After getting adjusted to life on board and getting a little taste of the Galapagos yesterday, today was our first full day of exploring the wonders of the Galapagos. We visited Santa Cruz, the second largest island. Santa Cruz has the biggest town, which is the economic hub with about 18,000 inhabitants. The island is also home to the main organizations that work for the protection and conservation of this very pristine archipelago. The islands are famous throughout the world for their unique flora and fauna, and they are known for inspiring Darwin as he developed his ideas about evolution.

We disembarked in the village of Puerto Ayora to board buses for the highlands of Santa Cruz. We visited a couple of very impressive volcanic formations called “Los Gemelos.” The sinkholes formed from small magma chambers during volcanic activity more than a million years ago. Birding is just magical here. We found three of the elusive woodpecker finches. Considered one of the most intelligent birds, these finches use tools to get to the larvae that hide under bark. Our intrepid guests observed tree finches, vermilion flycatchers, mockingbirds, cattle egrets, moorhens, and pintails, among others. Then we moved to giant tortoise territory to enjoy the amazing giants as they walked around their natural environment. Some tortoises grazed, while others thermoregulated in muddy ponds. We even spotted a few mating. We had a great time in this small Jurassic-like spot.

After lunch, we went down the coast to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the breeding program that is working to restore the dynasty of giant tortoises. We had an opportunity to see newborn tortoises that hatched a few days ago, and we visited a few exhibition corrals where tortoises from different species and morphologies cohabit.

Next, we explored the town of Puerto Ayora to learn about people in the Galapagos. After this, we returned to the ship to admire the handiwork of several artisans who came on board to share their art and perform for our guests.

We spent a wonderful day learning about this remote archipelago where people coexist with animals and plants, where the animals are so tame they do not move away from us, and where every sunset is a gift to our soul.