Today we woke anchored in Academy Bay with the sight of Puerto Ayora in the distance, a beautiful and busy town. This island has the largest population of giant tortoises and also the biggest human settlement of the islands. Our first visit of the day was to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we went to the breeding center of the giant tortoises, the most iconic project of the national park. Here we found mating tortoises, eggs, and baby giants, and we learned all about the station’s work and the other conservation projects on the islands. Walking through town, we got to see local life unfolding, including the fishermen’s market where sea lions and pelicans waited for some leftovers. Then we visited the highlands of Santa Cruz. On the way, we stopped at a small farm that sold coffee, sugarcane, and exotic fruits. We watched how “panela,” a local sweetener, is made. We also observed the process of roasting coffee and even got to taste the local moonshine, which was really strong. The best part of the day was yet to come: seeing giant tortoises in the wild! At “El Manzanillo Ranch,” we had lunch as tortoises roamed freely. We changed into rubber boots and went to get a close look of these gentle giants.
National Geographic Endeavour II