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8. Santa Cruz Highlands, Puerto Avora, GIANT tortoises

B4's bucket list item: Check

overcast 72 °F

Day 8, Thursday, June 23

Today’s agenda: Santa Cruz Highlands, Puerto Avora.

Last Night, we enjoyed another fine dinner in the dining room (Cruise Chef Cruz prepared her grandmother's potato soup recipe--again--at my request) with sparkling conversation and meaningful conversation and beautifully presented cuisine of chicken or lamb or snapper. Chicken.jpegLamb.jpegSnapper.jpegLeaving the dining room, we saw lights outside the window. It was a startling event because we have seen no lights outside our windows until now. It is Santa Cruz harbor where we have already arrived and dropped anchor.


Dinner was interrupted by a rare announcement from the bridge. Captain Pablo Salas (from whom we never hear and whom we never see) speaks, "This is your captain speaking. One of our crew has tested positive for COVID and is being isolated aboard ship. However, we now will wear masks and suggest social distancing aboard."

The really "good" news is that the requirement that all persons entering the United States must provide a negative COVID test was suspended just last week. No matter what happens, we won't be quarantined in Ecuador. We had earlier been advised that when we arrived in Santa Cruz we would be required to wear masks ashore because we would, finally, be interacting with human beings.

Santa Cruz: 381 square miles, population 18,000. Here is the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service headquarters along with The Tortoise Ecological Reserve. So, today is 'unusual' in that it is the 'usual' type cruise day. At 8:30 we board Zodiacs, passing many tourists charter boat options, to make a dry landing on the harbor pier, board a coach and travel to the Montemar Tortoise Reserve & Coffee Experience. En route we pass a plethora of tourist charter boat opportunities, including the site of one that sunk:


Tortoise are plant eaters and, sadly for them, can go up to a year without consuming food or water. I say "sadly" because that is what made them ideal prey for pirate ships to kidnap. They could steal them and house them aboard ship for long periods, slaughtering them for food and water when needed later during their voyage (there is a liter of fresh water in a sac surrounding their heart). As a result, tortoise kleptomania was rampant. Naturalist Jason Heilmann, a thirty-year resident of these islands, is our guide who takes us to a "Turtle Crossing" bonanza.


Beryl and I are crossing another bucket list item off our list. There are a dozen or more giant tortoise here. Some are snoozing, one is drinking, a couple are prowling and one is stalked by "Beryl The Tortoise Hunter." The can't see very well but their sense of smell is excellent. Large males can weight up to 700 pounds. They can live to be 190 years old. You can tell males from females by the length of their tails--males are longer because that's where their sperm resides. Male's bottom shells are concave to facilitate tortoise coitus. My suspicion is that a male chasing a female for sex would take one heck of a lot more time than would the act itself. How much more would you like to know?b7998a10-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGb9e5eb10-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGbaace490-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGb9ed8c30-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGbb8961e0-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGbba01e30-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGbe251b60-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGb1392770-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGA Monarch butterfly supervises our experience.


It appears to us--and to many others--that Steven Speilberg's ET, the Extra Terrestrial, may have been modeled on these guys. What do you think? Both were extreme introverts. Check. Both had necks that could extend to extreme lengths. Check. Both had two holes for nostrils. Check. Both sported rugged skin. Check. Yeah, we think ET may have been descended from these guys. Who's to say otherwise?

Coffee grows on bushes and avocados grow on giant trees. We then adjourn to the coffee and chocolate exhibition, tasting both--but our pallets are not as sensitive as some others--before we return to the "bus" and then to Sea Origin.

As we walk the dock we see a small shark to one side and a sea turtle on the other.68d136f0-f344-11ec-bd9c-55ee1f03c5d0.jpg

We are back by noon for lunch aboard Silver Origin. d45cfc50-f336-11ec-87ee-c100e87c74d9.jpgWe were to go back ashore for a visit to the Fausto Llerena Breeding, Interpretation Center & then on to town: Puerto Ayora. Giant Tortoise hatchlings are the draw. Jason indicates they aren't that much of a draw. Human encroachment is in evidence by art galleries and even cafes that comprise a small town here. By the way, to qualify as an official 'town' in the Galapagos, two things are necessary, a church and a football pitch. I don't think we would make it living in a town here for more than a week, maybe less. Even Amazon Prime can't get here overnight. Those aren't that much of a draw either. But, after seeing giants tortoise, we are less interested in seeing little tortoise and it is misting so we would get damp to wet and we have no interest in shopping. We stay aboard Silver Origin to relax. Exhibition cruising is not for relaxing; you have to grab it while you can.

Tonight, after the 6:00pm cocktails and the 6:45pm lecture (various topics--all fine--this one entitled "Changing the paradigm at the nick of time: Conservation") and the 7:15 "briefing"

where expedition leader Paulina tells us about the next days agenda, there is a 7:30 Cocktail Reception for only Silversea Venetian Society Guests (their frequent flyer program). That's us. Hosted by Captain Salas and Hotel Director Juan Altamirano, it is held at the Explorer Lounge Outdoor Area on Deck 4, directly below our Suite.

Then, dinner. The choice is topside or dining room. We've done both and find them equally impressive. The food is very good, presentation excellent, portions small as we prefer. There is no meat to speak of because of restrictions of importing it onto the islands. In fact, meat has to be pre-cooked to be brought into the islands. A lot of sous vide going on in preparation. There is chicken, lamb, pork and lots of fresh fish. Chef prefers to source locally both for freshness and to support the local economy. Service is warm and friendly and swift. When we, at the last minute, wanted a table for twelve, the accommodated us within five minutes of the request being made.

We're tired. But we aren't moving as slow as are some. That's All Folks.

Posted by paulej4 00:37 Archived in Ecuador

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Tortoise Coitus! Food and Services exemplify perfection!

by Chuckt

Finally figured out how to comment on the blog-Interesting info re the tortoise. Looked like B was intently and tentatively following but had NO intention of catching up Very cool experience. Now you've swum with the dolphins, trekked with the gorillas and trailed the tortoise. You're having fun, I'm having fun, it's all good.

Bummer about covid, seems no ship goes unscathed. Stay healthy and continue your wonderful journey.

by suzi stoller

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