Thursday, October 29, 2009

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the most populated of the Galapagos Islands. It is also the most visited, being the place where most tourists start and end their cruises. For this reason, it has a well-established tourist infrastructure. Despite this it is still possible to see many endemic and native species even in and around the town of Puerto Ayora.

Lava Tunnels
These tunnels form when the top of a lava flow cools and hardens while inside the molten lava continues to flow, eventually leaving a empty tube. There are several of these throughout the Galapagos, but at 800m long, Santa Cruz's "Tunnels of Love" are some of the largest in the world.

Inside of a giant tortoise shell

Fish Market

Tortuga Bay Beach

Las Grietas

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charles Darwin Research Station, Isla Santa Cruz

Our last morning onboard

One of the Giant Saddlebacks for which the islands were named. "Galapagos" means "saddle".

Lonesome George, the very last of his kind and a cautionary tale if there ever was one. Despite over 30 years of attempting to breed him with the most closely related subspecies from other islands George just isn't interested... can you really blame him? If you believe the genetic studies which suggest that humans share approximately 98.5% of genetic material with chimpanzees then it is really no wonder that George does not feel any attraction to his two female pen mates who only share 90% of the same genetic material. Stay tuned though because one of George's pen mates unexpectedly layed some eggs in July and now scientist are eagerly waiting to see if they will prove to be fertile. After 30 years has George decided to put aside social taboos and find his inner mojo?

The babies:

Lava lizard (they are everywhere)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Floreana Island

Post Office Bay

Mailing our post-cards in the barrel. It used to be used by pirates and sailors who would leave letters to be picked up by anyone heading in the right direction, but now it is used by tourists. You look through the barrel for letters addressed to a place you are going, and then you are supposed to hand deliver them.

Floreana is actually one of the inhabited islands, though it is only sparsely inhabited (population about 100). It was one of the first of the Galapagos Islands to be settled. Its natural flora and fauna have been all but wiped out from the introduction of rats, cats, fireants, and other introduced animals and plants. It was also home to a Norwegian fish canning plant built by some of the first settlers just after WW1. In the 1930s a number of German settlers arrived, whose descendants are living there today. There are still birds and other animals here, but we did not notice nearly as many as on the other islands.

Cormorant Point

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The very green sand

our yacht tour group

Devil's Crown

Some of our best snorkeling was around this reef, where we swam with white-tipped sharks, sea lions, giant puffer fish, and an abundance of other colourful fish. Unfortunately our underwater camera bag had difficulty doing it all justice.

The inside of our yacht