Santa Cruz or Indefatigable Island

Mar 08, 2019 - National Geographic Islander

Today we disembarked at the peer of “Puerto Ayora” and went by bus to entrance of the Darwin Research Station to see the Giant Tortoises Rearing Center. This complex is located close to the sea and among a forest of hundreds of years old giant cacti, some of them about 30 feet high. The place has a beautiful wooden boardwalk, and next to this path, some breeding corrals, where baby tortoises from up to the first two years under protection. Continuing our walk on the same trail, we found also several large tortoises of different shapes and sizes, some are known as “saddlebacks,” the shells of which look much like the saddle for a horse. Others look like a rounded “camping tent” and can reach weights of 500 pounds or more!

Overall, we saw about 100 tortoises from five different islands of the Galapagos. The walked continued to the building where the famous Lonesome George Tortoise was placed. George was the last individual of the island Pinta, he died in 2012 and after a very careful taxidermy process developed in New York City, was brought back to the Giant Tortoises Rearing Center. Now he is exhibited in a special temperature controlled display behind glass.

Later we walked along the main street of the town of Puerto Ayora and stopped by the fishing dock, where we saw the daily catch of the local fishermen. There we also saw sea lions, pelicans, and frigates trying for a piece of a merchant man’s fish. Later we took our bus further in, where we came to a sugar cane farm to see the old way to make sugar, coffee, cocoa, melaza syrup, and a strong alcohol known in the area as agua ardiente or “hard water.”

After a wonderful lunch at the local farm, we walked for about an hour and saw many tortoises of different sizes in the wild. These giants were wandering around a water pond and along the trails located in this forested area of the Island of Santa Cruz. It was wonderful to see them in their natural environment, where many of them have lived peacefully for years and years.

By the end of the day, we enjoyed cocktails on board our vessel, watching a very choice sunset and a very calm and shimmering sea around us.

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About the Author

Lenin Villacis


Lenin was born in the capital city of Quito, where he grew up surrounded by the mountains and volcanoes of the Andean region of Ecuador. At age 17, he received a scholarship to study in Mexico, and a few years later traveled to the U.S. and finished college with a degree in Earth sciences. In 1994 he returned to Ecuador to undergo a training course to become a naturalist guide for his incredibly rich and biodiverse home country, and started working in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador.

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