Today was our first full day on National Geographic Islander II. We anchored in Academy Bay, located on the southern side of the island and home of Puerto Ayora. Santa Cruz is the economic and tourism center of the Galapagos, and it is the island with the highest population. As the day began, we divided into groups and boarded buses to visit the humid highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

In the highlands, we stopped by Mr. Adriano’s farm, known as “Trapiche Ecológico.” Adriano arrived in the 1960s with a creative brain and a strong willpower. He has developed a small yet efficient agricultural business with sugarcane and coffee as the star products. At Trapiche Ecológico, we had the opportunity to learn about and observe the processes used to create these products from start to finish.

After we concluded our visit, we continued along Baltra Avenue until we reached the humid area of the island. Due to Santa Cruz’s topography, elevation, and location, the prevailing winds and the ocean currents create a unique microclimate system similar to a cloud rainforest. We observed diverse vegetation and had the chance to appreciate the famous Los Gemelos, a pair of pit craters created by the collapse of magmatic chambers.

Our day got even better when we stopped by the Manzanillo farm. We enjoyed a delicious meal and a great opportunity to see the famous Galapagos tortoises. These tortoises are responsible for the name of the islands. We concluded the day with a ride back to Puerto Ayora to the Galapagos National Park breeding center. We had the chance to observe the tortoises, including a second type of shell and tortoises at different stages. We learned more about the importance of the giant reptiles and their role on the islands.