Our week is coming to an end, and this morning we visited Santa Cruz, the second largest island of the Galapagos. Its English name is Indefatigable Island, and its very old Spanish name was Chavez. Santa Cruz is the economic hub of the archipelago, and it has the biggest city with about 18,000 inhabitants. It is home for many of the institutions devoted to conservation, including the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. We headed to the research station this morning to learn about the programs to save the dynasty of giant tortoises, the most emblematic animals of the Galapagos.
Guests learned about different tortoise adaptations. Tortoises in the lowlands have saddleback carapaces, while others have dome-shaped carapaces. We visited local farms to learn about various products that come from Mother Earth, including sugarcane, coffee, cacao beans, etc. The experience was terrific, and our guests enjoyed participating in all the activities.
Later in the afternoon, we arrived at El Manzanillo Ranch to enjoy a delicious lunch in a lush area. Lots of trees and freshwater ponds allow giant tortoises to thermoregulate their bodies. Giant tortoises are exceptional creatures to watch. They move very slowly, and their heads make them look like antediluvian monsters. They have a life expectancy of up to 180 years, and they eat fruit, grass, and leaves. Females are smaller than males. The males can be humongous and weigh up to 500 pounds.
Santa Cruz is an ideal place to spot Darwin finches. It is interesting to observe the shape of their beaks and see how they differ from other species. Santa Cruz is home to at least nine different species of finches. The birds live in different microclimates and vegetation zones, from the coast to the highest elevation, which is the Crocker Volcano. This dormant volcano is 920 meters above sea level.
In the afternoon, our guests enjoyed walking through Puerto Ayora.