This morning we will visit the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where the lush landscape is a welcome contrast to the arid scenery of the smaller, lower islands. On the way, we will cross through different vegetation zones – from the dry lower region full of cactuses, to the scalesia woods in the Highlands. There one can find two small agricultural communities that grow the famous organic Galapagos coffee. While in the Highlands you will have the option of visiting one of two tortoise breeding centers: El Chato or Rancho Las Primicias. At either site, approaching these enormous and slow-moving reptiles is always an inspiring adventure. The El Chato tortoise reserve was founded in 1964 to allow visitors observe the island’s huge Galapagos turtles and White herons in their natural habitat. You will also be able to walk through nearby underground lava tunnels formed during volcanic eruptions. As the outside of the lava hardened, the inside continued to flow to the ocean, creating these tunnels. Alternatively, Rancho Primicias is a great place to see about ten to fifteen Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. In addition to being able to view the ocean from this location in the Highlands, you can walk through a lava cave that was formed by a volcanic eruption. This afternoon we will head for one of the most visited spots in the islands. Located on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is primarily an international scientific research station situated on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. You will be taken to its visitor center to learn about the geology, climate, natural history and the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. However, the highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles can live up to 150 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. Approaching them in their humid and forested spaces is always an inspiring adventure. For decades, the Fausto Center was home to “Lonesome George,” who finally died in 2012 as the last of his particular species. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to humans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them.