Santa Cruz Island

May 02, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Today we visited Santa Cruz Island, home to the Charles Darwin Research station and the Galapagos National Park Service, in order to see the giant tortoises’ breeding program in action. Santa Cruz has large forests that are home to many types of Darwin finches and other land birds, as well as a large population of wild tortoises.

In the morning, we visited the breeding facilities for giant tortoises at the Galapagos National Park. These reptiles come from different islands and some of them are babies, just waiting to be released back to their islands of origin. The visit is very interesting, as tortoises are the iconic species of these islands, and their populations are being entirely restored due to this breeding program!

In the mid-morning we boarded buses to explore the highlands of Santa Cruz. We had a great time visiting Tomas de Berlanga School, which happens to be sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, we were guided by the students of the school who shared their experiences regarding education and life on the island.

We also visited a coffee and sugar cane farm run by a local family. Here we learned about the lives of farmers in the Galapagos, and the production of brown sugar and sugar cane rum! Galapagos coffee is of outstanding quality, and it was available for everyone!

In the afternoon, we explored the giant tortoises’ territory, which makes up a large part of western Santa Cruz, with more than 5,000 individuals roaming free in the grasslands and forests. They have come back due to enormous efforts of conservation work since the early 1970s, to the point that today their populations are healthy and robust.

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

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