Santa Cruz Island

Jul 16, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Our site to explore today was the second biggest island of Galápagos. Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos National Park Headquarters, and it also home to Galápagos’ largest town of Puerto Ayora, the economic hub of the entire archipelago.

This month the national park system is celebrating another anniversary of its foundation by the Ecuadorian government. Since 1959, it has been an entity responsible for the conservation of Galápagos and the management of the ecotourism conducted on the islands. We all feel very proud to take part in this duty, not just for our country but also for humankind.

The weather was nice for walking, a slight covering of clouds known as an inversion layer was overhead with a gentle cool breeze. Later it warmed up and the sun was very intense. 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. Once at the research station, we were able to observe the processes that have made this center so successful. We had the chance to be very close to the giant tortoises and their babies, which are as part of a program to help them reproduce in captivity, in order to preserve these unique species of reptiles.

Later in the morning, we took buses into the highlands of Santa Cruz to visit a local school, where our guests learned about the education of the young people of the islands and their goals to conserve this land for the next generations to come. Other guests went into a local farm to experience the life of local farmers, and how they have become self-sufficient to survive. They produce many products such as the organic sugar cane crops that later on can be processed into many different products, like brown sugar and the bases of rum. Here we also saw the progression of full organic coffee from the beginning to the end. After those great experiences, we went to have lunch in a nice restaurant up in the mountains; the place has many trees and green vegetation around and is very quiet and comfortable.

After a well-deserved meal, some of us continued exploring the area searching for Geochelone porteri, Santa Cruz Island’s endemic species of giant tortoise. We had a great time walking in the grass, finding tortoises in the area in their natural habitat. We counted a few, reptiles in excesses of 400 pounds under a majestic shell, simply staring at us. Some decided to have a cool drink and relax back at the town of Puerto Ayora.

Today’s visit was outstanding, and our expedition is just beginning. There are more surprises coming our way this the week, and we are starting to be a big family, bonded by the mystical magic called the Galápagos Islands.

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About the Author

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

About the Videographer

Rodrigo Moterani

Video Chronicler

Rodrigo Moterani was born in Brazil, where he still lives. After spending his teen years playing with camcorders and VCRs, Rodrigo ended up working in the field of television journalism and video production in his home country. He graduated with a degree in communications in 1997.

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