A completely different experience today, as we wake up to civilisation!
Overnight we have sailed back to the central part of the archipelago, and we have arrived at the island of Santa Cruz and the town of Puerto Ayora. This is the largest inhabited town in the Galapagos, with around 20,000 people. Our first port of call is the Charles Darwin Research Centre, on the edge of town. We hear all about the fantastic work that the centre does in rearing giant tortoises and re-populating the various islands some of which may have been devastated due to introduced species. Another ongoing project is trying to save the endemic mangrove finch. The centre is one of the most successful in the world.
From town we drive up to the highlands of Santa Cruz to look for giant tortoises in the wild. The farms in the highlands have adjusted their fences to allow giant tortoises to roam freely. And we are not disappointed. These huge, prehistoric looking creatures are all over the place. We count around 75 tortoises, of which 24 are sitting in a muddy pond where they go to drink and keep cool in the hot weather. We also head down a lava tunnel – during a volcanic eruption, the outside of the tunnel has formed a crust while the fast flowing lava has continued to flow, thus creating a large tube which we can walk though. Another unique experience! Coffee and lemongrass tea is served before we head back in our buses to downtown Puerto Ayora.
Free time in town this afternoon. Some lunch, some emails via wi-fi, and some shopping! Our panga boats run shuttles to and from the quayside.