Today is giant tortoise day! We anchor in the northern part of Santa Cruz and start our day with a short Zodiac drive to the turquoise waters of Itabaca Channel. We drive up to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, leaving behind the coastal zone vegetation and passing through dry forest before immersing ourselves in the humid zone, where everything is green. We stop at Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters surrounded by a scalesia forest. In this magical area we spot a variety of endemic birds and plants while learning about the geology of the island. Finally, we arrive in the luxuriant green highlands of Santa Cruz where we spot countless Galapagos tortoises. We spend all morning walking around these giants while we learn about their history, biology, and behavior as they roam peacefully in their natural habitat. These enormous creatures are truly fascinating to observe, which some of us did while sitting under a tree, painting, taking pictures, or chilling in a hammock. The giant tortoises are everywhere, and we spot dozens of them from the restaurant where we have lunch. On our way back, a flock of blue-footed boobies flies overhead, making us feel we are inside a nature documentary! We cap off this amazing day with a sunset walk on the beach before returning to the National Geographic Endeavour II.
National Geographic Endeavour II
We are close to the end our trip, but the highlights keep coming. Many guests had been eagerly awaiting this day. Finally, we are exploring the highlands of Santa Cruz, home of the most iconic creature of Galapagos, the giant tortoises. The territory is full of lush vegetation, where many freshwater ponds are formed here and there. The giant tortoises need this water to survive, and the grass and fruits to eat. In the past, pirates and early colonists slaughtered many of them for food, almost to point of extinction. Their populations are slowly bouncing back through conservation efforts. On our way to see the giant tortoises, we stopped at Los Gemelos to explore volcanic formations called pit craters. Up here all the scenery is green. The atmosphere was overcast and foggy. In this cloud forest, one can find up to nine varieties of finches, plus mockingbirds, gallinules, crakes, warbles, doves, and flycatchers. Then it was time to visit the migration paths of the Galapagos giant tortoises and marvel at these astonishing prehistoric reptiles. Even as we sat down to lunch at an outdoor restaurant located in the preserve, we were surrounded by hundreds of tortoises feeding on grass. In the afternoon, we returned to the National Geographic Endeavour II and headed immediately to Bowditch Point. There is a white sandy beach, a preferred nesting site for marine turtles. Some of us went for a swim while others walked along the beach, looking for a place to rest and contemplate their surroundings. Later our Wellness Specialist Roxana led a relaxing stretching routine during a spectacular sunset. At six o’clock, we returned to our ship. Every day in the Galapagos is exceptional, a tonic of wildness to all of us!