Entering Academy Bay, we were greeted by beautiful misty rain that added a mysterious halo along the shore town of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz. Expectations are high when visiting this enchanted archipelago. Guests’ main interests is to have the unparalleled experience of observing the Galápagos giant tortoises roaming in their natural habitat. After disembarking in the town’s main dock and taking a short bus ride and walk, we arrived at the Galapagos National Park Breeding Center. We admired the many juvenile little tortoises that, as adults, will repopulate the islands little by little with their upcoming descendants.

Santa Cruz Island is the base for the two main institutions that work as partners in the preservation of this captivating archipelago: The Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) which is an Ecuadorian governmental organization, and the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) both established in 1959. The institutions have been working in tandem for several decades collecting, incubating, reproducing, and ultimately saving some of the vanishing Galapagos giant tortoise subspecies and varieties from extinction. After visiting the Darwin Center, we had the pleasure of strolling along the lively streets of Puerto Ayora.

Later that morning after exploring the town, we went by bus to the highlands to continue with the planned activities of the day. At our first stop, we crossed a short but beautiful lava tunnel. After this visit, we made a brief but meaningful second stop. We visited a traditional sugar cane artisanal farm. Here, a Galápagos family showed us how they make a living by growing and processing sugar cane and coffee on their property. After the visit, we had lunch and went to look for Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat.  We had a great time photographing and observing numerous individuals that were all over the area.

In the evening after dinner, local dancers and musicians came on board the ship and delighted us with music and choreographed dance. After the performance we went to bed, a little tired perhaps, but with the genuine satisfaction of having had a marvelous new experience in one of nature’s ultimate paradises.