Galapagos Cruise Report: Santa Cruz Island

From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos, July 6, 2010

The morning began partially cloudy; however it pays to be careful here in Galápagos since the weather can change at a moment’s notice. The ocean conditions determine the weather of the archipelago, so we decided to pack light jackets just in case the afternoon weather changed.

Our visit to the National Park Service Headquarters was delightful, and we all learned some good news about the giant tortoises. There have been some discoveries based on DNA about the identity of the tortoises. According to recent studies, it seems that the famous tortoise Lonesome George is not the last of his kind after all. The whole picture we have about the future of these gentle reptiles that represent our islands needs to be reexamined, and we still need to learn more.

After our visit with the tortoises, the stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora was an expected success. We were all amused by a very gentle sea lion that spends lots of his time at the fish market – our guests ended their visit with a great smile.

During our afternoon walk in the highlands, we found that the number of tortoises in the area had increased since last week. Eleven sightings left me feeling certain that pretty soon there will be several dozen of them roaming the vegetation that provides them with such good food. As always, the landscape was inviting and well appreciated and enjoyed. The lushness of the trees was captivating, and the freshness of the air allowed an easy trip and wonderful photo ops.

The last activity of the day was to visit the twin craters. It was impressive to say the least, and even after so many years guiding here and having seen all the changes that have come upon this site – I was moved. Just as we were boarding the bus back to town, a fiery red bird – the Vermillion flycatcher – landed among us.

To say we were simply happy would be an understatement. The rare sense of familiarity mixed with awe and reverie that the islands produce in us helps us understand the real meaning of joy.

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