GUEST POST by Cate Twinning-Ward, Planet Forward

We began the day with a calming morning as National Geographic Endeavour II approached Santa Cruz—the most highly populated island of the archipelago. After breakfast, with the sun bright in the sky, groups embarked on their respective Zodiacs and headed towards the island. The waves were bigger than previous Zodiac outings, which made for an exciting ride.

Once on dry land we climbed aboard buses, which guided us into the highlands of Santa Cruz. As we gained elevation, the landscape shifted dramatically, from a dry forest to a lush green dandelion tree-filled scene. A sharp turn in the main road indicated we were close to our destination the “Manzanillo Ranch,” a giant tortoise paradise.

Embarking in small groups led by the naturalists, we strolled through the green fields finding tortoises galore. Equipped with rubber boots, it was easy to stride through the long grass and muddy paths. Every size giant tortoise imaginable was spotted—even two mating. The beautiful walk ended with a delicious lunch served at the foot of the ranch. Guests swapped stories of tortoises, bought local coffee beans and trinkets, and had the opportunity to relax in hammocks before we departed back to the Zodiacs.

In the afternoon, after a David Attenborough documentary screening, we disembarked to Bowditch Bay, a small white-sand beach belonging to Santa Cruz Island. There, we swam in the light blue waters, and watched the late afternoon light illuminate the cactuses. Some guests enjoyed the stretching practice, led by wellness specialist Diana, while others strolled along the sand.

After an incredible sunset from the ship, we enjoyed the video chronicler’s video over cocktails, before being served a hearty and warming dinner.