We are almost finished our exploration around these enchanted islands. We dropped anchor early in the morning at Academy Bay, the main harbor at the foot of the town of Puerto Ayora. This morning, we saw civilization after being far away from human settlements for a few days. Puerto Ayora is the economic hub of Galapagos, and it is home to two institutions working in conservation, the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. We planned to take our guests to see the program that is working to restore the dynasty of giant tortoises. These emblematic animals are in danger of extinction and need of our help.
We visited corrals where they put baby tortoises to save them from attacks by black rats. The babies are vulnerable due to the soft shells they have when they hatch. We protect them from alien species until they are five years old. At this point, their shells become very hard and they can survive on their own. While visiting, we saw exhibition corrals with tortoises from several species and morphologies, including saddleback and dome-shape.
Later we visited a fish market where fishermen sell their products to locals. We also visited a family of farmers up in the highlands to learn about the culture and experiences of local people.
After having lunch in a magical place surrounded by lush vegetation and tons of giant tortoises, we walked around to enjoy close encounters with these reptiles that came to colonize the Galapagos about two million years ago. The tortoises were everywhere. This area is part of their natural migration route. They move from the top of the islands, where there is plenty of food all year along, down to the coast where they lay their eggs each year to ensure the survival of their species.
It is a unique experience to be so close to these animals that can weigh up to 600 pounds and live up to 180 years. On our way back to town, we saw many tortoises through the windows of our bus. We found a big male tortoise right in the middle of the road. Like during a traffic jam, we had to wait a few minutes until this enormous creature moved out of the path.
We had a great day on Santa Cruz Island. Our guests were very happy. They accomplished their dream to see the iconic reptiles that gave their name to the islands more than 500 years ago when Spaniards discovered this archipelago.