Despite a grim-looking cloud over the island at daybreak, the entire day was as pleasant as we could have hoped for! The cloud cover made the morning in town comfortable as we wandered the Giant Tortoise Rearing Center, operated by the Galapagos National Park Service, with advice from the Charles Darwin Foundation researchers and scientists. We observed most of the different carapace shapes, from Lonesome George’s extreme saddleback shape, to giant domed individuals. Of course, the young tortoises all looked similar — only when they reach maturity do their carapace shapes become distinct.

Before lunch we split into three different directions. One group visited Tomas De Berlanga, an unusual school, to say the least, that has produced many of the leaders in the community today. Another group went to the hydroponic farm of Romel Ochoa where they got to see the future of Galapagos agriculture: where less water is used, and organic farming is producing great crops! And finally the last group visited the “Trapiche,” a traditional farm of sugar cane and coffee, where time has passed slowly.

After lunch in the green highlands, we again divided into smaller groups to wander the pastures and gaze, photograph, and think in awe about the giant tortoises that are free to come and go as they wish. At this time of year they are around this area in significant numbers, so almost everyone could say they had their own tortoise to commune with for a little while.

Back on board we enjoyed a visit from local artisans, followed by a briefing from a representative of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Finally we were entertained with lively music and colorful dancers.

A long, tremendously-filled, amazing day.