Docking at Puerto Ayora, the boat dropped off passengers and picked up some new passengers for the rest of the cruise. For us, it was a big waste of time as we spent the day mostly in the mainland of Santa Cruz doing some very uninteresting things we could’ve done ourselves!
We visited the Charles Darwin Station, an animal refuge centre mostly there to protect the baby giant tortoises from each individual island. Since Lonesome George died last year as the sole giant tortoise of this subspecies from the small Pinta Island, the world has lost one more species of animal. The refuge here raises the baby tortoises until they reach 7 years of age, and then are let loose into the wild. Without this, the eggs won’t make it out of the ground before rats, dogs or boars eat them. An unfortunate reality, showing us the consequences of introducing foreign species into ecosystems, and pretty much the byproduct of humans. There are some stories of conservation and how the agencies try to save these animals from extinction. Apparently at one of these islands, only 2 males and 14 females remained and now all the turtles on that island (after the repopulation program) are children of those 2 males!
The rest of the morning was spent lazing around at an ice cream shop before our afternoon excursion of… seeing giant tortoises in a reserve outside of town! It was a great tortoises day, and seeing these guys is really cool just to marvel at their age, their horrible ability to sense danger, and the amazing way these animals live. We found out the reason they make this funny “Uhhhh” sound when they hide into their shell is because they have massive lungs, so when they sense danger they let out the air in their lungs to give their head more space to slide inside!!
Then we walked/crawled through a lava tunnel, a naturally occurring phenomenon due to lava flow cooling at the surface but still flowing freely underneath, resulting in these really cool tunnels. Actually, they’re cool in theory but seeing them is rather unimpressive, and we made the mistake of carrying a backpack + DSLR into one…. guess we expected a dark, wet and damp underground tunnel to have more than just empty space?
The weather was great in the morning, but once we finished our tours it started pouring rain, and we got soaked running around the town trying to find some Pringles. Alan also got electrocuted when trying to open the ice-cream freezer at a convenience store!! Yayyy, shoddy appliances.
Today is also the last day of Carnivale in Puerto Ayora, and the crewmembers all seem very eager to go to shore and join the party. We’re rather content at staying on the boat to avoid the massive water/chalk/canned bubbles fight in the town.