Today we visited Santa Cruz Island. This is the most populated island of the archipelago and the best place to see giant tortoises! Back in civilization, we took buses to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Since its founders contributed to the creation of the national park, the station is one of the most famous NGOs in the Galapagos. We learned all about conservation and the research being done in the islands. Mainly, we visited the giant tortoise breeding center. We could observe all the stages of the project, from mating to babies to return to the wild.
Then we walked through town to do some shopping and observe everyday life. The fish market is one of our favorite stops. Locals come to buy fresh fish, and sea lions and pelicans try to steal the leftovers! Coffee shops are also a nice stop since the coffee beans are produced on the island. So much to see in Puerto Ayora!
As the morning progressed, we went to the highlands to have lunch at the beautiful Rancho El Manzanillo where giant tortoises roam. After a tasty meal, we changed into rubber boots to walk among these gentle giants. Our photographers had the chance to get amazing shots of the tortoises as they rested in the shade, mated, or chased each other. Some even walked through our group. That was not all, though. After our amazing visit with the giant tortoises, we went to even higher altitudes. Darwin’s finches flew all over the place. We observed two majestic pit craters and walked through an endemic forest of Scalesias. Samples of the species, unique to the Galapagos, are considered giant dandelions. We can definitely say today was a day for giants!