Most of the people on the boat left on the fifth day. The boat had come in to Puerto Ayora harbour the night before, giving everybody the opportunity to get back on line and/or to go into town for a sneaky pint. We all went back into town early in the morning to see the Charles Darwin Research Station (definitely worth seeing, but not life-changing) , after which we had a couple more hours to kill in town before going back on the boat. After lunch with most of the new arrivals, we went back on shore for a bus trip to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild, with a detour to pick up two stragglers whose plane had landed late.
Tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station; locals at the Puerto Ayora fish market
Puerto Ayora is very small: we walked around most of the town in half an hour. It was good to get off the boat and have some quiet time, as well as to go and buy some micropore tape to wrap up my toes so that the snorkel fins wouldn't chafe. The fish market is tiny - only a few stalls - and has dozens of pelicans patiently waiting for some fish guts to be tossed their way. I kept a distance, waiting for the moment when they all pounced on the massively outnumbered fishmongers, but they seemed to be playing the long game.
Wild tortoises in the Santa Cruz highlands
Galápagos tortoises come in two main varieties. Large tortoises with domed shells and short necks live in humid uplands; whereas in dry lowlands they have longer necks and a raised arch at the front of the shell, so that they can reach higher up to eat leaves and cacti. Fifteen varieties have been identified, with only eleven surviving. Different 'species' have interbred in zoos and produced fertile offspring, so there are probably fewer true species.
Charles Darwin is mentioned everywhere on the islands, almost as often as it's possible to buy T-shirts making jokes about boobies, but it's interesting how little he writes about them. On the Origin of Species mentions the Galápagos on only five pages. The Voyage of the Beagle does have a full chapter on the islands (albeit only slightly longer than the one on Tierra del Fuego), where Darwin sets down a lot of detail, and passes on some interesting facts* and opinions†. He also berates himself for not keeping better records, only recording which island a specimen was taken from after being told that it makes an important difference.
* "The tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked" than those from Charles and Hood Islands. (Santiago, Floreana, and Española, respectively). Despite this, single ships apparently used to take away as many as seven hundred Floreana tortoises (now extinct) at once.
† Tortoise "breast-plate roasted... with the flesh on it is very good, and the young tortoises make excellent soup, but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent". The marine iguana "is a hideous-looking creature, of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish in its movements". He didn't like the land iguanas much either, calling them "ugly animals" with a "singularly stupid appearance". When cooked, they "yield a white meat, which is liked by those whose stomachs soar above all prejudices". It's not quite clear to me what he means by that, but he has some rather delightful turns of phrase. It's particularly gratifying to see 'batrachian' used when it has nothing to do with HP Lovecraft parodies, for one.