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Santa Cruz Island

Sep 12, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


This morning we anchored at Academy Bay on Santa Cruz Island. Our assignment for the day was a visit to the Galapagos National Park Service, and the iconic Galapagos Giant Tortoise Breeding Center! Santa Cruz is a large island with a healthy population of giant tortoises distributed predominantly on the southwestern portion of the island.  

Many of the tortoises we saw at the breeding center were tiny babies, less than a year of age. All were born here as part of the tortoise restoration program carried out by the Galápagos National Park Service. Eventually all these little tortoises will be repatriated to their home islands.

Midmorning, we boarded our buses and headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz for more exploration. There were many cool places to visit and things to see on this side of the island. We encountered local birds, a cloud forest, and the majestic Galápagos giant tortoise. In the cool misty highlands, we explored the forest and the green grasslands that are the foraging grounds for tortoises.  This region is green throughout the year, and it is home to many interesting animals such as Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, giant tortoises, and many types of plants.

Giant tortoises were near extinction decades ago. With a lot of effort from restoration programs, their numbers have bounced back. Today these reptiles are a common sight on the landscape. It’s estimated there are more than 5,000 giant tortoises on this island!

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

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