By daybreak, National Geographic Islander II was anchoring in Academy Bay, and we were already getting ready for a full day. We started with coffee and tea, snacks, and for some, stretching on deck. It was going to be a full day and our certified photo instructor got everyone prepared with tips and tricks to improve their photography (a HUGE part of most people’s visit to the islands), and off we went. We started in the highlands by way of a traditional coffee farm, then the forest of endemic daisy trees known as the Scalesia forest, then to lunch.

After lunch at a private hacienda in elegant surroundings, giant tortoises were our focus. We spent the rest of the afternoon in town, at the Giant Tortoise Rearing Center operated by the Galapagos National Park, and/or seeing the town itself for shopping or people-watching. Really special and just for us, local artisans came on board before dinner to show us their craft, and a scientist from the Charles Darwin Research Center came to explain his project.

Grand Finale? Music and dance from a talented local group known as EcoArte!