Santa Cruz Island

Jul 17, 2019 - National Geographic Islander

Beautiful misty rain, locally known as “garua,” added a mysterious halo that greeted us this morning as we entered Academy Bay in the town of Puerto Ayora. A major interest of many guests is to have the unparalleled experience that is found within the Galápagos, particularly close encounters with Galápagos giant tortoises roaming in their natural territory. After disembarking, we took a short bus ride and arrived at the Galápagos National Park Breeding Center. We learned about their preservation efforts and how the many juvenile tortoises housed here will be repatriated and ultimately repopulate their islands.

Santa Cruz Island is the base for the two main institutions that work as partners in the preservation of this enchanted archipelago. The Galápagos National Park Service which is an Ecuadorian governmental organization and the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station were each established in 1959. These institutions have been working in tandem for several decades, collecting, incubating, reproducing and saving some of the vanishing Galápagos giant tortoise subspecies and varieties from extinction. After visiting the Darwin Center, we had the pleasure to stroll along the vibrant streets of Puerto Ayora.

After exploring the town, we took a bus to the highlands to continue with our planned activities of the day. On our first stop, we crossed a short, but spectacular lava tunnel. Then we visited a traditional sugar cane artisanal farm. Here a Galápagos family showed us how they make a living by growing and processing sugar cane and coffee on their property. After the visit, we had lunch and went to look for Galápagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Expectations were high and Santa Cruz did not disappoint. We found numerous tortoises roaming freely all over the area! We had a great time photographing and observing these magnificent creatures.

In the evening after dinner, local dancers and musicians came on board National Geographic Islander and put a golden finale to this day, delighting us with their music and choreography. After the performance, we finally went to bed, a little tired perhaps, but with the genuine satisfaction of having had a great day in this magical archipelago.

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About the Author

Carlos Romero

Expedition Leader

Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

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