Santa Cruz Island

Mar 11, 2020 - National Geographic Islander

Santa Cruz Island

Today is special for many of our guests who have eagerly anticipated close encounters with giant tortoises. Santa Cruz is the second largest island of the Galapagos and contains the largest human settlement. It’s also home to one of the largest populations of giant tortoises distributed in the highland forest.

Our first visit was to the Galapagos National Park facilities where we learned about the conservation efforts which serve to restore endangered populations of animals and plants. The restauration of giant tortoises has been one the greatest successes in the islands. We then visited a traditional family run farm. This family settled in the Galapagos in the sixties, and since then have been in the business of coffee, sugar cane spirits and brown sugar production. Today they are the highlight, and the only ones keeping this tradition alive. In the afternoon we explored giant tortoise territory with its lush vegetation, and fresh ponds. Giant tortoises love this ecosystem as they find high quality food and plenty of water. As we walked the forest, we found many of these old giants mixed up with young individuals.

Today we have more than ten thousand tortoises on Santa Cruz, and this large number is one of the many achievements of the Galapagos National Park Service. The institution has been restoring the endangered population for the last four decades.

Just amazing!            

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

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