On the fourth day of our expedition as Grosvenor Teacher Fellows, we started the day early for our excursion to Santa Cruz island. Though grey clouds hovered overhead, we were excited to visit the famed Charles Darwin Research Station. Our early morning visit to the tortoise breeding center had excellent weather for photography; a misty rain to accentuate our photographs of tortoises, including the famed saddleback Española giant tortoise Diego! Seeing the two different morpho-types of tortoise – saddleback and domeshell – was inspiring as we learned about the station’s important conservation work in preserving these iconic species. After learning about the captive breeding program at the research station, we visited the exhibition hall to read more about the important work the station does…and pick up a few souvenirs for our classrooms! A pleasant walk back to Puerto Ayora brought us to back to town and ready to explore the island even more, with a stop to see sea lions begging for fresh fish at the market.
Heading up into the highlands, we were stunned by the change in climate and vegetation, with sudden greenery revealing the verdant landscapes of the transition zone and the highlands of Santa Cruz island. A strong garua brought the lush landscape into focus as we stopped for a delicious barbeque lunch at Osvaldo’s restaurant Aquelarre. Now ready to search out giant tortoises, we headed farther into the highlands, arriving at El Chato to don our rubber boots and seek out giant tortoises. Glistening tortoise shells and friendly yellow warblers were readily found throughout the landscape. A visit to the highlands isn’t complete without exploring the lava tunnel that runs underneath the vegetation. Heading back down to Puerto Ayora, we explored the seaside town before a mandatory stop at Santa Cruz Brewery overlooking the fish market and scenic harbor.