One of the 4 inhabited islands in the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is a very diverse place. Here, nature and people have learned to live in harmony and equilibrium for a long time. Being a big island with an altitude of 2.800 ft, Santa Cruz has more diversity in flora and fauna than any other place in the Galapagos.
Today we landed at Puerto Ayora, the largest and busiest town in the archipelago named after a former president of Ecuador, Isidro Ayora. We made our way to the giant tortoise breeding center located at the headquarters of the National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, our guests learned about the different conservation programs that both institutions carry out. We saw saddleback tortoises, learned about the famous Lonesome George, and observed hatchling tortoises from different islands. Quite fascinating work!
We explored around the town until it was time to depart for the highlands of Santa Cruz. We made a stop at a small sustainable farm that produces organic coffee and sugar cane. Since the colonization of the archipelago, Ecuadorians and now some foreigners have established agriculture and cattle farming in the highlands. These activities are important in the lives of Galapagueños.
Afterward, we enjoyed lunch at restaurant in a lush and green corner of the highlands, where giant tortoises roamed around the vegetation and rainwater ponds. Santa Cruz island has a population of dome-shaped giant tortoises that number in the thousands. We had the amazing experience of walking among some of the largest tortoises ever seen as they grazed on several species of plants and bathed themselves in muddy ponds to cool off and to clean themselves from parasites. It was a real treat to see these iconic creatures in the wild.