Santa Cruz Island

Jun 20, 2018 - National Geographic Islander

Today was dedicated in its totality to the incomparable Galapagos giant tortoises. All our guests had high expectations to have the opportunity to see the giant reptiles of the Galapagos in their natural habitat.  Right after breakfast, we started our expedition.  Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz Island is the base for the two main institutions that work as partners in the conservation of this enchanted archipelago. The Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) which is an Ecuadorian governmental organization and the legendary Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS). Both, coincidentally, were established in 1959. These institutions work together to collect, incubate, reproduce, repatriate and ultimately save from extinction some of the threatened and endangered Galapagos giant tortoises subspecies. 

After disembarking at the main dock in town and a short bus ride, we arrived to the CDRS installations and the GNPS Tortoise Breeding Center. We admired some of the tortoises that are helping to repopulate the islands with their descendants. We saw a famous tortoise individual as well, Diego. This tortoise lived in the San Diego Zoo for many decades after coming back to the Galapagos with the mission of saving his fading Española Island race by becoming the prolific father of hundreds of tortoises. After visiting the Darwin Research Station we had the delightful opportunity to stroll along the colorful streets of Puerto Ayora, capital of Santa Cruz Island, to enjoy and take part of the routine activities of the community. The fishermen’s wharf is one of the most interesting places to visit. Today a couple of brown pelicans and some sea lions were around the fishermen, who were cutting fish, with the hope to win a morsel. Around noon we went by bus to the highlands to continue with the planned activities of the day. Before lunch we made a brief but interesting stop before arriving to restaurant. We visited a sugar cane press, where a local Galápagos family showed us how they make a living by growing and processing sugar cane and coffee in their farm, “El Trapiche.” Some other guests opted to visit “Tomas de Berlanga” School. The latter is the school that Lindblad Expeditions support through the LEX-MG Fund for the Conservation of the Galapagos Islands. 

After lunch, we had a great time photographing and observing several gentle giant tortoises roaming free and some bird species that were all over the place.  In the evening, after dinner, visiting local dancers and musicians put a golden finale on this day in paradise with their joyful music and choreographies. We all went to bed after this marvelous long day, a little tired perhaps, but with our hearts reloaded with new feelings and memories that will stay with us for years to come.

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About the Author

Carlos Romero

Expedition Leader

Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

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