Location: Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Today was all about the famous Galapagos Tortoises. These iconic reptiles are even the source of the name of the islands. When the Spaniards first found the islands, they found thousands of these giant tortoises where ever they looked. On some of the islands, the shells resembled a horse saddle that was en vogue in Spain at the time. That saddle was called a Galapago. Hence the name Galapagos Islands.
We dropped anchor in the Puerto Ayora bay and spent the entire day around this location. We began with a tour of the Charles Darwin Research Center. This is the primary research station for the park and it houses several breeding programs for the endemic species. The flagship breeding program is for the Galapagos tortoise. Some breeding age tortoises are kept here to increase the numbers of the many species of tortoise from around the islands.
The tortoises are bred with members of their own species, eggs carefully incubated and young raised until the reach 2-5 years old. Once they are old enough they are released into the wild on their respective islands. Hundreds to thousands of tortoises have been reintroduced to their natural habitats.
While there aren’t any zoos in the islands, since the entire archipelago serves as a nature preserve and living museum, this breeding program sort of acts like one in that its a convenient location for people to see the iconic reptiles.
After we were done visiting the research center we walked into Puerto Ayora to do some quick souvenir shopping. We coincidentally ran into Gerencia from the hotel and said hello. We waited at the fish market to catch a shuttle to our next itinerary shop. During the wait we saw more herons, sea lions, pelicans, and a ray.
Next we took a shuttle into the highlands of Santa Cruz to help plant native trees in the forest. Celebrity has been engaging in this program for a few years and has been pretty successful in getting nearly all it passengers to participate. We donned rubber boots and took a very short hike into the jungle to each plant a couple of scalesia saplings. A tiny cork tag was loosely tied around the plant to show that is was planted as part of the Celebrity program. We joked that we would go looking for those trees the next time we return to the island. But we saw some older tags didn’t survive long and the serial numbers appeared to be the first things to disappear.
Our next stop took us to a farm in the highlands for lunch. They has some decent Ecuadorian food and a great atmosphere. After lunch, some local youth put on an Ecuadorian and Galapagos dance show for us and the other passengers. After lunch we went out into the fields to observe the Cerro Porteri (Santa Cruz) tortoise in their natural habitat.
They weren’t difficult to find. They don’t move fast, and they were all over the place eating grass and other vegetation.
After that we returned to the ship for the last time. Tonight was lobster night, we each had a HUGE galapagos lobster tail. We didn’t ask for seconds. But for what it’s worth, yesterday’s dinner was a BBQ on the aft deck. We each had three grilled half lobster tails, so our tradition of getting multiple lobsters on a cruise continues.
Tomorrow we disembark from the Xpedition. We take a midday flight from the Galapagos back to Guayaquil.
Total Phillie Phanatic sightings: 0
Total havana club and cokes: 2
Total islands visited: 1 (San Cruz)
Total watercraft: 3
Total Steps: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯