We had a complete change of scene today as we left the coast and the waters and drove to the highland region at the centre of Isla Santa Cruz. It was another grey day, sprinkling on & off, so the forest was definitely the place to be.
Our first port of call was a former farm turned tortoise sanctuary. Apparently the farmer was having trouble with giant tortoises eating his crops, so instead he decided to invite tourists onto the property. It seems to have been a great success judging by the number of tortoises we saw, and the restaurant and three souvenir shops. It was rather muddy but they lent us rubber boots to wear, thankfully, and we tramped around taking photos and trying to get as close as we were allowed to the tortoises. There were lots there, scattered in grassy meadows, lagoons and mud patches, and surrounded by forest. It was fun to wander amongst them, and as we had plenty of time, we had some opportunities to try different camera techniques, with tuition from Chris & Jess. Muddy but entertaining.
After lunch at the restaurant at the tortoise sanctuary we stopped to see some of the natural formations due to volcanic activity in the formation of this archipeligo. We had a brief exploration of a lava tube, but sadly the lighting in the tunnel was not working, and Veronica our guide felt it was too dangerous to go too far, even with torches. We weren't too disappointed, as there was a section where you had to crawl commando-style through a small opening, and neither Keith nor I were looking forward to that!
Instead we stopped to look at two huge craters which we had passed in the bus a few times. They were impressively large, and surrounded by wet forest which we had a walk through, practising our macro photography on moss, lichens, tiny flowers and raindrop covered spider-webs.
Back in town we had some free time, and had a last wander (since we leave Puerto Ayora tomorrow early) ending up at the small fish market. Each day the fishing boats bring their catch to be sold in the late afternoon. It is quite a tourist attraction as a couple of local sea lions (and several hungry pelicans) hang about hoping for scraps. Not a sight we are used to at home!
Dinner was another delicious affair. I don't think we have had one bad meal here. I ordered char-grilled octopus, and I have never seen so much food on one plate before! There was so much octopus they had to bring my vegetables on a different plate!! Seriously delicious though.