After a delicious breakfast with a traditional option of a plantain-based dish called "tigrillo,” we were fortified for today’s exploration of Santa Cruz’s western side. At Dragon Hill, we found an arid landscape much different from the humid highlands of Santa Cruz. Instead of a forest of asteraceas and giant tortoises, we came across many land iguanas. These terrestrial reptiles are related to marine iguanas, but they eat prickly pear and nest in burrows. Afterward, it was time to hit the water on Zodiacs, kayaks, and paddleboards. Off the coast of Santa Cruz, we encountered more wildlife, even a giant manta ray.
National Geographic Endeavour II
This morning, we started our day in an unusual way. Santa Cruz has the largest human population in the Galapagos, with about 20,000 people. After breakfast, we boarded our Zodiac and headed to the main pier of Puerto Ayora, where all the citizens had already started their day. Buses took us to the Charles Darwin Research Station and National Park Breeding Center facilities. Our guests were eager to learn more about the breeding program for giant tortoises, and they were all enthusiastic to see the specimen of a very famous tortoise: Lonesome George. Naturalists shared a small glimpse into the activities taking place at the fishing dock, where fresh catches were sold. Pelicans and a playful sea lion made the moment extra special as we watched the skills of people busy cleaning the fresh fish. On our way to lunch, we made a quick stop at Don Adriano’s farm to learn about the sugarcane, chocolate, and moonshine that are locally produced. This was definitely a highlight of the day. Guests enjoyed learning about what local communities do to subsist in the Galapagos, in addition to tourism. It was now time for a wonderful lunch at Manzanillo Ranch. Our guests enjoyed the local coffee and the ample space with a wonderful view of very lush land. Afterwards, we took a relaxed and educational walk among giant tortoises, baby white-cheeked pintail ducks, different species of Darwin’s finches, and cattle mooing in the background. What a combo! It was finally time to go back to our floating home, National Geographic Endeavour II . After a very entertaining evening with recaps and cocktails, guests enjoyed the wonders of the local cuisine at dinner. Photo caption: Giant tortoise grazing in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Christian Saa