Puerto Ayora is the largest town in the Galapagos and was the starting point of our adventure today. This morning, we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station and had the chance to see research in progress to save some of the critical endangered Galapagos tortoises. The famous, extinct “Lonesome George” tortoise was on display as a stark reminder of the impact that careless humans can have on the environment. However, the research station is conducting one of the most successful reintroduction programs in the world with great success. The afternoon was spent in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island with a visit to a sustainable coffee and sugar plantation. One of the highlights of the trip was the chance to see giant Galapagos tortoises in their natural environment. There were dozens of tortoises, ranging in all sizes, including some of the largest on the island, weighing in at over 400 pounds. It is humbling to see these magnificent creatures thriving in the wild and know that the residents are doing everything to protect these Enchanted Islands.
National Geographic Endeavour II
Santa Cruz Island
We have arrived at Santa Cruz Island. It is the first time this week that we have seen people on land, and this offered us a whole new perspective. We experienced the interactions between humans and the animals that live in the same territory, which started the minute we stepped off the main pier of Puerto Ayora. Sea lions were sleeping as we passed, blacktip sharks were swimming and feeding in the water, and brown pelicans were carrying out their daily duties. The animals were unbothered by the presence of people. It seemed like a story from a fairytale. Everything was so unexpected and so beautiful. We were excited to begin our day. We visited the National Park and Charles Darwin Research Headquarters, where we learned about the ongoing conservation efforts of these two institutions. We also learned about the natural history of giant tortoises, the main attraction on the island. We divided guests into two groups. Some of us explored the beautiful Ochoa Hydroponic Farm. The owner, Romer, explained the new techniques of agriculture in the Galapagos. The other group of guests visited El Trapiche Farm. They learned about the steps of a very old-fashioned but respectable way of farming. Guests were guided by the family in charge of this beautiful and simple sugarcane farm. Lunch was offered at Manzanillo Tortoise Farm. Right afterwards, we walked around to see the tortoises in the wild. We had the chance to take pictures and enjoyed spending time with these amazing animals in their habitat. Back on board, we enjoyed a visit by local artisans who worked on their crafts right in front of our eyes. We had opportunities to purchase the work. A group of local musicians and dancers delighted us with their music. Today was the very first time since the pandemic that we had the pleasure of having them perform inside the ship. It was certainly a wonderful way to finish this fantastic day on the “Indefatigable Island.”