We had choppy conditions in Academy Bay for our landing on Santa Cruz Island. Despite the threat of rain, we arrived dry and early at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, we learned about giant tortoise conservation efforts. This process includes breeding the tortoises in captivity (from mating to incubation), rearing them until they reach a rat-proof size, and then transporting them by helicopter to their destination.

After a short bus ride, we reached Finca Ochoa where a local farmer and his family are growing organic vegetables in the most sustainable way possible. Have you ever eaten arugula freshly plucked from its hydroponic bed? You should all give it a try!

Next, we recharged our batteries at Manzanillo restaurant, where we dined surrounded by wise-looking ancient giant tortoises. After a great lunch, it was time to put on rubber boots to explore the tall grass. Did we see any tortoises? Quite a few! From young juveniles no bigger than a motorcycle helmet to 500-pound monsters. We even heard the vocalization males make while mating--so something private was unfolding somewhere!