Santa Cruz Island is located in the central part of the archipelago. It is the most populated island with around 20,000 residents. The island is the home of giant tortoises, and it is the location of the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Guests of National Geographic Islander II started their day early by disembarking in the town of Puerto Ayora. On buses, we crossed the island on its only highway. As the altitude increased, the vegetation changed and became lusher. We visited Los Gemelos (in English, “The Twins”). This pair of craters formed by a ground collapse over a radial fissure, and the area is surrounded by Scallesia sp., an endemic plant.

Our next stop was a farm, the home of giant tortoises. It was the perfect place for pictures. We crossed over an easy terrain and found a large group of tortoises resting or eating. The tortoises weigh up to 500 pounds, and they remained still while we walked beside them.

The Charles Darwin Research Station was our last stop, and we had the unique chance to observe the breeding center of giant tortoises. We saw where the eggs hatch and the small reptiles are kept for four years before they are released in the wild to avoid attacks by introduced species.