Santa Cruz Island: Galapagos National Park, The Charles Darwin Research Station & the Highlands

Dec 14, 2017 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Today we visited Puerto Ayora, located on Santa Cruz Island. This town is the center of the economic activity in the Galapagos archipelago. Nowadays more than thirty thousand people live here. In the morning we visited the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, both founded in 1959. The Charles Darwin Research Station provides critical advice to guide the management and conservation strategies implemented by the Galapagos National Park.

At the Galapagos National Park we visited the tortoise path, a new exhibit that highlights critical issues such as the control and eradication of invasive species and the conservation efforts to restore critical populations of land tortoises and finches. We also visited the Lonesome George exhibit, the last tortoise of Pinta who passed away in 2012, to remind us about the fragility of the islands.

Later in the afternoon we travelled along the humid zone, to visit El Trapiche, a locally-owned farm, to observe the elaboration of coffee, chocolate and liqueur. Then we went to El Aquelarre for lunch. Finally, we visited El Chato II, a farm where we observed the land tortoises of Santa Cruz Island roaming freely in their natural habitat, and learned about the ecology of this healthy population of approximately 8000 individuals.

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About the Author

Luis Vinueza


Luis arrived in the Galápagos Islands for the first time when he was 11 years old in 1983, and from that time on he knew that Galápagos would one day be his home. He returned to the islands in 1995 and spent 14 months camping in a tent. Seven of those months were spent on Española Island, studying the relationship of reproductive success and mate retention of Nazca boobies. In 1997, he started working for the marine lab at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) on different fields including diving surveys to assess the patterns of marine biodiversity around the Galápagos Marine Reserve. His research included counting lobsters and sea cucumbers and participating as an advisor for CDRS during the negotiation process that led to the 1998 creation of the Galápagos Marine Reserve. 

About the Photographer

Luis Vinueza and Christian Saa

Luis Vinueza and Christian Saa

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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