We navigated north on smooth waters in the wee hours of the morning and anchored at dawn in the busy Academy Bay, in Puerto Ayora of Santa Cruz Island. This town is the largest in the Galapagos and is home to some 25,000 inhabitants. In addition, it is home to the headquarters of both the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park.
We disembarked after our bountiful breakfast buffet and visited the tortoise-breeding center. Here, eggs of the most endangered of these magnificent reptiles are being incubated, hatched, cared for and then repatriated to the islands of their origin. We learned about “Super Diego”, a strong male tortoise returned to the Charles Darwin Research Station years ago from the San Diego Zoo - and now the best breeder of the threatened Española species. From 15 remaining adult individuals in the 70’s, we now have over 2000 wild tortoises again on this small eastern island.
Later, we had the option of visiting an outdoor school, or a small family operated coffee, chocolate and sugar cane farm. We also explored an impressive lava tunnel. For lunch we visited Rancho Manzanillo on the southwestern slopes of the island and afterward walked among dozens of giant tortoises. They were of all sizes, and fed on the lush grass, or soaked in muddy pools and lumbered slowly along. We took many photos and thoroughly enjoyed this very different day. To top it off, after dinner, the EcoArte group entertained us with music and dancing. We all joined joyfully in the dancing!