Santa Cruz Island

Feb 07, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Guests onboard the National Geographic Endeavour II spent the day exploring Santa Cruz island. We began the day by disembarking at the pier and making our way to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Guests learned about the important role that the Charles Darwin Station plays as principal investigative body and advisor to the Galapagos National Park on various fronts, including ecosystem monitoring and investigation, community outreach and education, and management practices. We learned about the Galapagos Verde 2050 project and its success in reshaping Galapagos vegetative landscapes by reforestation of endemic plant species throughout Galapagos. We visited the famous giant tortoise captive breeding program and learned about the program’s successes and failures in terms of replenishing populations that have been impacted by human presence in Galapagos. The big success story that guests learned about was Super Diego, the male giant tortoise from Española Island that - thanks to the Charles Darwin Station captive breeding program - has saved its race. At the Lonesome George exhibit, we discussed how anthropogenic impacts can be devastating to wildlife, even in Galapagos.

After our visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, we made our way toward the highlands of Santa Cruz, along the way, guests learned about such topics as environmental management, human development and histories, and vegetative landscapes that vary dramatically within narrow altitude thresholds, (i.e., microclimates). We visited a local, family-run, organic farm called El Trapiche. Guests observed demonstrations on how the family makes coffee, brown sugar and molasses, and sugar cane rum; they even had a chance to sample and purchase the farm’s products. After our visit to the sugar cane mill, we made our way to Aquelare, a quaint farm restaurant in the highlands.

After lunch, guests had yet another chance to view Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat at El Chato II. We discussed behavioral ecology and evolutionary history of the impressive creatures while observing them at only 6 feet of distance. This was a fantastic opportunity for photography, as each guest could observe and enjoy their very own giant tortoise. We traversed hollowed lava flows from previous eruptions known as lava tunnels.

After our visit to El Chato II, guests has an opportunity to spend a bit more time in the town of Puerto Ayora to enjoy a beverage, purchase souvenirs, and observe some of the local Galapagos culture. Artisans came onboard in the early evening to demonstrate how they make their handicrafts; this is a special opportunity for guests to interact with the artists. After dinner, we enjoyed a music and dance performance from local artists, with guests joining in on the dancing.

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About the Author

Alexandra Widman

Naturalist

Alexandra grew up on the southeast coast of the United States. She has a deep love for the ocean that stems from her childhood spent surfing, kayaking, diving and fishing on the Intracoastal Waterway. Alexandra has lived on San Cristóbal Island for the past 6 years, having fallen in love with Galápagos the moment she arrived as a fledgling marine ecologist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a master’s in environmental science and management from the University of California Santa Barbara.

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