From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos
Dec 26, 2012 - National Geographic Islander
Santa Cruz Island
Early in the morning we woke up with the wonderful view of Puerto Ayora. After we disembarked, we went to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and its renowned giant tortoise rearing centre. This simple but beautifully managed facility is handled by the CDRS in conjunction with the Galápagos National Park Service. Thousands of giant tortoises have been repatriated to their islands of origin in the last decades after being incubated in the Centre. These titanic efforts well deserve our admiration for they have recovered the once vanishing populations of giant tortoises of many islands. Famous individual giant tortoises like the recently deceased “Lonesome George” and “Diego” have become ambassadors and messengers of conservation.
After we left the rearing centre we had some time to walk around the town where our visitors this week had the great opportunity to observe the locals carrying on their lives. A series of buses took us up to the lush greenery of the highlands of Santa Cruz. It was quite a spectacular change of scenery.
Before arriving to “El Chato,” where we had our lunch, we visited a picturesque place: “El Trapiche.” In this location we saw how a local Galapagos family make their living cultivating coffee and sugar cane.
After lunch our guests walked through a huge lava tube that took them on an adventure underground. It is hard to choose a particular highlight of our day in this remote paradise. After crossing the lava tunnel we saw the giant tortoises in a very different perspective. These antediluvian-looking reptiles wandered slowly through the grasses in the highlands of Santa Cruz. The tortoises were avidly absorbing the constant garua mist that accompanied us during most of the afternoon’s expedition.
After dinner local musicians and dancers provided a cheerful golden finale for this day. A day that was dedicated both to the vibrant inhabitants of the Galápagos Islands and to the magnificent giant tortoises, namesake of this magical archipelago and symbols of conservation.