Santa Cruz Island

Dec 18, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Today was an interesting and beautiful cloudy day in Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. Our day started after an energizing breakfast, our guests left the boat ready to spent the day on the island. First, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we learned about all the different projects and efforts that are being done by the Galapagos National Park to preserve this unique ecosystem. We saw the two different morphotypes of the giant tortoises: the dome-shaped ones and the saddlebacks. The saddlebacks are unique in the world and you can only find them here in the islands—the name comes from the word “galapago” which in Spanish means saddle. The breeding center was created in 1963, and since then, more than 5000 baby tortoises have been raised in captivity until they are big enough to be taken back to their home islands. There have already been several success stories like the one from Española Island, where they only found 14 tortoises left, and now there are more than 2,000!

Later some guests decided to go to the Tomás de Berlanga School to learn about how fun it can be to study here in Santa Cruz, and the other half went to the sugar cane farm known as El Trapiche, a traditional family business from Don Adriano.

We had a delicious lunch at Aquelarre, a restaurant owned by a Chilean couple that came to the islands more than 30 years ago, followed by watching the giant tortoises in the wild at El Chato 2, a private ranch where you can watch these giants resting peacefully. Most of the females by this time of the year have left already to nest in the lowlands of Santa Cruz, a trip they have to take every year. We were lucky today to find dozens of giant males who were enjoying their new discovery, the guava fruit. We went back to the boat around 6:00 pm, what a wonderful day we had in Santa Cruz!

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About the Author

Roberta Schiess


Born and raised in the Galápagos, Roberta Schiess Bahamonde’s grandparents were among the first permanent inhabitants of Santa Cruz Island, arriving from Switzerland in the 1940s. Her mother is also a naturalist guide in the Galápagos, so this is a profession she has been exposed to her whole life, and she often accompanied her mom as she guided visitors. 

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