Santa Cruz Island

Feb 26, 2020 - National Geographic Islander


We anchored in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz where the Darwin center is based. The Charles Darwin Research Station has gained international recognition for its work in different fields of science. Today we had access to one of their programs involving breeding tortoises, particularly those from nearly decimated populations. Tortoises are reared from eggs all the way through repatriation, when they are large enough in size to return to their home islands safely. Other programs here include local flora, insects, birds and mammals.

We continued our adventure to the colorful town of Puerto Ayora where we immersed ourselves in the local culture. This is the largest human settlement with about twenty-five thousand people. After meeting up at a local restaurant for refreshments, we hopped in local buses, this time to explore the highlands. There, we walked through a lava tunnel, visited a local farm where we learned how coffee is made, brown sugar processed, and even moonshine. Great fun was had.

Lunch was followed by a stroll amongst giant tortoises in their own habitat. A good number of them allowed us to admire and photograph them closely. The area was lush due to the elevation, and the ample vegetation provides these giants with food in both wet and dry seasons. Although the food is plenty here, they need to move to the lowlands to nest, and they are on their way now!

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About the Author

Patricio Maldonado

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Patricio, better known as Pato amongst his friends, was born in the Galápagos Island. His family moved to the islands from the mainland and settled on the island of Santa Cruz over thirty-five years ago. Pato had an enchanted childhood in the islands, where his keen interest in the wildlife of the Galápagos was born initially through catching lizards and observing how they lost their tails. His experiences in the islands have led him to teach visitors about the need to protect this rare and unique environment.

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