Today we spent the day exploring the island of Santa Cruz. We awoke with the ship rolling in a slight swell as she swung on her anchor and chain in Academy Bay off the town of Puerto Ayora. This is the largest settlement in the archipelago and is home to about 20,000 inhabitants, and to the headquarters of both the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
After a delicious buffet breakfast, we went to see and photograph the very successful tortoise breeding program. We learned that from a lowly 15 individuals, and with the breeding enthusiasm of “Super Diego” – a male tortoise that spent some years in the San Diego Zoo – there are now over 2000 tortoises back on the island of Española.
Our afternoon was filled with interesting activities. We visited an open-air school and helped with their ever-growing library by donating books. We walked through a lava tunnel that was nearly a half-mile long and really big! We visited a farm where we learned how coffee is picked, dried, and produced, as well as learning how sugar cane juice, brown sugar, moon shine and syrup is made. We had fun sampling and buying. Later, we counted tortoises as we drove higher, towards the western slopes of Santa Cruz to Rancho Manzanillo. Here we had a bountiful buffet lunch and after had perfect cool weather for a walk among the tortoises.