Santa Cruz Island

May 08, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago, with a surface area of almost 100 sq. km, and a population estimated at 22,000 people.

This is a must stop for visitors first due to the opportunity to see the giant tortoises in the wild, and also because in this island has the headquarters for two important organizations: the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service. Tthese two groups have been developing many conservations projects, one of the most important of which is the captive breeding of five species of giant tortoises. One of these species, from the island of Espanola, was at the verge of extinction, with only 14 individuals remaining, twelve females and two males. The center has helped to rehabilitate this dwindling population, to more than 1500 individuals repatriated to their home island.

After this very interesting visit, we walked through the town of Puerto Ayora. 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 hang around, ready to steal a piece.

Soon after this visit, we went to a sugar cane farm, located about 16 km from the town, where we learned about the process of artisanal distillation of alcohol with the use of sugar cane fermented juice. Also here we saw the production of brown sugar, coffee, and raw chocolate. Later on, we drove to a local country style restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch.

After lunch, we started a hike at a nearby farm, to see giant tortoises in the wild. These beautiful animals were all around us, wandering around the forest. 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.

This has been another amazing day in the Galapagos.

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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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