Charles Darwin Center and Highlands of Santa Cruz

Jul 30, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

Tuesday is giant tortoise day in the Galapagos Islands! Today we enjoyed the wonderful Santa Cruz, an island that hosts the largest human settlement of the islands but also offers the opportunity to spot these unique giant reptiles in the wild.

We started our day by visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park headquarters. Here we had the chance to learn about their history and conservation challenges, but of course more than anything we wanted to see our first giant tortoises. Here they maintain one of their most successful projects, which is breeding these giants. From egg, to hatchling, to adults over a hundred years old, these pens still provide an input to their population, and it was inspiring to see it all motion.

While walking through town, the fishermen’s market was certainly a highlight, as sea lions, pelicans, and frigate birds tried to steal the day’s catch. Guests also enjoyed the chance to buy souvenirs before heading to the highlands. A group decided to visit a local school while others went for a visit to a local family farm where we learned about the process of producing coffee, panela, and moonshine, which the bravest guests tried.

A delicious lunch was hosted in a restaurant called Aquelarre; the place was in the middle of lush vegetation and decorated with great detail. Afterwards we boarded buses and went for the highlight of the day, which was spotting wild giant tortoises. The experience was unique. Learning about them from our naturalists, but also just getting at eye-level with these mysterious creatures, was definitely extraordinary.

Back on the ship, we met at recap to learn from our expedition leader about tomorrow’s activities and then dinner. However, the day was not over. After dinner, a group of talented musicians and dancers came on board to demonstrate different sides of the islands culture. With that perfect ending, we went to bed thinking about what adventures await us tomorrow.

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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.  

About the Photographer

Lubert Stryer and Deborah Steinbaum

Lubert Stryer and Deborah Steinbaum

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