Santa Cruz Island

Mar 07, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

We are nearing the end of our Galapagos expedition, and today we visited the island of Santa Cruz. It was a sunny morning, and our disembarkation to Academy Bay went easily and smoothly. Puerto Ayora welcomed us, adorned with colorful sail boats. This was our first time landing in civilization, after four days of pure nature. The island of Santa Cruz is home to about 22,000 inhabitants and offers a lot of options for our guests’ enjoyment.

We started with a visit to the breeding center for baby giant tortoises, which is run by the National Park service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. We learned about their process of carefully rearing tiny tortoises until there are large enough to be reintroduced to the wild, working to restore populations of tortoises to their islands of origin, as well as the other initiatives that are in place to keep the Galapagos pristine. Afterwards, we visited the local fish market, before headed up to highlands to Don Adriano’s sugar cane farm, where we saw the tradition methods of producing not only sugar, but molasses, coffee, and even alcohol! After sampling some of their delicacies, we headed to lunch at a local restaurant, called Aquelarre, before hiking through a protected area nearby and experiencing wild tortoises in their natural habitat.

Throughout the day, our team of naturalists displayed their wealth of knowledge. Part of the fun of arriving to civilization was the stories that were told about the local politicians. Ecuador is having elections for mayors in all the cities of the country on the 24th of March. Everybody enjoyed the visit to Puerto Ayora and its people. As we went back on board a beautiful juvenile yellow crowned night heron visited us at our embarkation gate. The fun continued onboard, with the visit of local artisans and a dancing group that played and danced for us. What an amazing day we had!

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About the Author

Roberta Schiess


Born and raised in the Galápagos, Roberta Schiess Bahamonde’s grandparents were among the first permanent inhabitants of Santa Cruz Island, arriving from Switzerland in the 1940s. Her mother is also a naturalist guide in the Galápagos, so this is a profession she has been exposed to her whole life, and she often accompanied her mom as she guided visitors. 

About the Photographer

Ixora Berdonces


Ixora was born in the Galapagos Islands, back when the streets were made of sand and gravel. Void of TV and tablets, her childhood friends and pristine natural surroundings made for an inspiring upbringing. She was always drawn to the ocean and her local environment, with her first adventures taking place underwater, in mangrove estuaries, and perched in treetops. Not surprisingly, she was scuba diving before the age of 12 and led her first diving trips as a Dive Master in the Galapagos Marine Reserve when she was 18. 

About the Videographer

Ross Weinberg

Video Chronicler

Born in Hollywood with a camera in his hand, Ross is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who is inspired by a good-organic-wholesome-LA-vegan cause and strives to raise awareness wherever he can through his pictures and films. While majoring in Film and Economics at the Boston University College of Communication, he learned the art of documentary filmmaking as an editor and cameraman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Science Media Group. 

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