Sep 20, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II
Today we woke up to a very different view out of our windows. Rather than floating along an isolated coast, we docked in Puerto Ayora surrounded by other ships. After breakfast, we disembarked in town on Charles Darwin Avenue and boarded buses to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Although the Research Station runs multiple research studies on many Galapagos wildlife issues, its major focus is the breeding of the Galapagos tortoise species that are in danger.
Over the years, the scientists have come up with successful and efficient methods to increase tortoise populations. We saw one-year old tortoises that were only a few inches long, as well as 3-5 year olds which were the size of dinner plates. We also saw many of the 76 adult tortoises who are the breeders of all the little ones we saw. Diego, father of over 800 tortoises, was the superstar of the bunch.
After a walk back through town, some groups visited a sugar cane mill while others toured the Tomas de Berlanga School. Director Justin Scoggin welcomed us and described the bilingual program and nature-focused campus. Students led small groups around classrooms, athletic facilities, and student-run gardens. Thanks in part to Lindblad Expeditions, their library has over 4,700 titles. It is the only lending library on the island of Santa Cruz. As the Grosvenor Teacher Fellows aboard this expedition, we relished the opportunity to learn about Galapagoan education.
After lunch, several groups headed to the lush Santa Cruz highlands, where we toured the El Chato II Ranch. It was filled with wild tortoises wallowing in ponds and strolling through the tall grass. A lava tunnel was a dramatic addition to the landscape, demonstrating the immense power of the volcano that created Santa Cruz.
Others chose to spend the afternoon enjoying the culture of Puerto Ayora. Highlights included cafes, shops, and the fish market frequented by sea lions. Back on board, the evening finished with a talk by a guest scientist from the Charles Darwin Research Station, as well as performances by a local traditional band and dance group.
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