The island of Santa Cruz was the first island we visited in the Archipelago. It contains the main airport at Baltra, which used to be a U.S. Navy base during WW-II. It was turned over to Ecuador after the war.
One of the first stops on our tour was the Darwin research center. This was actually the most disappointing part of the trip for me. There really wasn't much to see here except a few pens where the young tortoises are raised, and a larger area where you could walk among the mature big tortoises. The scientists here raise young turtles in a safe setting until around 4 years of age when they are safe from cats, dogs, and other predators. Then, they are released back on the islands. People wanting exotic pets are willing to pay up to $20,000 on the black market for one of the young animals.
Here is a shot of one of the pens where small 1-year old tortoises are housed. When they reach 4-years of age, they are nearly a foot in diameter. Our guide "Lobo" is seen in the foreground. The scientists in the background are measuring the progress of the animals.
This is the "Zoo" portion of the park. The animals here are all around 80 years old or more. Most of them are stressed and unhealthy from the constant contact with tourists. The research center acknowleges that they are "sacrificing" these animals for the greater good. The tourist draw helps them raise the cash they need to run the conservation activities. It's sad to see the animals used this way, but it's a necessary evil. Poaching has reduced the tortoise population from over 300,000 to around 15,000 today.
Cut meat into chunks. Coat with flour and brown in butter. Place in stock pot with water. Add the vegetables and herbs, and salt and pepper. Simmer gently for five hours. To serve, pour into a tureen with the sherry and garnish with sliced eggs.
Feeds 1 battalion.
Here are a few tortoises we saw in the wild. They looked much healthier in their natural environment.
Tortoises are land animals and prefer the highlands on the islands. They travel to the lower altitudes to seek mates.
The Galapagos islands are volcanic and contain many lava tubes formed during cooling of the hot magma. This one stretches for miles and ends at the sea. We were able to walk into it several hunderd meters before it narrowed too much (and the lights ran out).
Here we are at a cliff overlooking what appears to be a sink hole. Kelly and I are accompanied by our guide (center) and a friend from the cruise (Robert Rosenfeld)
Kelly in the lounge area of the M/V Santa Cruz.
Joe, Kelly, Nanci Schrieber-Smith, Stephen Smith, Bob Rosenfeld.
Kelly on the sun deck of the M/V Santa Cruz
Our chef was very creative and provided excellent presentation of the food.
Here's a shot of the dining room.