Our day on Santa Cruz Island began with a walk to the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center. This center breeds Galapagos giant tortoises and is under the jurisdiction of the Galapagos National Park.
As we came closer to the center, the first thing we noticed was the presence of the giant prickly pear cactus. This species looks like a tree with golden brown colored bark and large branches. Some may grow up to be twenty feet tall.
At the breeding center, the park rangers were cleaning the tortoise’s corrals and feeding the juveniles in their pens. Some of the juveniles are almost four years old, and by that age the park will send them to the islands of their parent’s origin.
Later during the morning our guests went to the town of Puerto Ayora. Here they had some time to enjoy the different aspects of this town. Some were surprised to find sea lions, pelicans, and gulls waiting for fish scraps at the fishermen’s dock.
By the end of the morning, we went to the highlands to the “El Trapiche” coffee farm, which is family owned. We had a great opportunity here to learn about the traditional ways they make coffee, chocolate, and alcohol.
After lunch we headed to another local farm. Here they do not grow coffee but instead, but instead wild giant tortoises stop here to feed on fresh grasses and plants. As a rare sighting we even found two couples mating!
This afternoon, we saw several adult males and juveniles walking around while a light rain was washing their carapaces. Tortoises seemed to enjoy the rain as this was cooling them down.
At the end of the afternoon, we returned to Puerto Ayora, and then back on board National Geographic Endeavour II, where we enjoyed a great and colorful sunset.