Location: Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Yesterday half of us went diving while the other half visited the giant tortoise park, and today we kept the same groups and swapped activities. The dive site was on the other side of the island. We waited to board our dive boat next to a line of passengers waiting for the ferry to the neighboring islands, and one among them was familiar. Billy, our guide from the Darwin Research Center! He is a venerable, understated, calm man of around 60. He has a stooped back and walks with short deliberate steps, and his skin is wrinkled (in a happy way), so we affectionately called him the tortoise. He was leaving Galapagos for a two-week cruise with National Geographic. He shook everyones hand with a smile and wished us well.
During our dive, we saw a large blacktip reef shark, and a hammerhead swimming along the sand below us. There were underwater cliffs to our left and it was very beautiful. The dive masters served us lunch in the boat and it was so satisfying having a hot meal right after getting out of the water.
The tortoise group had a fun time walking through the lava tube and hanging out with the animals. We enjoyed learning about the biology and lives of tortoises on the Galapagos, and also gained an appreciation for why they move so slowly when we got to don some old tortoise shells and try to move around wearing them (they are heavy!) We then got to walk through a lava tube that was created when the island of Santa Cruz was still active, which was a very cool and different environment to check out. Finally, we spent some time walking around the converted farmland, which is now open for tortoises to move freely. They go down to the lowlands to breed and then come back up to the highlands to enjoy the lush scenery and the food that it provides. It is amazing to think of how long some of them have been on the island – scientists don’t know exactly how long they can live, but it is believed to be over 150 years.
After some relaxing shore time where we got our final fill of shopping, smoothies and Wi-Fi, we came back to the ship and had a great Mexican dinner.
We start our big passage tomorrow!