Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jul 2nd - Darwin Centre and Santa Cruz Highlands - Galapagos Boat Cruise - Day 4

Lonesome George - Giant Tortoise - Darwin Centre

We landed early morning at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz to visit the Darwin Centre and to switch up half the passengers.  I think that both the centre and all the cruise boats time this visit because it was a sudden onslaught shortly after we arrived.  The thing is that the flights out of Santa Cruz back to the mainland are few and regular.  So everyone leaving was most likely on the same mid morning flight.   After the group left, the 4 of us who did not have the same rush, were able to linger about.  There was nobody left.  All the other tours had left too.  Just a tip. 

The site is wonderful from all the tortoises being raised and protected there but from a learning centre perspective it is very disappointing.  The welcome centre was all but a small room with a half dozen posters.  We did not have a guide to show us the room or give us any information since our guide had to go to the airport.  The library and education centre were closed and had been for a few years for reconstruction.  So you are going to be going just to see the Tortoises.  Most famously, people go to see Lonely George, seen above.  He was enormous.  He is the last of the Pinter Island Giant Tortoises to have survived the pirate invasions during the turn of the century.  He is estimated to be nearly 170 years old.  His nick name is derived from the fact that attempts to mate him have been rather unsuccessful. 

To say that Puerto Ayora is small is an understatement.  The main tourist areas are just a few roads accessible by foot.  The back off the main strip along the water are residential and rather dilapidated. The town seems to be the jumping off point to the islands for touring or diving.  There are hotels dispersed through the residential area but there is no real visiting to do.  After a few hours on our own in town waiting for the boat, we were happy to re board for lunch.  Lunch was Grilled fish which I think was Wahoo and Steamed Vegetables and lots of salads. The saw the cheese you see on the Broccoli quite a lot.  It had a peppery and herbal quality to it.  It was nice but I never got around to asking Tutu what it was called.  :^( Yum.  Dessert was ice cream.

After lunch we returned to Puerto Ayora to visit the Highlands away from the town in the middle of the Santa Cruz Island.  We were visiting a reserve for Wild Giant Tortoises.  For those who joined our boat today and were only doing the half cruise, they missed this and went to the Darwin Centre instead.  I would have suggested they do this instead.  I think they had the option.  You don't miss much other than the gift shop.

We saw nearly 10 giant Tortoises roaming around freely.  The area is considered part of the National Park but it is inhabited by local farmers.  Their fences are constructed in a way that the Tortoises can pass underneath.  We saw some eating, bathing, wandering about freely.  It was great.  We also saw a Galapagos Pintail that looked like a duck, skimming the algae off the pond where two Tortoises were cooling off.  Very cute.

Giant Tortoise with White Heron friend

Dinner was a stewed Chicken with Brussel Sprouts/Green Beans with Rice.  Tutu of course made me a side of fish as well.

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