Day 1: Santa Cruz Island, Charles Darwin Research Station
Puerto Ayora Travel Blog› entry 14 of 26 › view all entries
Today we flew to the Galapagos Islands!
Our flight from Quito had a brief layover in Guayquil and then we landed on the island of Baltra; one of the Galapagos Islands. The flight was uneventful; as was customs and security. When it came time to get our checked bags, we looked in vain for a baggage carousel. Turns out all of the bags are brought from the plane to the terminal on one the those little tractors that they use in all airports but then the bags are simply unloaded onto the floor of the airport!
After getting our bags and finding our guide we took a bus/ferry/bus to one of the largest towns in the Galapagos, Puerta Ayoro on Santa Cruz Island. Then we caught a dinghy to our boat, the Cormorant II. The Cormorant II is a beautiful catamaran. We were shown to our cozy little room and then we headed back to the dining room for lunch. Lunch included lots of yummy pineapple and mangoes!
After lunch we returned to the Santa Cruz Island to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Research Station is currently involved in a successful tortoise breeding program. There are ~14 species of tortoises in the Galapagos; pretty much one for each island. Many of these species were endangered after people killed them for food, non-native rats ate their eggs, and non-native goats ate their food. The government is currently working to control the non-native threats to the islands indigenous species. The Research Station is collecting and incubating tortoise eggs. The young tortoises are released after 6 years, when they're big enough to take care of themselves a bit better.
The Research Station also had a bunch of captive tortoises! Our group was able to walk amongst them. They are amazing animals. The males are gigantic! They really don't move much. A couple of slow steps then they plop back down to rest. They really don't seem to mind people getting close but no touching is allowed. The males and females at the station are kept seperate because the researchers çan't really tell the difference in all of the minor sub-species and they don't want inter-breeding.
One exception is made for Lonesome George. Lonesome George is the last known tortoise of his species. He has been put in a pen with two females of a different, very closely related species. This match has so far produced 7 eggs, I think. The eggs are expected to hatch any time so that George's species will survive at least somewhat.
There are also a lot of marine iguanas lying around on the docks. Marine iguanas are crazy, pre-historic looking lizards. They really don't move much unless you get really close. Mostly they just lie around on the warm concrete and watch the world.
We're headed back to our boat now. I don't know if we'll have internet access soon.