Santa Cruz Island

Apr 09, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Our destination today was the Charles Darwin Research Station at Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the archipelago. On our way to the rearing center for giant tortoises, we walked through a very green area full of local vegetation like the gigantic prickly pear cactus with a trunk like a tree. At the Research Station, we were able to observe, first-hand, the care and attention that have made this center so successful. We had the chance to get very close to the giant tortoises and their babies, as well the famous tortoise, mighty Diego.

Later in the morning, we took buses into the highlands of Santa Cruz for lunch. Several other options were offered, like riding bikes or taking a bus to a local farm where sugar cane is harvested and converted in different products like juice, melasa and of course the bases of rum, its fermentation and distillation. There, we also observed our local organic coffee being harvested, dried, roasted and ground. We had the opportunity to taste all of the local products—some guests had coffee but many had rum!

After our activities, we enjoyed a well-deserved tasty meal at a local restaurant. Many guests continued exploring the area, while others opted to have a cool drink and relax back to the town of Puerto Ayora.

Soon after, some of us headed to a bus ride searching for geochelone porteri, Santa Cruz Island’s endemic species of giant tortoise. We had a great time walking through the grass, finding tortoises in the area in their natural habitat. We found one especially large individual, definitely over 400 pounds, with a majestic shell, simply staring at us.

Today’s visit was outstanding, and our expedition is about to reach its peak. We are already a big family bonded together by the mystical magic called the Galápagos Islands.

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About the Author

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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