By the time our guests got up this morning, we were anchored in Academy Bay at the south end of Santa Cruz Island. It was a beautiful morning. By 8:00, we had already landed and were on our way to visit the Giant Tortoise Rearing Center, one of the most successful and iconic programs for ecological restoration on the islands. The program is jointly run by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Guests then had time to visit the community of Puerto Ayora. Some shopped for souvenirs, and others went for ice cream and coffee.
In the late morning, guests boarded buses to head to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The first two groups went to a small farm where vegetables are grown in a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil. By farming this way, the yield is five to ten times higher than with conventional agriculture. The rest of the group enjoyed a visit to a sugarcane mill called El Trapiche. On both farms, guests had a fun experience with local families. We tried some of the sugarcane juice as well as the moonshine produced at El Trapiche. After our visit, we returned to the buses and headed to El Manzanillo Ranch, where we had a delicious lunch.
After lunch, everybody had the chance to observe Santa Cruz giant tortoises in their natural habitat as we learned about their natural history. By late afternoon, everyone returned to town. Some guests decided to return directly to National Geographic Endeavour II, while others spent time visiting the many souvenir shops or stopping in the cafés of Puerto Ayora. By sunset, everybody was back on board.