Last night we anchored in Academy Bay, close to the island of Santa Cruz, where we were to spend our last day of activities in the Galapagos. Our landing in the morning was a dry one, onto a dock, where we were picked up by buses for a 45 minute ride to El Manzanillo Ecological Reserve. This is where we were hoping to see the Galápagos giant tortoises, which are free to roam and are not in captivity.
On our journey to the reserve we had a stop to see the “Los Gemelos” or the twins, which are two volcanic depressions formed when surface material collapsed into surface chambers. The vegetation in the craters and on the walls of the craters was extremely dense and green, very different to the habitats we have seen so far. After seeing these interesting geological features, we continued our journey to the tortoise reserve. This island had lush vegetation in comparison to the bleak landscapes we have visited, which is why I love this reserve so much.
On arrival we headed out to find tortoises and we did not have to go far to see the tortoises feeding on the lush grass that surrounds them. It was not just tortoises that were of interest to a birder like me. I saw White-cheeked Pintails, Common Moorhens, Whimbrels, Galapagos Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and a couple of Darwin’s finches. The vegetation was lush, cloud forest type vegetation, with lots of “Old Man’s Beard” or hanging lichen on the trees.
We headed back to the ship for lunch and a bit of a break before we could choose to go to El Trapiche, an age-old sugarcane mill, where we could see how they prepared sugarcane spirits and coffee, or to head into town and do some last minute shopping and visit the fish market.
A small number of our guests went to El Trapiche. Here on arrival the owner demonstrated how they squeeze out the sugarcane the traditional way, with a donkey around a pivot, which crushes the cane. Then they showed us how they prepare the sugar, and the different forms of sugar. Next came the preparation of the coffee beans and how they roast them the traditional way.
We then made our way down to the distillery, which was a very primitive system of tanks, where the sugarcane ferments and forms a rather strong liquor, their traditional “Moonshine”. Of course we had a chance to taste it, and it was pretty potent.
After an enjoyable afternoon, where we could test out their produce, we headed back to the ship, where we had a chance to freshen up before our Captain’s Farewell Toast and the showing of the second part of our voyage DVD.
Jorge Prigann, our photographer, did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of the voyage and the wonderful experiences we had.