Day 5

This morning we anchor in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz Island. After breakfast we board our panga for a short ride across the bay to a dock where we disembark (taking care as these landings can sometimes be slippery). Here we walk a short distance to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where we learn about the threats that exist to the islands' wildlife and the conservation efforts to protect the islands. We watch both hatchling and young Galápagos tortoises in the baby tortoise house. Here the young tortoises are raised until they are large enough to survive on their own. We also watch the adults of several of the remaining 11 subspecies that are found on the islands including world-renowned Lonesome George. One of the highlights at the research station is spending time in the bachelor pad where 4 or 5 solitary males pass their days, quietly munching on greens and greeting visitors. These lumbering vegetarians are very impressive. A full grown adult can weigh up to 550 pounds, and we can see just how large they are as we approach them to within a couple of feet! Afterwards, we walk about a mile into Puerto Ayora where we have the chance to shop for T-shirts and other souvenirs. Afterwards, we board a private bus to drive to the Santa Cruz Highlands where we find ourselves in the beautiful, lush vegetation zone found only on the largest islands. Along the way we learn about plants of the islands. The flora continually changes as we pass through the archipelago’s six kown vegetation zones. We have lunch in a local restaurant and then visit the largest lava tubes in the park. We stop to admire the pair of pit craters called Los Gemelos and hike along a short trail here to observe several species of birds including vermilion flycatchers, Darwin's finches and possibly a short-eared owl. We return to the yacht for dinner and our lecture in the late afternoon.



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