Ecuador

Travel Journal (9/12/2018): Back to Santa Cruz Island

We have had some incredible luck with weather on this trip, but today that luck ran out to an extent. We were scheduled to begin our tours at 8am this morning, with stops at the Charles Darwin Research Center in the morning and trips to the Santa Cruz highlands and a snorkeling adventure in the afternoon.

We have noticed that at this time of year, which is winter in the Galapagos, it tends to rain in the morning and then clear up by afternoon. However, today the rain came in the afternoon instead of the morning. It wasn’t a hard rain, but it was raining hard enough to require rain jackets and rain sleeves for cameras.

The Charles Darwin Research Facility was amazing. We got to learn a lot about the ecology of the island and the efforts to protect this fragile and important ecosystem. We learned about some of the successes, such as introducing lady bugs to control invasive and damaging insect populations, but we also learned about some of the islands biggest failures.

Arguably the biggest failure is the extinction of a number of the sub-species of Giant Tortoises that inhabit the island. Long ago, when man introduced goats and other livestock onto the island, the livestock ravaged the natural food sources for the tortoises. As a result, some of sub-species of Giant Tortoises went extinct.

We got see see how the researchers are working to prevent any of the other sub-species from going extinct by using breeding programs. We got to see many of the baby and adolescent tortoises that are part of these programs. We also learned about how the tortoises are bred and then released back to the island their eggs came from. Various islands have different sub-species of the tortoises just like Darwin discovered with the finches he studied. It was really fascinating stuff.

In the afternoon, some of us traveled to the highlands of Santa Cruz island to see some amazing lava tunnels you can walk thru, as well as the Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat. Meanwhile, others went on another snorkeling adventure. The weather that Santa Cruz Island got in the afternoon made the ocean choppy, so snorkeling was difficult and not much was seen on this trip.

Tomorrow we get up early to head back to Baltra Island and the airport. We will be flying back to Quito for a day before continuing on back home.

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