Aura Banda - Among the naturalists on board, Aura has the distinction of being born to one of Floreana Island's first colonizing families. Clearly, she absorbed a lot of knowledge during the time she spent on the islands during her childhood. Aura is also an expert photographer, providing many helpful suggestions and spearheading the collection and creation of a Quicktime movie featuring photos taken by the guests on board. Thank you, Aura!
Giant tortoise - The tortoises can be divided into two groups: the smaller saddleback, which live on low islands, and the larger dome-shaped that live on the larger islands with moist highlands.
Las Islas Encantadas - Back in the 1500's Spanish soldiers referred to the Galapagos by this name, which means "bewitched" or "enchanted." It is thought that this refers to the other worldly appearance of the volcanic lands and their inhabitants in the mist. This name was further popularized by Herman Melville in his short story, The Encantadas.
Day 4 - Santa Cruz, including the Charles Darwin Station
Day 4 dawned with our ship anchored in the harbor at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island where many of the Islander's crew have homes. No trip to the Galapagos is complete without a trip to the Charles Darwin Research Station to view the giant tortoises, icons of the Galapagos.
Below is a brief slideshow of our visit to the center, including photos of "Lonesome George," the last surviving giant tortoise of his species, from the island of Pinta.
The Center operates a successful breeding and release program to ensure that the giant tortoises will survive for future generations.
Leaving the Darwin Center we wandered through the town, past a statue of Darwin and the local fish market (with a patient sea lion). We then boarded coaches to take us to a farm in the Highlands. On the way, we stopped to visit a local family who made a potent liquor from distilled sugar cane.
Arriving at the highlands farm, we were offered the opportunity to walk through a 1/4 mile long lava tunnel. Who can resist? We had packed flashlights just for this purpose and they came in handy. The lava tunnel conveniently ended at the dining pavilion where lunch was served.
After lunch we were offered the option of returning to the ship, or visiting a nearby farm to try to locate giant tortoises who might be migrating across the property. We were tired, more than a little hot, and there was a threat of rain so we opted to go back to the ship - bad choice as it turns out. The "tortoise searchers" had no rain and saw 4 (or 5?) giant tortoises! There was apparently a very funny encounter between one of the tortoises and Steve Ewing, the videographer. The tortoise mistook Steve and his equipment for another tortoise; the tortoise extended his neck out far to "challenge" Steve. This event was all captured on the Expedition's video chronicle.
Keep reading about our explorations on Day 5...