Galapagos Cruise Report: Santa Cruz Island

From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos July 14, 2010

We reached the southern part of Santa Cruz Island early this morning, and after breakfast we prepared to visit the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Station. The main highlight was witnessing the successful captive breeding program which has brought those wonderful relics, the giant tortoises, back from the brink of extinction. During the visit we encountered some of the largest land tortoise races that we have in this archipelago, including the unforgettable “Lonesome George” the last unique and most famous tortoise in Galápagos who lives here with his two girlfriends from Isabela Island.

We also had a chance to see another tortoise known as Diego; he comes from Española Island and shares his corral with five females. He has been so “active”, that most of the eggs at the CDRS come from his corral!

We enjoyed a stroll through the clean and pleasant town of Puerto Ayora, shopping and snapping photos along the way.

We boarded buses to the highlands and almost immediately drove into the low wet garua clouds that keep the vegetation on the southern slopes of this island constantly lush and green. We had fine garua mist dripping down our faces and clothes all afternoon long, but most of us did not mind the accompanying cool weather.

We had a full afternoon of hiking in search of giant tortoises in the wild. We were fortunate to find between six and eight of these slow moving reptiles, some resting, others feeding or moving through the tall grasses. Everyone took plenty of tortoise photos before we boarded the bus again to continue driving up the island to “Los Gemelos.” These twin pit craters are surrounded by a scalesia forest; giant sunflower trees that are found only in Galápagos. We identified woodpecker finch, Galápagos flycatcher, tree finches and found ferns, orchids and many epiphytes in the thorny shrubs.

Back in town again, there was still time for some last-minute shopping, and no one missed the final 1800hr Zodiac ride back to National Geographic Endeavour.

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