This morning we visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz Island. This is the second largest island in the Galapagos, with the largest population and with Puerto Ayora as its main town. It also boasts the most varied of the islands’ vegetation zones including coastal, transition, scalesia, miconia and pampa.
The Charles Darwin Research Station is located a short walk from the centre of the town. It is a science organization that was initiated in 1964, working to preserve the ecosystem of the Galapagos through the conservation efforts of scientists, researchers and volunteers. It also provides a study location for international scientists and training for Naturalist Guides.
We tour the exhibition centre to see photo displays of recent volcanic eruptions, charts outlining geological formations and drawings of the evolutionary development of endemic species. The station is also a great place to observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas in captivity, brought back from the brink of extinction. Here you can see the famous Galapagos tortoise up close. A corral houses adult Galapagos tortoises and there is a nursery in which the young are cared for until around age three when their shells have hardened.
**Please note: The Charles Darwin Research Station has partially closed until December 2016. Groups affected will visit the highlands to see the giant tortoises in the wild.**
After boarding the Estrella del Mar, we sail to Bartolome to snorkel and take a scenic hike to one of the most famous view points in the Galapagos.
Here on Bartolome we have a guided tour of the dramatic volcanic features of the island, before hiking to a panoramic viewpoint. At the summit of the island you will gain an understanding of its volcanic origins and enjoy a spectacular view.
The island is famous for Pinnacle Rock, one of the most iconic rock formations in the Galapagos and an excellent spot for swimming and snorkelling. Here you may encounter Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, whitetip reef sharks and a huge variety of fish. The Galapagos penguin is the only species of penguin found north of the Equator.
We return to the Estrella del Mar for our first night on board. Carrying only 16 passengers, the Estrella is modest yet surprisingly roomy. We sail overnight to ensure that you arrive refreshed and ready to explore a new destination each day.