Puerto Ayora – Santa Cruz Island
Letty anchored in Academy Bay after midnight and although in a bay, the swell rolled in and we rolled right along with the swell. Arising the next morning at our 0700 wakeup call we found ourselves in a crowded harbor and the first town since arriving at San Cristobal. Puerto Ayora is the commercial center for the Galapagos, with about 15,000 inhabitants. The Charles Darwin Research Station is also here.
After a dry landing we boarded a bus for a trip into the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, moving into a very different vegetation zone due to the moisture from the clouds at elevations above 500 meters. A 30 minute ride brought us to the “Twins”, two nearly identical sinkholes hundreds of feet deep created when magma chambers collapsed eons ago.
|American Yacht anchored in Academy Bay, Santa Cruz|
|One of the twin sinkholes with rainbow|
|The other twin sinkhole|
Another 30 minute ride brought us to a farm on the western coast of Santa Cruz, at an elevation that had lush trees and grass, good for both cattle and for giant land tortoises to thrive. The tortoises have been brought back from the brink of extinction through bringing back male tortoises from around the world, like “Solitary George”, who passed away in 2012. We donned rubber boots and headed out into the forest and muddy trails, finding a number of tortoises for photo opportunities.
|All booted up to find tortoises|
|Tortoises don't seem to mind if you are close|
|Typical vegetation in tortoise territory|
|Check out the tonsils|
|These Tortoises love spending time in water|
|Tortoises feed on vegetation|
|Nothing happens quickly|
After exhausting the photo ops since nothing happens quickly with the tortoises, we took a short ride to a large lava tunnel, now a tourist attraction before returning to the Letty for lunch.
After our normal siesta following lunch, we headed back into town to the Charles Darwin Research Station and viewed tortoises in captivity, as well as land iguanas and newly hatched tortoises in various stages of development. The tortoises are kept about 5 years until they are no longer target for predators due to their shell hardness and size.
After our visit we walked the few blocks to the center of town where we had a chance to shop, stopped for a local beer and then watched a sea lion pup and mom begging for scraps at the local open air fish market before returning to the ship for the normal afternoon briefing and dinner.
|Land Iguana at Charles Darwin Research Station|
|Sea Lion begging for fish|
|Taking the fish anyway|
|Typical street in Puerto Ayora|
|Academy Bay in late afternoon|