We awoke to find National Geographic Islander peacefully anchored in the crowded harbor of Academy Bay, of Santa Cruz Island. The bustling town of Puerto Ayora with some 20,000 inhabitants was well awake by the time we disembarked at 8:00 a.m., taking buses to the east end of town. We walked about a half-mile to the headquarters of the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and the national park. Our naturalists Cindy, Gianna, and Ixora explained about the successful breeding program for endangered species of giant tortoises and we photographed Super Diego, a tortoise from Española Island who has been an excellent breeder. We learned that from a dangerously small total population of 15 adult tortoises which were brought into captivity so they could find one another to mate, there are now over 2,000 tortoises again in the wild on Española.
In the late morning, we visited the lush highlands of Santa Cruz. Some of us stopped to visit a charming school, Tomas de Berlanga, with outdoor classrooms. We descended into a lava tunnel, sampled coffee, moonshine and sugar cane juice at El Trapiche farm and then all gathered for lunch. At Rancho Manzanillo we enjoyed a bountiful buffet meal and then walked among and photographed giant tortoises. Tortoises were soaking in a pond, others rested, or slowly walked, fed on the short green grasses and went about their unconcerned lives.
Back on the ship in the evening, the talented musicians and dancers of the local band EcoArte preformed and we joined in with enthusiastic dancing! What an interesting and fun day we have had in the magical islas encantadas of Galapagos!