Today is giant tortoise day! We anchor in the northern part of Santa Cruz and start our day with a short Zodiac drive to the turquoise waters of Itabaca Channel. We drive up to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, leaving behind the coastal zone vegetation and passing through dry forest before immersing ourselves in the humid zone, where everything is green. We stop at Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters surrounded by a scalesia forest. In this magical area we spot a variety of endemic birds and plants while learning about the geology of the island. Finally, we arrive in the luxuriant green highlands of Santa Cruz where we spot countless Galapagos tortoises. We spend all morning walking around these giants while we learn about their history, biology, and behavior as they roam peacefully in their natural habitat. These enormous creatures are truly fascinating to observe, which some of us did while sitting under a tree, painting, taking pictures, or chilling in a hammock. The giant tortoises are everywhere, and we spot dozens of them from the restaurant where we have lunch. On our way back, a flock of blue-footed boobies flies overhead, making us feel we are inside a nature documentary! We cap off this amazing day with a sunset walk on the beach before returning to the National Geographic Endeavour II.
National Geographic Endeavour II
Santa Cruz Island
We have arrived at Santa Cruz Island. It is the first time this week that we have seen people on land, and this offered us a whole new perspective. We experienced the interactions between humans and the animals that live in the same territory, which started the minute we stepped off the main pier of Puerto Ayora. Sea lions were sleeping as we passed, blacktip sharks were swimming and feeding in the water, and brown pelicans were carrying out their daily duties. The animals were unbothered by the presence of people. It seemed like a story from a fairytale. Everything was so unexpected and so beautiful. We were excited to begin our day. We visited the National Park and Charles Darwin Research Headquarters, where we learned about the ongoing conservation efforts of these two institutions. We also learned about the natural history of giant tortoises, the main attraction on the island. We divided guests into two groups. Some of us explored the beautiful Ochoa Hydroponic Farm. The owner, Romer, explained the new techniques of agriculture in the Galapagos. The other group of guests visited El Trapiche Farm. They learned about the steps of a very old-fashioned but respectable way of farming. Guests were guided by the family in charge of this beautiful and simple sugarcane farm. Lunch was offered at Manzanillo Tortoise Farm. Right afterwards, we walked around to see the tortoises in the wild. We had the chance to take pictures and enjoyed spending time with these amazing animals in their habitat. Back on board, we enjoyed a visit by local artisans who worked on their crafts right in front of our eyes. We had opportunities to purchase the work. A group of local musicians and dancers delighted us with their music. Today was the very first time since the pandemic that we had the pleasure of having them perform inside the ship. It was certainly a wonderful way to finish this fantastic day on the “Indefatigable Island.”