On our fourth day on board the National Geographic Endeavour II, we stopped by the south side of Santa Cruz Island. The archipelago’s second largest island is almost 1000m2 in area and circular in shape. Located in the center of the Galapagos, it is also the economic center and has the highest population of the five inhabited islands. Today, we had the chance to explore Puerto Ayora, a town of about 12,000 residents. At the Galapagos National Park giant tortoise breeding center, we learned about the efforts to save these endangered animals and saw a variety of species in corrals. We then traveled to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild. Along the way, we stopped at a local farm stand to sample products made from sugar cane, coffee, and cacao. We concluded our busy day visiting local artisans.
National Geographic Endeavour II
This morning, we explored the northern side of Santa Cruz Island, and our first outing took us to see the Galapagos dragons. This land iguana inhabits the palo santo dry forest. As soon as we disembarked, marine iguanas greeted us as they sunbathed on the Sesuvium carpetweed found along the shoreline. We walked along the trail and found a brackish water lagoon that is usually visited by birds like white-cheeked pintail ducks, black-necked stilts, and sometimes flamingos. Later, we passed through the dry forest of palo santo and breathed in its fragrant aroma as we headed to observe the eroded volcanic ash on the trail. Land iguanas are endemic to this archipelago and can be found nesting in the area or just relaxing under a prickly pear cactus tree. We saw a spectacular number of iguanas, counting twenty during our walk. The bright colors of the iguanas make them a very exciting sight, which our guests enjoyed very much. Later in the afternoon, our younger explorers took Zodiac driving lessons in the company of their parents and a naturalist guide. It was the highlight of the day for them. The rest of our guests opted between getting some exercise while kayaking along the shoreline of Borrero Bay or simply took it slower and joined a Zodiac tour in the area. During the afternoon, we observed big flocks of blue-footed boobies, which are not often seen in high numbers. We also observed brown pelicans, striated herons, baby blacktip sharks, a small eagle ray, and lava gulls. We ended our day by enjoying a glass of wine while circumnavigating Daphne Major and observing the stunning sunset.