Santa Cruz Island

Apr 23, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Santa Cruz is the second largest island of the Galapagos Archipelago, with a surface area of almost 1,000 sq. km, and an estimated population of 20, 000 inhabitants. This is a must stop for visitors, because two important organizations are based here—the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service. These two groups have been working together on multiple conservations projects since 1959. One important project is the captive breeding in order to revitalize the populations of five species of giant tortoises. One of these populations started with only 14 tortoises, from Espanola Island in the 1960s. Now more than fifty years later, the population has grown to almost 2,000 individuals, saving this species from the brink of extinction. We learned about the carefully implemented steps of this project that have led to its success during our visit to the breeding center this morning.

After this very interesting visit, we walked through the town of Puerto Ayora, and we had the chance to see some souvenirs shops, local arts and craft galleries, and perhaps the main attraction in town, the fishing dock, where local fishermen bring their daily catch, birds and sea lions were ready to steal a piece.

After spending some time in town, we boarded buses and went to a sugar cane farm, located about 16 km from the town. Here we learned about the process of artisanal distillation of alcohol with the use of sugar cane fermented juice, and we also saw the making of brown sugar, coffee among other interesting things. Later on, we drove to a local country-style restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch.

A couple of hours later, we started a hike at another nearby farm, to see giant tortoises in the wild. These beautiful animals were wandering around the forest of this place, and we ended up seeing about twenty or more of them. It was amazing to see them thriving in their natural environment, where they have been living for many thousands of years. At the very end of the outing, we paid a visit to a lava tube, another amazing volcanic feature of Santa Cruz Island.

This has been another amazing day in the Galapagos.

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About the Author

Lenin Villacis


Lenin was born in the capital city of Quito, where he grew up surrounded by the mountains and volcanoes of the Andean region of Ecuador. At age 17, he received a scholarship to study in Mexico, and a few years later traveled to the U.S. and finished college with a degree in Earth sciences. In 1994 he returned to Ecuador to undergo a training course to become a naturalist guide for his incredibly rich and biodiverse home country, and started working in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador.

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