Puerto Ayora greeted us with aqua water, bustling streets, and the promise of adventure and enlightenment. After boarding buses, we were on our way to the Charles Darwin Research Station to walk in the footsteps of the pioneer of natural selection. The resounding message from the research center is that the Galapagos is the symbol of conservation for the world. The world has its eyes on the Galapagos to be the leader in eco responsibility and sustainability.

We saw baby, adolescent, and sexually mature adult tortoises. The babies definitely won the cuteness competition, climbing over each other as they tried to get out of their enclosure, a promising developmental stage as it means they can survive on their own. A saddleback tortoise extended his mighty neck and contemplated the visitors giving him attention. Giant tortoises are a keystone species because of seed dispersal, which is essential for the health of the ecosystem. We saw the iconic Lonesome George, a symbol of hope that encourages and urges us to protect endangered species.

With the choice to see a school, a hydroponic farm, or a sugarcane mill, guests were treated to the diverse offerings of Santa Cruz. We drove to the Santa Cruz highlands for a delicious lunch at Rancho Manzanilla. Afterwards, we donned rubber boots to marvel at the giant tortoises in the wild. We saw them eating slowly and walking slowly, unbothered by the many visitors.

The icing on the Galapagos cake was a gentle stroll through the charming city, where we shopped, sampled local food, and took in the bright, inviting storefronts.

Photographers: Helen Corveleyn and Jennifer Anderson