This morning our ship, National Geographic Endeavour II brought us to Academy Bay, at Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, the most populated of the only five Galapagos Islands that have human settlements. Santa Cruz has become a very strategic place for Galapagos Conservation, as here we have the National Park headquarters and the operative branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation: the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).
With our guests, we went for an early visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and the CDRS, and we learned about the very successful conservation project that brought back both the Española and the Floreana giant tortoises’ species from the brink of extinction.
We meet the famous Diego, who has fathered more than 900 tortoises. The whole Española’s tortoise population had only fourteen individuals back in the late 1960s, and now we have more than two thousand tortoises on the island. All of us were truly delighted to see Diego happy and healthy with some of his five females wandering around.
After a morning full of education about Galapagos Conservation Projects, we went up to the highlands where we visited a local farm and learned about the whole process of producing sugar cane juice, moonshine and coffee. At the end of our visit we got to taste Galapagos coffee and local moonshine, it was all fun!
At lunch time we had a nice meal, and afterwards we could not imagine a better way to end our adventure than going for a giant tortoise search, and we found lots of this gentle giants! It was truly amazing to be six feet away from 300–350 pounds tortoises, to listen the melodic songs of the yellow warblers, and to have fearless Darwin finches flitting around us. Our guests were so happy that they could not find enough words to express the feeling of this intimate experience.
With our hearts full of joy, we finally went down to port, and before going back onboard, we explored a bit this dynamic and colorful town. What a day! However, it was not over yet, onboard we had a fantastic dinner and a wonderful party with local musicians and dancers, we all ended up dancing and enjoying Galapagos music!
What a treat! Just another day in paradise…