Galapagos Cruise – Day 5: Santa Cruz
We woke on the fifth day of our cruise in the busy harbour of Puerto Ayora. The first thing on the agenda for the day was a tour of the Charles Darwin Research Centre.
The RIBs dropped us in the centre itself on a pier in the midst of mangroves. The Charles Darwin Centre is focused on increasing the numbers of Giant tortoises which we severely depleted by early seafarers who used them as food and early settlers who used them to create oil. There is a captive breeding program and also eggs laid in the wild are collected and brought to the centre. The juvenile tortoises are kept safe until they are big enough to be safe from predators and then released on the appropriate island.
The highlight of the Charles Darwin Centre is seeing Lonesome George who is the last of his species and estimated to be 100 years old. He is in a pen with two genetically similar females but has only mated a couple of times and the eggs produced have been inviable. It’ll be a 100 years or so before he dies but unless a female is found that will be the end of the line for his species.
Also at Charles Darwin they work to save the land iguanas and there are a couple of pens of these too.
In the afternoon we packed ourselves onto a bus and were transferred up to the highlands of Santa Cruz and a farm just outside the National Park area. Here we walked through some mostly non-native forest looking for Giant Tortoises in the wild.
It didn’t take long to find our first Tortoise – a roughly 75 year old female who was eating and moving slowly through the bush.
We walked on for a bit and came across a massive male – at least 150 years old. Unfortunately he had his head buried in a bush and wasn’t moving around much.
With our tortoise viewing desires satiated we retired to the central farmhouse which has been turned into a café. Once everyone had their coffees liberally laced with homemade rum our guide, Juan , grabbed a guitar from behind the bar. He then regaled us with a selection of Spanish and English songs including La Cucaracha and What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.
On returning to Puerto Ayora we had a couple of hours to hang out in the town before going back to the boat. As we’d spent a few days here already we just went to cafe had a beer and chilled out for a bit – enjoying being on dry land for a bit.