Santa Cruz Island

Jun 04, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Santa Cruz is the second largest of the Galapagos Archipelago, with a surface area of almost 1,000 square kilometers and a population estimated in 20,000 people. This island is a must-stop for visitors, because two important organizations are based here, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service, which have been running several conservation projects since 1959. One of the most important programs is the captive breeding of five species of giant tortoises. One of these species from the island of Española was on the verge of extinction, with only 14 individuals remaining, 12 female and 2 males. Nowadays the center has helped to restore this population to 1,800 individuals.

After this very interesting visit, we walked through the town of Puerto Ayora. We had the chance to see some souvenirs shops, local art and craft galleries, and perhaps the main attraction in town, the fishing dock, where local fishermen bring their daily catch and birds and sea lions are ready to snag a piece. Soon after, we went to a sugar cane farm, located about 16 kilometers from the town. Here we learned about the process of artisanal distillation of alcohol from sugar cane juice, as well as the production of brown sugar, coffee and chocolate. Later we drove to a local country-style restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch.

After lunch, we went for a hike to see giant tortoises in the wild. These beautiful animals were wandering free around the forest, and we ended up seeing about 20 or more of them. It was amazing to see them thriving in their natural environment, where they have been living for thousands of years. At the very end of the visit, we pay a visit to a lava tube, another amazing volcanic feature of Santa Cruz Island.

This has been another fantastic 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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