Thursday June 4, 2009
Today began in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. This is the most populated town on Galápagos – about 12,000 people – and, in fact, one of the few areas inhabited by humans. From the dock we took a small bus to the highlands to begin our quest for the famous Galápagos giant tortoise. We did a bit of walking through the densely-forested park area, and were able to see about 13 or 14 wild tortoises. They were so wonderful, and so big! As we explored the lush woodland, we enjoyed some fresh passion fruit we picked up off the forest floor. It was delicious, and the tortoises seemed to agree, as they were also eagerly chomping on the fallen fruit!
Our bus then returned us to Puerto Ayora, where we made a stop at the fishing pier to watch pelicans, sea lions, and blue heron, all with hopeful eyes, beg the local fishermen to toss them a treat as they cleaned their freshly-caught fish. The animals rejoiced as many scraps were thrown (and some stolen).
We spent the afternoon at the Darwin Research Center, where we were able to interact with six large, male tortoises and also to see baby tortoises at various ages. Here, we also made a special stop to visit with Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise. Unfortunately he was feeling a bit shy, and we had to settle for a view of his tail end sticking out from his shrubby hiding spot.
This evening we embarked on our first long sail – 11 hours on the open ocean to the western islands. Although the ship was quite rocky, we managed to get a pretty reasonable night’s sleep.