Traveling among the isolated and remote islands of Galapagos, one begins to wonder if man inhabits any of these islands. But there is such a place, a change of pace from the natural world that nearly all the ship’s itineraries include. Located on Santa Cruz Island is Puerto Ayora. With a population of about 12,000 residents this town supports the tourism trade by providing cruise ships labor and supplies.
With an early start, we loaded onto our pangas and entered in the turquoise waters of Academy Bay. Brightly colored water taxis awaited for a day of business with Great Egrets and Magnificent Frigate birds flying overhead.
It was to be a fun filled morning, beginning first at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS). Located on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, CDRS was established in 1959 and is vital to biological research and conservation of the Galapagos Islands and their wildlife.
We were here to visit the Galapagos Tortoises and to learn more about their conservation efforts. Walking up the cobblestone road, Yellow Warblers and Cactus Finches fluttered about. We arrived to the station and took a brief stop for regrouping before we entered into the center. Seems the most customers that were at the refreshment stand were of the feathered friends kind.
We were in luck today as it happened to be one of the rare days that they feed the Tortoises. Fed only twice a week of a diet of peeled Elephant Ears, one anxiously awaited at the gate knowing that soon lunch would be served. Let me introduce you to Diego, a Tortoise from Espanola Island.
So let’s talk about Super Diego. Diego was one of 13 Espanola Island tortoises that were sent to the San Diego Zoo back in the 1930’s. Rediscovered in 1977, Diego was the last alive and was returned to the Galapagos Islands. Seems Diego is one hardy and busy Tortoise. Since his return, he has fathered over 1,700 babies and I can attest to his strength as I watched him chase a girl shortly after lunchtime.
Let’s take a pause and go live and enjoy the feeding of the Galapagos Tortoises at the Charles Darwin Station.
Evolutionary changes can be seen among the tortoises cared for at the Charles Darwin Station. Based on the environmental conditions and the vegetation available for nutrition, the tortoise’s size and shell adapt. This one has had to reach up high to eat cactus and trees as there was no low growing vegetation available.
There were many things to see within the Research Station, and I could have spent all day exploring and photographing these magnificent tortoises. Even if I found them a bit of a messy eater.