Santa Cruz Island, 4/13/2023, National Geographic Endeavour II
National Geographic Endeavour II
Our expedition around the Galapagos Islands aboard National Geographic Endeavour II is about to finish, and today we visited Santa Cruz Island, the most populated island. In the morning, we visited the main offices of the Charles Darwin Research Station and the tortoise breeding center of the Galapagos National Park. Later, buses took us to the highlands, where we visited local farms and learned about their products.
In the afternoon, we explored the western side of Santa Cruz and spent time with the giant tortoises in the wild.
Charles was raised in the Galápagos Islands. He is the grandson of Rolf Wittmer, the first person documented to have been born on the island of Floreana after his parents, Margret and Heinz Wittmer, emigrated from Germany in 1932.
We have arrived at Santa Cruz Island. It is the first time this week that we have seen people on land, and this offered us a whole new perspective. We experienced the interactions between humans and the animals that live in the same territory, which started the minute we stepped off the main pier of Puerto Ayora. Sea lions were sleeping as we passed, blacktip sharks were swimming and feeding in the water, and brown pelicans were carrying out their daily duties. The animals were unbothered by the presence of people. It seemed like a story from a fairytale. Everything was so unexpected and so beautiful. We were excited to begin our day. We visited the National Park and Charles Darwin Research Headquarters, where we learned about the ongoing conservation efforts of these two institutions. We also learned about the natural history of giant tortoises, the main attraction on the island. We divided guests into two groups. Some of us explored the beautiful Ochoa Hydroponic Farm. The owner, Romer, explained the new techniques of agriculture in the Galapagos. The other group of guests visited El Trapiche Farm. They learned about the steps of a very old-fashioned but respectable way of farming. Guests were guided by the family in charge of this beautiful and simple sugarcane farm. Lunch was offered at Manzanillo Tortoise Farm. Right afterwards, we walked around to see the tortoises in the wild. We had the chance to take pictures and enjoyed spending time with these amazing animals in their habitat. Back on board, we enjoyed a visit by local artisans who worked on their crafts right in front of our eyes. We had opportunities to purchase the work. A group of local musicians and dancers delighted us with their music. Today was the very first time since the pandemic that we had the pleasure of having them perform inside the ship. It was certainly a wonderful way to finish this fantastic day on the “Indefatigable Island.”
Today, National Geographic Endeavour II explored Santiago Island from sunrise to sunset. We started activities with a pre-breakfast hike along Espumilla Beach. We had the chance to see a group of sea lions by the beach, and blue-footed boobies arrived to start a feeding frenzy. After a well-deserved breakfast, we continued exploring Santiago with kayaking and snorkeling activities at Buccaneer Cove. To end this amazing day, we enjoyed a second snorkeling and a sunset hike on Puerto Egas.
Walking at Urbina Bay, it’s hard to imagine that this area was the sea floor before 1954. The exuberant vegetation of this visitor site is home for giants! What a great to surprise to see a good number of Alcedo giant tortoises along the trail, walking and grazing. What’s more, we saw male Galapagos land iguanas sunbathing. Galapagos is a place for unique nature moments!