Santa Cruz

Jan 26, 2018 - National Geographic Islander

On Friday we finally got the chance to meet the Giant tortoises! The island of Santa Cruz is the commercial capital of the Galapagos. Located at the center of the archipelago, and it´s home to a large population of dome shape tortoises that can weigh up to 500 pounds.

We started our day on this island by visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station, a place that started the conservation programs in the 60s and continues to do ground breaking work on evolutionary biology. This is also the place where we got to visit the breeding pens for the Galapagos Giant tortoises! That means we got to observe months old baby tortoises wiggling around. Our naturalist also shared all the information on the unique breeding program for the “extinct” tortoises of Floreana. Here we got to meet Diego, the tortoise stallion, a father of 800 Española tortoises and we got to go into the famous Lonesome George Mausoleum.

The rest of the morning was all about the culture and people of this location. A walk thru town allowed us to do some shopping and also a see the local fish market where pelicans, sea lions and frigate birds were trying to steal from a distracted fisherman. A glass of refreshing juice and off we went to the highlands, where some visited a local school, “Tomás de Berlanga”, and others the “Trapiche”. At the Trapiche, our host Don Adriano taught us all about the process of making sugarcane products like melazas, panela and moonshine, or “agua ardiente” which translates into fire water. We also learned about the process for making organic coffee from bean to the mug.

In the afternoon we got to the most awaited destination of the day, a wild tortoise ranch! We had lunch in an open area where tortoises observed us enjoying our meal. As crazy at it seems, those tortoises were not captive, the highlands of Santa Cruz have a population of wild tortoises that come and go from one farm to another. After dessert we wandered around with our Naturalists, having close encounters with these mysterious giants and learning all about their ecology.

Gemelos was our last stop, where we wandered in a Scalecia forest in the middle of two pit craters, totally unique in the world…as David Attenborough says, “A forest of giant dandelions!”

We returned to the National Geographic Islander at sunset, where recap and dinner awaited. To end the perfect day, a group of local musicians came onboard to share with us some Latin American rhythms and dances.

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About the Author

Anahí Concari


Anahí grew up in a small house by the beach in the Galápagos Islands. Along with her best friend, she used to wander during the days around mangrove trees, becoming a different animal every day. She used to camp on solitary beaches, snorkel with sharks, dive with her uncle, a local dive instructor, and sail around the islands with her free spirit neighbors, learning about nature with her own hands, eyes and ears.  

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