This morning Silver Galapagos anchored at Academy Bay which is located at the southeastern side of Santa Cruz, the second largest and the most populated in the Galapagos Islands.
From the outside deck I saw in the misty morning a bay that goes from turquoise to grey and a background of colourful houses and big clouds hiding the peak of the island.
I got closer to the edge and saw how the Brown Pelicans, juveniles as well as adults, gracefully glided very close to the surface of the water. It was time to start our excursion so we embarked onto the Zodiacs to get to the main dock of Ayora where a bus took us to the highlands.
It seemed to me like the colours got more intense with the rain, it was so green. We crossed the Dry and Transition zones of vegetation to reach the Humid one where the predominant tree is one of the best known examples of adaptive radiation; its name is Scalesia pedunculata.
We walked on a very short trail through this forest to a viewpoint of one of the two pit craters located one on each side of the main road which is the reason why they are called ‘the twins’.
Vegetation in this area was exuberant and interesting, giving a great opportunity to learn about endemics and how the presence of introduced plants -such as quinine trees, blackberries and others- is disrupting the ecosystem. The geological feature was impressive and we found some different species of Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds and other unique birds.
After the walk along the rim of ‘the twins’ we took a 15 minutes ride to the limit of the farming area and National Park on the south west of the island. This is part of the migration route of one of the two species of giant tortoises we have in Santa Cruz.
Even though the mist continued when we arrived, it did not stop us from being able to get amazing close-up pictures and learn about these huge reptiles that were all over the field by the dozens. Most of them just grazing by themselves and some of them gathering in the muddy puddles; we saw males, females as well as some young ones.
Galapagos coffee, lemon grass tea and fresh fruits from this farm were ready for us back in the restaurant area after the exploration. I returned the very useful rubber boots provided by the farmer and I got on the bus for the ride back to the dock to take the Zodiacs and return to the Silver Galapagos.
At 2:15 pm, after a delicious lunch and a power nap, I was ready for more on this last day of an experience of a lifetime in this remote place so full of wildlife.
I went for something a little different: El Trapiche, a sugarcane farm that has processed sugarcane to produce raw sugar bricks for over forty years, using the same machines and techniques from those days when a donkey was the main force of power for the manual press.
I loved the way how don Adriano and his family presented the details of how they work together in the production of the raw sugar, organic coffee and firewater. He has a funny personality and despite the barrier of language, sometimes the guests did not need the translation from the guides to laugh when he told a joke in between explanations.
After our visit we headed down to the town for some shopping and cultural encounter. I stopped by the fishermen’s market where they cleaned the fish thereby attracting sea lions, pelicans and frigatebirds. This put a great interaction of animals and humans in front of the lenses of the people passing by.
Right before taking the Zodiac back on board, I had the chance to mingle in a Christmas celebration for the kids of the town organised by the municipal authorities. Long lines of smiling children were waiting for a little toy and some candies. There was music and a lot of colour -a nice fiesta.
I got back on board tired but happy, feeling like this was a lot more than just a week or a destination.
Galapagos is an experience and every day is just so different from the others the way the islands differ one from the other –and this is one of the reasons of its deep beauty.