Santa Cruz Island

Aug 24, 2018 - National Geographic Islander

Today we visited Santa Cruz Island, located in the central portion of the archipelago. This island is the economical capital of the Galápagos and is one of the provinces of Ecuador. There are around 23,000 people living here. Most of these residents are Ecuadorians, and their economy depends on ecotourism.

We spent the early morning at the Charles Darwin Center and Galapagos National Park where we learned about the giant tortoise breeding and rearing program. It was remarkable to see all the work being done to protect this unique species, the most important and iconic creatures of the islands. We saw tortoises from Española Island, and met Diego, who is responsible for fathering hundreds of tortoises in the Galapagos. This project helped recuperate this species from a mere fourteen in 1971, to two thousand in 2018.

One highpoint of this morning’s excursion was also learning about the Floreana Island program. A small group of Floreana giant tortoises were found on Wolf Volcano, situated in Isabela Island. They were then transported to this center. Now, there are more than 20 Floreana giant tortoise eggs expected to hatch this year! The center houses baby tortoises from Santiago Island, Pinson Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Floreana Island. Bringing attention to the importance of conservation, the center also includes a memorial for the last tortoise from Pinta Island, Lonesome George. Lonesome George died in 2012, and his stuffed body serves as a message to future generations about the gravity and relevance of protecting our planet and its creatures.  

After a walk around town checking out boutiques and the local fish market, we took a bus ride to the highlands where we visited a local school, the Tomas de Berlanga School. There were so many happy kids! Afterward, we walked through an immense half mile-long lava tube, followed by a coffee farm, and liquor distillery named El Trapiche.

We had lunch at a giant tortoise reserve, El Manzanillo. The food was delicious, and it was great being able to walk around the unique creatures of the Galapagos Islands. Some of these giant tortoises can weight 400 or more pounds. Many of them are endemic to this island and were just relaxing by fresh water lagoons, eating grass, and simply moving around at an extra slow pace.

We ended this unique day onboard National Geographic Islander enjoying local music and dances from Galapagos music performers. A fantastic day in a fantastic new world.

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About the Author

Andres Vergara

Andres Vergara


Andrés was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador. From a very young age, he spent his vacations in Playas on the coast of Ecuador where his grandparents ran a hotel. There he developed a keen interest for nature and the outdoors. He studied primary and secondary school in La Condamine, a French Institution in Quito.

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