This morning we woke at the island of Santa Cruz, the second largest island and the most populated of all the islands. We landed at Puerto Ayora which is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. It’s early so the town is just starting to come to life. Our walk to the Darwin centre is a leisurely stroll to take in the colourful scenery along the way.
We enjoyed an entertaining stop at the local fish market. The sea lions and pelicans are lined up waiting for someone to throw them a few scraps. There is a great variety of fish available at the market including yellow fin tuna. Perhaps that will be on the menu this evening.
We continued our walk past interesting shops, which the ladies are looking forward to visiting and stopping to take a few fun photos.. The local people are so friendly and don’t mind us taking their photos. The children are adorable.
At the Charles Darwin Centre tour guide Juan talked about the history of the centre and explained about the research and projects taking place for the conservation of the Galápagos terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Today we visited the tortoise and iguana section. Over the years the centre has seen the birth of at least 2,000 tortoises. Diego, the oldest tortoise at 120 years old is responsible for at least 1,000 of those babies. At the centre there are dozens of tortoises and some land and marine iguanas. The centre receives funding via the Galapagos Conservancy fund. You can help protect preserve and Galapagos eco system. Click on the following link to learn more or to Donate. http://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/
After visiting the centre we enjoyed free time to browse the shops, stop at a local restaurant for a snack , cool drink or to hook into their wifi. The shopping is pretty good in this town with many interesting handicrafts and fun Galapagos souvenirs. The “I Love Boobies” shirts are quite popular. The town is a busy tourism hub offering a variety of B&B’s and small hotels, dive and snorkel shops and travel agency offering tours of the islands. After our free time we met at the local dock where our panga’s were waiting to take us back to the Beluga.
We arrived at the ship just in time for lunch. Segundo always has a fabulous meal ready for us. After relaxing for a few hours we get back into the panga’s for our transfer back to the island of Santa Cruz. A bus is waiting to take us Manzanillo Rnach where the wild tortoises have taken up residence. We hadn’t travelled to far along the dirt road when we cam across a tortoise that was slowly walking down the middle of the road. UP here there tortoises have the right of way. We pulled over towards the ditch to go around him. The ranch is a local farm now turned into a tourist sight. The wild tortoises roam freely on the land enjoying wild flowers, cactus and grass.
The farmer has rubber boots available to keep your feet dry and the bugs off. It was fairly dry so most of us decided not to wear the boots, with the exception of Juan who looked fabulous in his bright yellow wellies. Vino is happy to join us today, she had the chance to sit on a giant tortoise.
Our walk took us through in the open grass lands, to observe at least 20 large tortoise. Past a small lake dense with azolla fern and home to moor hens and pintail ducks. Through a forest where the trees are covered with lime green lichen and interesting winding vines. Then back into the grassy area where there are wild pepper bushes and passion fruit trees. Its such a beautiful place. I can see why the tortoise have chosen this for their home.
During the drive out we came across another tortoise on the road. The cows at the side of the road didn’t seem to mind sharing their land with these prehistoric looking creatures. There was a great Tshirt in the shop with a quote from Darwin. After today’s visits it certainly resonated with me.
Back in town the harbour area is bustling with activity. The locals have gathered to watch a friendly game of volley ball. Everyone is friendly and enjoy stopping to chat with us. The panga’s were waiting at the pier for us. We transferred back to our ship just in time for dinner.