Santa Cruz Island

Dec 03, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Our destination today was the Charles Darwin Research Station at Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the archipelago. 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.

At the research station, we were able to observe, first-hand, the steps taken that have made this center so successful. We had the chance to be very close to the giant tortoises and their babies, as well as the now-famous tortoise, the mighty Diego.

Later in the morning, we took buses into the highlands of Santa Cruz for lunch. Many other options were offered, like riding bikes or riding a bus to a local farm where sugar cane is harvested and converted into different products like juice, melasa, and of course the basis of rum. There, we also observed our local organic coffee been processed, harvested, dried, roasted and grinded. We had the chance to taste all the local products—some guests had coffee, and many had rum!

Afterwards, we enjoyed a well-deserved tasty meal at a local restaurant up in the highlands, located at about 900 feet elevation. Many guests continued exploring the area, while others opted to have a cool drink and relax back to the town of Puerto Ayora.

Soon after, some of us headed out on a bus ride 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 found some weighing over 400 pounds, with a majestic shell simply staring at us.

Today’s visit was outstanding, and our expedition is about to reach its peak. We are already a big family bonded by the mystical magic called the Galápagos Islands.

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About the Author

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

About the Videographer

Joshua Vela

Video Chronicler

Joshua is our first Video Chronicler from the Galápagos Islands! He grew up on the island of Santa Cruz where he developed a strong connection with the natural world that surrounded him, and where he learned the importance of conservation.

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