From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos Thursday, May 19, 2010
This morning I woke up in high spirits, just knowing that we would spend another day in paradise, in one of the most famous and best protected National Parks in the World. The latter statement is by itself a great reason to feel joyful and full of hope for our planet. Today, our expedition brought us to one of the largest islands in the archipelago, Santa Cruz. The capital of this island, Puerto Ayora is a vibrant and lively tropical town. The beautiful waterfront surrounded by local restaurants and souvenir shops is the heart of this active community. Two of the most important institutions that protect the Galápagos Islands are located in Puerto Ayora as well, the Galápagos National Park Service (GNPS) and the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS). The latter organization is home to many Galápagos giant tortoises that are part of a successful breeding center. Located on the far edge of town, this station is the most important and prestigious one for scientific studies in the Galápagos. In was also where we learned about the Giant tortoises breeding and repatriation programs. We observed little baby tortoises in their pens, the famous “last of its kind” Lonesome George, “the hard working” Diego that came all the way from California to help increase his kind and many more gigantic individuals. After witnessing first hand the great efforts that have been made to save these majestic creatures from extinction we had the opportunity to stroll around the town, buy some souvenirs; have a drink and mainly to observe the normal living and daily activities of the community. Later in the morning, around midday, we left the town behind and traveled by bus inland.
Meanwhile, as our guests were exploring Santa Cruz Island, the ship was visited by thirty children and four teachers from a local school to participate in the Lindblad Expeditions “Kids On Board Program “. The name of the school is without doubt beautiful “RunaKunapack“ is a Quechua language word that literally means “The Man who learns”. Before coming onboard the ship we had a Zodiac ride along Punta Estrada. For most of the kids the morning was filled with first times! Travelling onboard a Zodiac exploring Punta Estrada, even though this area is so close to their home town! Needless to say it was the first time they boarded a big ship and had the chance to enter the bridge as well. After a short tour of the ship, all the children and teachers participated in a Natural History presentation in the lounge and enjoyed fresh made pizza and ice cream that was prepared for them.
I cannot feel anything but emotional at this moment. There were tears in my eyes when I realized that if just one, and hopefully more, of the kids that came onboard today could be inspired to become a respectful and loving environmentalist we have contributed in making a difference. In fact, this is what this extraordinary program is all about, affection, care and enthusiasm for the benefit of our children, our country and subsequently our planet.