SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
puerto AYORA, DARWIN RESEARCH CENTER
It was another dry landing this morning at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. It is home of the Charles Darwin Foundation which was established to ensure the conversation of the Galapagos. In 1992, the waters surrounding the Galapagos were declared a marine reserve. It was a short bus ride up to the Charles Darwin Station where the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center is located.
Before you visit, a good thing to remember is that it is an operating research station which houses volunteers and researchers that are dedicated to preserving the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. Several in our group complained because it was not exactly beautiful or didn't have the perfect layout offering the typical touristy things. This place is not designed with the tourist in mind. If you are expecting Disneyland, you might want to skip this.
Otherwise, it is wonderful. You can view the Giant Tortoises and Iguana doing their thing. Just relax and enjoy!
PUERTO AYORA, DOWNTOWN FISH MARKET
Here are a few things that don't mix well: Sweltering outside temperatures, fish, flies, pelicans and humans. Nonetheless we made our way over to the famous Fish Market on the pier to watch as the sea lions anxiously waited to gobble down anything that happened to fall off the cutting board and squawking like crazy when they weren't happy. The pelicans were much more aggressive and would swoop in to try and carry something away but generally just got swatted by someone cutting fish. The flies got a swat or two but that really seemed like a lost cause. Then there was the oppressive heat along with the smell.
Several in our group just couldn't take the combination even for the most interesting photo opportunity. Green at the gills as it were. What a fiasco! ;-)
Scalesia planting in the highlands, santa cruz island
A bus picked us up in town and took us up and into the Highlands on Santa Cruz Island so that we could participate in a conservation project in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island by having each of us plant a Scalesia tree.
First a little background, Scalesia Trees (sometimes called Daisy Trees because they produce a small, white flower near the ends of the branches) are actually members of the dandelion or sunflower family. They are peculiar to the Galapagos and grow in all parts of the islands. The 'sunflower tree' forests of the larger and higher islands are among the most distinctive biological features of the archipelago. There are three tree species forming compact woodlands, most of which have straight trunks and dome-shaped or rounded canopies of foliage. The largest of the tree species, Scalesia pedunculata. grows in the highlands of San Cristobal. Santa Cruz.
A gentleman and his son met us at the trail head and helped us put on rubber boots, gave us our seedling and a spade along with a numbered tag. The ground was wet and slippery so we walked slowly one by one up the trail to slope where we would be planting. All in all, a worthwhile venture but not comfortable at all. One of our friends' boots was filled with ants so although he was good-natured he was bitten by the ants and was not happy by the end of the expedition.
But wait, there's more!
Michael and I travel mostly because we like learning and experiencing new things, seeing new places and learning about different cultures and food that only comes from getting out and about in the world.