Not ready to leave the Anahi, I do believe we should have taken the 15 day trip! Up early and we bring our airport bags down to the main deck. The crew takes the bags and leaves us with just our backpacks for the days adventure. We take our last trip in the panga to the boat dock at Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz island. Part of our group had stayed on this island before the cruise and some were staying here tonight.
The facility has many areas of study but we were focusing on the Giant Tortoise Restoration Program area. Lonesome George was the mascot of this facility. Lonesome George died in 2012 but his fame has helped to keep and expand the tortoise breeding programs. There are over a dozen types of tortoises in the Galapagos and the most defining feature is the rise in the carapace which determines how far they can raise their head to reach for food. You will notice differences in the pictures below.
After about an hour at the Charles Darwin Research Center we took a long bus ride to the highland area of Santa Cruz. We went to Rancho Manzanillo. This part of the island was much more wooded. Not trees like you would see in the mountains of the Hawaiian Islands, but small diameter and shorter trees. Here was a large tortoise reserve and it had quite a nice facility to greet guests and serve lunch. They allowed us to walk quite a bit of the reserve.
This place is set up for large groups but don’t let that stop you from going and wandering the large grounds where the tortoises can live freely in an environment that offers them everything they need.
We enjoyed walking this area and seeing the tortoises in a more natural habitat than at the Charles Darwin Station.
Next, it was back onto the bus and finding out how we would get to Baltra Island and the airport. We found this very interesting, particularly if we were to come back and stay on one of the islands. I posted the instructions that were on the wall at the airport at the start of the blog. But since we were being escorted, I really didn’t pay close attention. However, after understanding that you must have a boat pick you up to get to any land accommodations from the airport, I was now much more interested.
The bus took us down a narrow two lane road, with many taxis and buses parked hugging the side of the road. Obviously, they were waiting for a ferry to arrive and pick up passengers. This was the ferry we would take. We departed the bus and walked to the ferry landing. There, we noticed our luggage being put on top of a small passenger boat, which we found out was the ferry.
All went well. It seems that we were picked up almost at the same location that the pangas picked us up to get on the Anahi. At the other side was a bus that took everyone to the airport. We had a couple of hours before our flight to Quito, Ecuador. The Galapagos Airport had a large shopping mall of stalls and a few take out restaurants to pass the time.
We had booked ourselves from the Galapagos to Quito to Atlanta to San Francisco with about 3 hours between flights which was not smart. If we had to do again we would have done something different. Staying in Quito was not appealing since the only flight out was very early in the morning, 5:30 AM. If we could have found a later flight that would have been best. Alternatively, we arrived in Atlanta at 8:30 am in the morning and maybe should have just spent the day and night at an airport hotel and fly home the next day. But we made it. We have done worse! Somehow, leaving SFO at 7 am to Atlanta, GA then to Lima, Peru did not seem near as bad as the flights home. But we did pick up a bug the last day of the cruise and I’m sure that didn’t help our flights!
Overall, an amazing trip. Peru and the Galapagos Islands exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend doing this trip whenever you can! One more post to follow, it will showcase the beautiful pictures from Andres Moreano.