Santa Cruz Island

Dec 06, 2017 - National Geographic Islander


Today we visited Santa Cruz Island, the second largest in this region and home to more than five thousand giant tortoises. This island is large and it has an altitude of nearly three thousand feet above sea level. It is green and it has large forests where tortoises live for most of the year.

In the morning we visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and in the mid-morning we took buses and headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz. Our day included a visit to a local school sponsored by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. For other guests there was a choice of visiting a local traditional coffee farm where we could taste and see the manufacturing of brown sugar and rum!

The highlands are amazing, with many attractions. The forests, the birds in the grasses, the lava tunnels, and the iconic Galápagos giant tortoises. These magnificent reptiles used to be close to extinction decades ago, but they have come back due to conservation work started on the islands in the 1960s.

It’s estimated that we now have more than 5,000 giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island! Today this is a healthy population and it keeps growing. It is very satisfying for our guests to see the tortoises in the grasslands slowly foraging, and to know that their numbers will keep increasing.

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in the foothills of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon. After childhood careers in ski racing, equestrian sports, classical piano, and summer jobs on a dude ranch, she emerged as a unique hybrid of adventuress, hobby farmer, and storyteller. 

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