We spent the day exploring the island of Santa Cruz. One of the four inhabited islands in Galapagos, Santa Cruz has the largest human population and is considered the economic hub of the province. We spent the first part of the morning visiting the tortoise breeding center at the Galapagos National Park. Here we learned about the ongoing efforts to protect species of giant tortoises from extinction. We also visited a beautiful farm and learned about the ways local farmers process their products using artisanal techniques. We had lunch at a beautiful ranch, where we also enjoyed a walk to observe giant tortoises. We learned about the behavioral ecology of these magnificent creatures and spent quite some time taking photos. We ended the day with a visit from some local artists; they came on board the ship to share their wonderful creations that are inspired by these islands.
National Geographic Endeavour II
This morning, we explored the northern side of Santa Cruz Island, and our first outing took us to see the Galapagos dragons. This land iguana inhabits the palo santo dry forest. As soon as we disembarked, marine iguanas greeted us as they sunbathed on the Sesuvium carpetweed found along the shoreline. We walked along the trail and found a brackish water lagoon that is usually visited by birds like white-cheeked pintail ducks, black-necked stilts, and sometimes flamingos. Later, we passed through the dry forest of palo santo and breathed in its fragrant aroma as we headed to observe the eroded volcanic ash on the trail. Land iguanas are endemic to this archipelago and can be found nesting in the area or just relaxing under a prickly pear cactus tree. We saw a spectacular number of iguanas, counting twenty during our walk. The bright colors of the iguanas make them a very exciting sight, which our guests enjoyed very much. Later in the afternoon, our younger explorers took Zodiac driving lessons in the company of their parents and a naturalist guide. It was the highlight of the day for them. The rest of our guests opted between getting some exercise while kayaking along the shoreline of Borrero Bay or simply took it slower and joined a Zodiac tour in the area. During the afternoon, we observed big flocks of blue-footed boobies, which are not often seen in high numbers. We also observed brown pelicans, striated herons, baby blacktip sharks, a small eagle ray, and lava gulls. We ended our day by enjoying a glass of wine while circumnavigating Daphne Major and observing the stunning sunset.