We woke up off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, where our week of expedition continues. We landed on the dock of Itabaca Channel. Buses were waiting for us to start the ride to El Manzanillo Ranch.

As we rode the bus toward the highlands of Santa Cruz, we appreciated the different vegetation steps of the island. We started in the coastal area, lush with mangrove trees and other halophyte plants, before moving into the arid zone. We observed the very light green color of recently sprung leaves in the incense tree forest, a sign of the first rains hitting the northern area of the island. The transition zone came next, presenting species of plants from the arid zone and the humid zone. When we got to the humid area, we saw a forest of amazing giant daisy trees (Scalesia pedunculata) around “Los Gemelos,” a pair of pit craters.

After a short bus ride, we arrived at El Manzanillo. We spotted Galapagos giant tortoises along the way. We geared up for our nature walk in the area. As we observed many tortoises, I heard a familiar noise. I gently asked my group to be as quiet as possible so they could hear it, too. We heard a couple of tortoises mating, and we approached them cautiously.

We went around the area and saw more than 50 giant tortoises. Most of them were cooling off in the lagoons since it was a warm day. Others were busy eating the different vegetation of the area, and still others just walked calmly. It was a great time for taking photos. After the walk, we enjoyed some refreshing beverages. Later on, a delicious lunch was served on the property with a great view of giant tortoises in the field.

We came back to the ship to sail to our next spot of the day. We spent an afternoon relaxing on the beach at lovely Bowditch Point. We had leisure time to swim, snorkel, sunbathe, or just enjoy the afternoon. With the sounds of the ocean and the beauty of the landscape, it was calm and peaceful.