Today we visited Santa Cruz Island, and in the morning, we went to the giant tortoise breeding center, where it was feeding time. The giant tortoises were restless as they were anticipating the lush green leaves that were finally brought to the feeding platforms. Our guests learned a lot about the conservation efforts in order to reestablish the numbers of the emblematic animals of the Galapagos Archipelago. Then there was time to spend in the cozy town of Puerto Ayora and help the local economy. We boarded the buses and headed to the Highlands; the first stop was at the lava tube and then we paid a visit to a local farm, known as El Trapiche, where they grow sugar cane and coffee among other produce. It was fun to try the moonshine and a good cup of coffee. After lunch at Rancho El Manzanillo we all enjoyed a walk among the Santa Cruz giant tortoises, where every guest was able to have a one-to-one, as there were so many tortoises up there.
National Geographic Islander
On the first full day of our expedition, we visited Bartolome Island in the morning. It was a typical September morning, right in the middle of the dry, cool season, and the air was mild and breezy. Considered a jewel in the crown of the Galapagos Islands, Bartolome is small but due to its youth, it is like a field guide of geological features and is also dotted with small craters and cones. Bartolome is also home to a small colony of endemic Galapagos penguins, which find little lava tubes and caves along its shores where they can safely nest. In the afternoon we reached the northern coast of Santa Cruz, and visited a place called Cerro Dragón or Dragon Hill. This area is protected by the National Park Directorate for the remaining population of endemic land iguanas, as they have disappeared from the rest of Santa Cruz. We hiked through the arid zone of the lower slopes of the island, where the dominant trees were prickly pear, candelabra cacti, and palo santos, the fragrant incense trees.