Meeting Super Diego
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago and home to both the largest human population and the second largest wild tortoise population in the islands. After breakfast we make a "dry landing" on a small dock near the Tortoise Rearing and Breeding Centre of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Centre. This was the home of "Lonesome George," the last of the Pinta Island tortoises before the extinction of his sub-species. Our guides show us the work of the centre, and we see young and old tortoises, including "Super Diego" who was found at San Diego Zoo in the USA and repatriated to Galapagos to assist the breeding programme - and he's done very well!
From the breeding centre we walk a short distance downtown to Puerto Ayora, home to over 18,000 inhabitants and the economic hub of the archipelago. Expedition Leader, Lynn meets us and we have some free time to shop and visit the small fish market. Here there are a couple of fishermen cleaning their catch and selling it to local people. Nearby (actually at times "on" the table) are numerous pelicans and frigate birds, all trying to get the best of the off-cuts. It’s a fish market like no other.
Aboard our buses we head towards the highlands of Santa Cruz stopping on the way for a visit to a small family farm. Here we learn about the production of a sugar cane alcohol and get a taste. And we see coffee beans and how the beans are crushed and roasted. Our next stop is El Chato Farm and most guests decide to walk through a lava tunnel before lunch. As you do! The tunnel is quite large part from a couple of sections when you need to bend in half, and fortunately the farmer has added some lighting and the exit is adjacent to his restaurant! Following a tasty buffet lunch we don Wellington Boots and drive a few minutes to some farm land where we hope to find giant tortoises in the wild. We're in luck and during our visit count over 40. We're able to wander off and enjoy encounters with these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
This evening after dinner, we entertained on board ship by a local group of musicians and dancers from the town of Puerto Ayora.