Santa Cruz Island

Jan 11, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II

The island is the second largest in the Galapagos archipelago, with a surface area of almost 100 square kilometers, and a population estimated in 20,000 people.

This is a must-see for visitors, because two very important organizations are based here—the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service. These two groups have been running several conservations projects since 1959, and one of the most important programs is the captive breeding program of five species of giant tortoises. One of this species, from the island of Espanola, was at the verge of extinction, with only 14 individuals left, including twelve females and two males. Nowadays the center has helped to rehabilitate this population, which has grown to around 2,000 individuals.

After this very interesting visit,  we walked through the town of Puerto Ayora, and we had the chance to see some souvenirs shops, local art and craft galleries, and perhaps the main attraction in town, the fishing dock, where local fishermen bring their daily catch, and birds and sea lions are ready to steal a morsel for themselves.

Soon after this visit, we went to a sugar cane farm, located about 16 kilometers from the town. Here we learned about the process of artisanal distillation of alcohol with the use of sugar cane fermented juice. We also saw the making of brown sugar, coffee among other interesting things. Later on, we drove to a local country-style restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch.

After lunch, we started a hike at another nearby farm, to see the giant tortoises in the wild. These beautiful animals were wandering around this forest, and we end seeing about 20 or more of them. It was amazing to see them thriving in their natural environment, where they have been living for many thousands of years.

At the very end of the visit, we paid a visit to a lava tube, another amazing volcanic feature of Santa Cruz Island.

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About the Author

Lenin Villacis


Lenin was born in the capital city of Quito, where he grew up surrounded by the mountains and volcanoes of the Andean region of Ecuador. At age 17, he received a scholarship to study in Mexico, and a few years later traveled to the U.S. and finished college with a degree in Earth sciences. In 1994 he returned to Ecuador to undergo a training course to become a naturalist guide for his incredibly rich and biodiverse home country, and started working in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador. 

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