Santa Cruz

Nov 19, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II

This morning our ship, National Geographic Endeavour II brought us to Academy Bay, at Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, the most populated of the only five Galapagos Islands that have human settlements. Santa Cruz has become a very strategic place for Galapagos Conservation, as here we have the National Park headquarters and the operative branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation: the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).

With our guests, we went for an early visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and the CDRS, and we learned about the very successful conservation project that brought back both the Española and the Floreana giant tortoises’ species from the brink of extinction.

We meet the famous Diego, who has fathered more than 900 tortoises. The whole Española’s tortoise population had only fourteen individuals back in the late 1960s, and now we have more than two thousand tortoises on the island. All of us were truly delighted to see Diego happy and healthy with some of his five females wandering around.

After a morning full of education about Galapagos Conservation Projects, we went up to the highlands where we visited a local farm and learned about the whole process of producing sugar cane juice, moonshine and coffee. At the end of our visit we got to taste Galapagos coffee and local moonshine, it was all fun!

At lunch time we had a nice meal, and afterwards we could not imagine a better way to end our adventure than going for a giant tortoise search, and we found lots of this gentle giants! It was truly amazing to be six feet away from 300–350 pounds tortoises, to listen the melodic songs of the yellow warblers, and to have fearless Darwin finches flitting around us. Our guests were so happy that they could not find enough words to express the feeling of this intimate experience.

With our hearts full of joy, we finally went down to port, and before going back onboard, we explored a bit this dynamic and colorful town. What a day! However, it was not over yet, onboard we had a fantastic dinner and a wonderful party with local musicians and dancers, we all ended up dancing and enjoying Galapagos music!

What a treat! Just another day in paradise…

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About the Author

Pablo Valladares


Pablo was born in Quito, capital of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and has been captivated by nature for as long as he can remember.  His mother showed him his first giant tortoise when he was 5 years old and that image remained engraved in his mind.  At age 7, his father gave him a special gift:  a map of the Galapagos with drawings of penguins, sea lions, tortoises, pelicans and more.  Those images inspired him at an early age and led him to study Biology at Guayaquil University.  While at university, Pablo worked as a guide for Environmental Education Camps in the mountains of Ecuador.  Upon completing his degree, he travelled to Puerto Villamil, the small human settlement on Isabela Island to work as a volunteer with the Galapagos National Park Service’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center for 6 months. During his free time, he also got involved with the Environmental Education Program run by the Charles Darwin Foundation Ecological Club, where he helped run outdoors, nature-based activities with the local children.  This combination of a passion for nature and working with the young eventually led to a full-time job with the Isabela branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation, where he worked for 8 years in different programs supporting Galápagos Conservation. It was during this time that he first learned about Lindblad Expeditions, as he would bring kids from the local ecological clubs on board the National Geographic Islander to perform theatrical pieces about Galapagos conservation issues that they had prepared specifically!

About the Videographer

Joshua Vela

Video Chronicler

Joshua is our first Video Chronicler from the Galápagos Islands! He grew up on the island of Santa Cruz where he developed a strong connection with the natural world that surrounded him, and where he learned the importance of conservation.

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