National Geographic Endeavour II guests spent the day exploring Santa Cruz Island. We began with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. We discussed the different types of research conducted at the station, but the highlight was the giant tortoise captive breeding program. We visited the Lonesome George exhibit, a sobering reminder of the various anthropogenic impacts that have affected the wildlife in the Galapagos throughout the years.
After our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, guests had the opportunity to stroll along the boardwalk and visit the fishermen’s market. After tasting some delicious artisanal chocolates at Chocogalapagos, we boarded buses and made our way to the highlands. We visited the Trapiche Farm, a family-owned farm that produces a variety of artisanal products including coffee, sugarcane rum, and chocolate. We learned how these products are made by the family that founded the farm. Guests got to try the artisanal sugarcane rum during a special Ecuadorian toast.
After our visit to the Trapiche Farm, we boarded buses once again and made our way to the Manzanillo Giant Tortoise Ranch. We enjoyed a delicious lunch followed by a visit to see the giant tortoises found all over the ranch. The Santa Cruz giant tortoise has a dome-shaped shell that is conducive to plowing through the dense vegetation found on the wetter islands of the Galapagos. The giant tortoises of the Galapagos evolved from a single, common ancestral species that originated from the South American continent. Galapagos tortoises most likely evolved into giants because they could; islands typically exhibit a disproportionate number of open niches given their isolation from continents. This allows for a great deal of available resources for the creatures that make it to the islands. Given their size, giant tortoises have no natural predators as adults.
After our visit to the Manzanillo Giant Tortoise Ranch, local artisans from Santa Cruz boarded the ship and displayed their crafts, offering guests a unique inside look at some of the local culture and art of the Galapagos.