travelling the seven parts of the world
Mar 30th, 2008

Day 4: Santa Cruz

Our last full day on the islands was spent on Santa Cruz. In the morning we got out in Ayora Port, the largest town in Galapagos, where we visited the Darwin Scientific Research Station.

The people who work in the Research Station don't actually do any research, they don't have enough money to do so. All research is done by visiting scientists who are on someone else's payroll. They do, however, have conservation projects, and they have managed to breed some species of tortoises back from near extinction (from 15 tortoises, they managed to breed about 1200, who are now reproducing successfully in the real world).

These are some of the small tortoises they are breeding:

One of the saddest stories is that of Lonely George, the last surviving tortoise of Pinta island and of his species. There are no females left for George, and he will not breed with females of other species. What a crappy life that must be. If you manage to find a female George will mate with, the research station will give you $10,000.

Adult tortoises that have been taken to the station to enable breeding programs cannot, unlike the small babies, be returned to the real world once the species is saved, which means that there are lots of adult tortoises just hanging around the station, eating, walking up and down stairs, and just hanging around with each other.

For the second part of the day, we took a bus up the highlands. It was raining at the start, and pretty wet for the whole time, but it was great. The tortoises were everywhere.

We also visited a lava tunnel. When a volcano erupts, the lava that is flowing downwards solidifies on the top, because the temperature on the top is smaller. The lava below this however, keeps on flowing. If it all managed to flow away, it will leave behind a large tunnel.