Santa Cruz Island

Apr 05, 2019 - National Geographic Islander

Today we visited my home island of Santa Cruz. This island is now the most populated across the archipelago, and a good example of conservation and coexistence between humans and wildlife. The morning was spent at the Giant Tortoise breeding center, which was a great opportunity for guests to witness conservation firsthand.

We then spend a bit of time feeling our way through the cozy town of Puerto Ayora before boarding buses to head up into the highlands. The first stop upon arriving was at “Los Tuneles del Amor.” This huge lava tunnel was once a lava flow running down the slopes of Santa Cruz island, and though now expended, it is a quiet yet present reminder of the tremendous volcanic activity native to this part of the hemisphere. Afterward, we visited El Trapiche farm, an excellent place to enjoy local products like sugar cane juice, brown sugar, and the local sugar cane alcohol!

The rest of the afternoon, we visited the giant tortoises in their natural environment before heading back to the beach to relax for a bit then board again for the evening. What a great joy being close to the gentle giants and the island they occupy!

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About the Author

Vanessa Gallo


Vanessa Gallo’s grandparents arrived in the Galápagos Islands in 1936, making her the third generation of her family to live and work in this magical archipelago. She left the islands for the capital city of Quito for high school, where she discovered that learning foreign languages was one of her main interests. Coming from a family of naturalist guides, it was not a surprise that she also became one at the age of 17. Vanessa left the islands once again for Switzerland, where she earned a diploma in tourism and strengthened her language skills and knowledge of the travel industry. She has also travelled extensively to destinations including as Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Canada, the Canary Islands, Mauritius, and many European countries.

About the Photographer

Wilo Castaneda


Wilo was born and raised in the Galápagos Islands. From an early age, he was fascinated by outdoors activities, and excelled at basketball, cycling, swimming, and snorkeling. In 1999, he trained to become a Naturalist Guide for Galápagos National Park and in 2002, he trained to become a Diver’s Guide for the Galápagos Marine Reserve. He has since worked as a guide on board various ships, gaining an intimate knowledge of all the island’s most-visited sites. Wilo enjoys scuba diving with large schools of hammerhead and whale sharks all around the archipelago. 

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