This is the second largest island and, due to its location in the middle of the archipelago, it’s also the most inhabited and the center of commercial and tourist activities. It is an obligatory stop for all tourists that come to visit this beautiful corner of the world. The Charles Darwin Research Station is based here and, together with Galapagos National Park, runs conservation projects designed to protect the local unique resources. We left our ship to go to a very special place in the town of Puerto Ayora, to get to know more about these projects.
One of the most prominent projects is the Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center that includes several island tortoise species with the intention of bringing numbers up from decline, due mainly to predation over the last two centuries.
Another similar project includes another species of tortoise known as Saddle Back, whose best representative is a male tortoise nicknamed super “Diego” for once it lived in the San Diego Zoo. He had to be returned to Galapagos to join the only other survivors, twelve females and two males, and they together have procreated more than one and a half thousand tortoises since the 1970’s. Today many of them are back on their island breeding on their own, making this one of the most successful programs conducted by these institutions since this all began.
Diego is now the center of attention especially after Lonesome George sadly passed away earlier this year.
After this very interesting walk we headed back through town where we had the opportunity to do some shopping in the local galleries. There are very interesting handicrafts here, created by the hands of skilled people from different regions of Ecuador which have moved to live in the Galapagos to make it a multicultural place.
After this visit we gathered up in town before making our way to the highlands by bus to reach a farm. There, we learned about local liquor, making panela and melaza out of sugar cane, and also the process of roasting coffee and putting these two things together for delicious results.
On our way to the restaurant for lunch some guests decided to travel in different ways. Some jogged there, rode bikes, or took the bus. After having a good meal we hopped back on the bus and continued on our way to the Giant Tortoise Reserve to meet these enigmatic creatures, this time in their own natural habitat. It just couldn’t get any better. They were everywhere and all of us enjoyed their reluctance to us, the way they acted as if we just weren’t there.
Soon they will leave the highlands to move to lower elevations where they can find good soil to bury their eggs and good energy for their incubations, which last for three to four months.
Another thing that attracted our attention was formations called lava tubes whose mysterious inside reveals its volcanic nature and makes the adventure go up the point of excitement. With all this and the amazing green all around the area we were ready to go back to town and from there do a little more walking or shopping to finally go back onboard the National Geographic Endeavour to end another glorious day in the Galapagos Islands.