Of all the days, this for me was the least enjoyable, mainly because we were back in civilization (although it was nice to have network and send a few pics to family) and because the constant information from the guides was wearing thin. All of the information was interesting, but I felt (and later gave this feedback) that we weren’t given enough time to simply quietly enjoy being close to the incredible animals. I am interested in the breeding habits of, for example, the land iguana, or the feeding habits of the red footed booby – but I also want the opportunity to simply be alongside them. I had started to rebel (as had others) and hang back from the group so that I could simply enjoy observing the creatures in peace. Lauren, naturally more sociable, stayed with the group, talking up a storm with the guides and asking a million questions, all of which were graciously answered by Malena and David.
Anyway, we disembarked at the pier in Santa Cruz – into a proper town with cafes, bars, shops, ATMS etc and took a short bus ride to the Santa Cruz breeding centre. This felt a bit like a repeat of the first day, but far busier, and I got a bit frustrated. Things livened up a bit when two of the giant tortoises decided they’d better prove they were doing their job (it is a breeding centre after all) and we got ringside seats for ‘tortoise pay-per-view’….. it did look hard work…
After the breeding centre, we trooped back on the bus and visited the highlands, where we visited some ‘lava tunnels’ made when the lava on top solidifies but that underneath keeps moving, where we were lucky enough to see a nesting barn owl. This was interesting but felt a bit like filling.
Then we visited a farm that had tortoises just wandering around – the tortoises don’t belong to the farms, and can wander freely, but basically just stay put where there is lots of food and water. It was nice to see them, clearly happy and co-existing with humans, and in my rebellious mood I hung back for ages after the group had moved on, and just enjoyed sitting close by while they munched on the grass.
At the farm cafe they had some shells of tortoises that had died. Lauren was encouraged by one of the guides to get in and demonstrate the relative size… this was a medium sized shell…
After this we returned to the boat for lunch, then headed back into town to ‘contribute to the local economy’. Lauren got a couple of very cool t-shirts, and we bought one for her cousin too, although trying to guess his size after nearly a year apart and knowing he wouldn’t get it for another few months was interesting… We stopped for ice cream and had a pleasant enough time wandering around town, observing island life.
Back on board it was time to pack and agonize over how much tips to leave before enjoying a farewell glass of champagne with the crew. We thanked each in turn, and they had been truly extraordinary, from the guys in the very hot kitchen preparing three meals and two hot snacks (plus gluten free and vegetarian options!) a day, to Sr Luis the barman/server, to Claudia who not only kept all the cabins spotless despite 3 or 4 quick turnarounds a day but also washed us down assiduously every time we returned (to keep the boat clean but also for environmental reasons to avoid taking organic material from one island to another) and helped everyone on and off the pangas and gave us chocolates every night and even sailed the boat at times, to the captain and first mate who sailed through the night to get us where we needed to be, to the panga drivers who not only got us from A to B but made sure we de-fogged masks before getting in the water, drove alongside us while in the water, and helped us in and out.
And of course the two naturalists, always willing to answer questions and working from before we get up until they finally got rid of us at night.
All these guys work hard. Often on back to back trips for weeks, away from family and mostly away from any form of communication.