Aug 29, 2018 - National Geographic Islander
We sailed north into the wee hours of the morning to the large central island of Santa Cruz. This is the home for the headquarters of both the National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station; the coastal town of Puerto Ayora is the largest settlement in the archipelago. This morning we visited the CDRS and NP captive breeding center and learned about the successful repatriation of tortoises that have been incubated, hatched, and raised for a few years before they are taken to the islands of their origin. We learned that some species of tortoises that are gravely endangered have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
We walked through town, shopping in and/or admiring the colorful boutiques and photographing the birds and sea lions that were snatching scraps at the fish market. We gathered for juice at The Rock Café. Then we rode up to explore the highlands and chose between several options: visiting a school, a lava tunnel, or a small family-run farm that produces coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane products.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a bountiful buffet lunch and then walked among dozens of giant tortoises of all sizes that were grazing, walking, and resting—even mating!—in the lush pastures of Rancho Manzanillo. It was thrilling to see these ancient and interesting reptiles in their natural habitat and we particularly enjoyed the opportunity to watch them and photograph them to our heart’s content. They are unique and amazing creatures. Back on the National Geographic Islander in the evening, we wrapped up this fabulous day with music and dancing performed by the local EcoArte group. It turns out we have some very good dancers among us!
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