Today was our last full day in the Galapagos. The time has gone quickly and it is unfortunate that we didn’t have more time to spend in the archipegalo and see a few more islands. For the most part we have seen a good variety of the animals unique to Galapagos. But there are many amazing sites that we will not be able to visit.
Today we switched up our itinerary from the original. We were meant to do a tour of the local bay by boat and then see the Charles Darwin Research Centre. When we mentioned that we were interested in trying to find time to kayak, which could only be done during high tide, the concierge suggested that perhaps our guide on Thursday could take us kayaking instead of the boat tour. That sounded fabulous so we made the switch.
Today we had our guide Valetin to ourselves again. A quick water taxi ride and land taxi ride through Puerto Ayora, we were dropped off at the Charles Darwin Research Centre which is a Foundation working to breed the giant tortoises to try to increase their dwindling numbers. They are bred, incubated here, and release back into the wild/reserves when they are 3 years old. At the Santa Cruz site they breed tortoises from Santa Cruz anda few other surrounding areas. We were able to appreciate the differences of the tortoises from other islands where vegetation isn’t found at ground level: the shell gets a more saddle-shape which allows for the tortoise to reach its head up to eat. This does leave the tortoise more vulnerable to attack but there are little natural predators.
There is a taxidermy preserved tortoise called Lonesome George. He was the last known Tortoise of his variety from his island. They tried unsuccessfully for years to breed him until he died. His exact age is unknown but he was OLD. They thought that his breed had gone extinct with his death but have found hybrids of his type on another island. It is believed that they were translocated to another island by a shipwreck when they were taken as a food sources. Tortoises were common for the seamen to take onboard alive for a food source as it can take up to a year for the tortoise to starve without food or water.
There is another tortoise, Diego, at the Centre who was taken from the islands in 1890’s and eventually found himself in the San Diego Zoo. Diego has since been returned to the Galapagos and is estimated to be at least 150 years old.
After our tour, our guide left us to wander back to the port through the town. We looked at a few of the shops and bought a few souvenirs. We saw the small fish market which was fascinating by the amounts of pelicans and frigate birds who were waiting for some scraps to be tossed their way. There was also a sea lion lying across the feet of the workers patiently waiting for his or her share. In the evenings when the boats come in with their catch, there is a fish fry on the dock. Alas we aren’t going to partake on this time but I’m sure it would have been interesting.
We made our way back to the hotel and had lunch. Bryan had Red Snapper and Bethany decided to try out the burger which was surprisingly good.
After a change of clothes, it was time to meet Valetin again for the kayak excursion. The hotel has beach access and a single and double sit-on-top kayak had already been pulled out – we generally have more experience with kayaks with spray skirts so we knew it was going to be tippy. Our guide headed out with a good pace across the top of the adjacent bay. The tide was high and the route would have been impassable at other times given the reef and surf. From the far side of the bay we made our way back along the shoreline, stopping for a brief snorkel with a friendly sea lion. We did see crabs and a number of birds including some blue-footed boobies. There were some white-tipped reef sharks, turtles, and a ray of some sort that we could see breaking the surface of the water when we were back in the kayak.
On the way back to the hotel we tried to catch some of the waves and surf back. We had a couple of almost successful attempts at catching the wave but then got broadsided and were dumped into the brink. Bryan could stand in the water so he stabilized the boat while Bethany clambered back on. It was decided that Bryan could just swim from there instead of trying out his wet entry skills. It really wasn’t too far so don’t feel too badly for him.
As we were wet already we decided to take a swim in the pool. There is definitely a huge buoyancy difference between the ocean and the pool. But it is so nice not to be spitting salty water. The hotel is beautiful. It is considered to be the most ecofriendly resort in the Galapagos and is listed in the National Geographic as one of the most Unique Lodges in the world. The rooms are pleasant. The common space and poolside lovely and very clean and well-kempt. The service friendly. It is noticeably a quieter time for the hotel, which we like. And a bit cooler, which we don’t mind.
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