw several of the giant tortoises up close in their corrals, including the well-known Diego.
After wandering the main street of Puerto Ayora, taking in the sites of the town, the bustling fish market, and various shops and galleries, we ventured up to the highlands and El Trapiche, a small farm that produces coffee and sugar cane. Our welcoming hosts showed us how they harvest and prepare the coffee beans and sugar cane that they grow on the property. We sampled some of their coffee, molasses and moonshine. From there, we traveled to the lush and beautiful Aquelarre, where we had time to relax and enjoy another fabulous meal.
The afternoon was spent on a private ranch that is in the path of the giant tortoise migration. We saw dozens of tortoises grazing in the grassy field and cooling off in ponds. Many of us had close encounters with these enormous, prehistoric animals. It truly was an experience to remember!
The day closed on board the National Geographic Endeavour with a group of local musicians and dancers performing traditional songs and dances and giving us a further glimpse into local culture in these very special islands.