Santa Cruz Island and the Kingdom of the Giant Tortoise (day 7)

At the Galápagos National Park Service headquarters and the Charles Darwin Research Station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our last full day of the cruise was spent mostly on dry land. No Galápagos visit would be complete without seeing the giant tortoises.

A mural on the side of a building on Av. Charles Darwin in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

There are statues and streets in Darwin’s honor around the area. Ecuador is doing a very good job in regards to protecting their National Park and the giant tortoises. We toured the visitors center where they hatch the tortoise eggs collected from the islands.

Alex, our guide, explains how the government collects and hatches the tortoises with their Giant Tortoise Breeding & Rearing Program.

Each batch of eggs is marked with a color to indicate which island it came from. The program began in 1970 when the last 14 remaining tortoises were rescued from the island of Espanola. The program has restored that population to over 1,000 individuals today.

These small tortoises came from Espanola as eggs in 2020. After hatching their shells are marked with colors just as the eggs were.
These small tortoises hatched this year. The eggs were collected on Floreana. When the young tortoises are big enough to survive on their own they are returned to the island from which they were taken.
As they grow larger the tortoises are moved to larger pens.
They grow very large, weighing hundreds of pounds.
These two large Giant Tortoises had a disagreement.

After our morning visit to the Research Station, we headed up into the Santa Cruz Highlands. The flora changed from cactus to lush green fields and forests.

Wild Tortoise Reserve in the Santa Cruz Highlands.
We had lunch at the reserve restaurant, which is open to the fields where the tortoises are free to roam.
Descending into a lava tube at the tortoise reserve.
Alex demonstrates how to approach a Giant Tortoise without scaring it.

We walked through the fields and counted many tortoises.

Tucker attempts to make a connection with a tortoise.

Back onboard the Evolution we had a farewell dinner of lobster and a champagne toast for our wonderful crew.

Lobster dinner

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2 Responses to Santa Cruz Island and the Kingdom of the Giant Tortoise (day 7)

  1. Hisae says:

    When we dived in Maria La Gorda, Cuba, one of the crew caught a big lobster and I was looking forward to being served at dinner. No, it was sold to somewhere else!

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