After bidding a fond farewell to Isabela, we board a fast boat for a scenic ride to Santa Cruz Island. After we arrive, we head to El Chato reserve in the Santa Cruz highlands, home to several subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoise. Hiking through El Chato’s beautiful highland scenery with these lumbering giants is an unforgettable experience. As we hike, we see other highland wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, and finches. We’ll also visit a freshwater lake where frigate birds gather to wash the salt off their feathers.
Our next stop is a group of massive volcanic tunnels that were created by underground lava flows. According to legend, pirates once used these tunnels to hide from pursuing Spanish ships and stash plundered Inca gold. After walking through these fascinating geological formations and reliving some pirate stories, we continue to Los Gemelos, a pair of volcanic sinkholes near the top of the island. Los Gemelos are covered with a beautiful endemic Scalesia forest. As we hike through this unique environment, we keep an eye out for the elusive short-eared owl and other endemic wildlife.
If there is enough time we may visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where local scientists rear endemic animal and plant species for educational scientific, and conservation purposes. Here we´ll learn about the ongoing conservation efforts to protect the future of the Galapagos. Dine on our own at any of Puerto Ayora’s many outstanding restaurants. (B, L, -)