Jan 31, 2018 - National Geographic Islander
This morning we were a bit surprised to find ourselves back in civilization again! After several days of seeing only a few yachts and hikers on the islands - and much wildlife, of course - today we awoke in the busy harbor known as Academy Bay among dozens of vessels of all sizes. The town of Puerto Ayora, with a population of at least 25,000, is the economic hub of the islands and also home to the headquarters of both the National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
We disembarked after breakfast and visited the tortoise breeding center where we learned about the successful captive rearing of tortoises and their repatriation to islands where they are endangered. Over 2000 tortoises have been released on the southern island of Española and these are now breeding in the wild!
We took buses to the highlands and visited a charming private school, an extensive lava tunnel that ran for 800 meters (about half a mile) underground, and a family-operated coffee and sugar cane producing farm. Lunch was a delectable buffet at Rancho Manzanillo and afterwards we wandered in the lush, wet pastures taking photos of small, medium, large and LARGER tortoises which were involved in a variety of activities. Leaving the Rancho we had to drive carefully to get around tortoises that were slowly crossing the road!
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