Our destination today was the Charles Darwin Research Station at Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the archipelago. On our way to the rearing center for giant tortoises, we walked through a very green area full of vegetation — such as the gigantic prickly pear cactus, with a trunk like a tree.

At the Research Station we saw first-hand the work that has made this center so successful. We had the chance to observe giant tortoises and their babies up close; we also saw the taxidermy of famous tortoise Lonesome George. The tortoises made an impressive display for us, with many saddlebacks fighting and walking all over the compound.

Later in the morning, we took buses into the highlands of Santa Cruz for lunch. We had several options for sites to visit, including a hydroponic farm, a local school, and a farm where sugar cane is harvested and converted into products like juice, molasses, and rum. At the sugar cane farm we also observed local organic coffee production; how it is harvested, dried, roasted, and ground. We had a tasting of the local products; some guests had coffee but many had rum….

We enjoyed a well-deserved tasty meal at a restaurant located about 900 feet elevation. Many guests continued exploring the area among Geochelone porteri, Santa Cruz Island’s endemic species of giant tortoise —today we were lucky to observe them mating. We had a great time walking and seeing these animals in their natural habitat. Some we saw were over 400 pounds with majestic unique shells, simply staring at us or just feeding on the grass.

Some guests relaxed a while longer with a cool drink in the town of Puerto Ayora, and eventually we all made our way back on board the ship. Today’s visit was outstanding, and our expedition is about to reach its peak. We are already a big family bonded by the mystical magic called the Galápagos Islands.