Santa Cruz Island



It is in the centre of the Galapagos archipelago and has the largest population. Puerto Ayora is the main town and there are two other smaller settlements of Bellavista and Santa Rosa
      Puerto Ayora  
The town is the largest in the archipelago with a population of around 6,000. It is also the centre for the Galapagos National Park (GNP) and the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), both to the east of the town.
      Charles Darwin Research Station  
This is a must for tourists and a visit is on the itinerary of most of the organised tours in the Galapagos. Although it is a scientific Research Station it is nevertheless possible to be taken around a large part of it by a guide. There is a well laid out visitor centre, the Van Straalen Hall, which gives information on the islands, their geology, natural history and their conservation. In addition there is a tortoise breeding centre. There are also pens in which adult tortoises are kept and here you can see 'Lonesome George'. This tortoise is the last of Pinta Island subspecies and so far attempts to mate him with another subspecies has failed.
      The Tortoise Reserve  
Here it is possible to go with a guide and see giant tortoises in the wild. A trip starts from the settlement of Santa Rosa, about 3 km to the north of the reserve. Many land birds can also be seen.
      Los Gemelos (The Twins)  
These are two large craters in the middle of the island, either side of the one road crossing the island. They are the remains of volcanic magma chambers which collapsed and the vertical sides are now covered with vegetation. Vermillion flycatchers can be seen here, as well as the woodpecker finch and short eared owls.
      Other Tourist Sites  
There are a number of other coastal sites around the island where turtles, pelicans, marine iguanas, herons and many other species can be seen. On the island there are a large number of lava tubes, some of which are big enough to enter.
      Black Turtle Cove  
It is a mangrove swamp on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. We anchor our boat at the entrance to the cove and enter the area in our panga or dinghy. This is a great place to see large schools of Golden Rays, Green Sea Turtles (they are on the rare and endangered species list), White-tipped Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Lava Herons, Yellow Warblers and a variety of other bird species.
      Dragon Hill  
After a dry landing at a dock, we make our visit to a hypersalinic(saltier than the sea) lagoon behind the beach often frequented by flamingos. There is a winding trail to Dragon Hill, which offers a beautiful view of the bay, This area is a nesting site of a big number of land iguanas re-introduced by the Charles Darwin Research Station. There is also a Scalesia tree forest.
Surfing, Scuba diving, Kayaking, are among the most popular sports practiced at Santa Cruz. On this Island it is also permissible to practice windsurfing, mountain biking among others.
Santa Cruz has one of the most famous and longest fine white sand beaches of Galapagos : Tortuga Bay. A nice leisure beach, Tortuga Bay is also "popular" with marine iguanas, pelicans, sharks and flamingos (occasionally). Be aware that offshore currents are very strong in this area and swimming is not recommended. However, if you walk all the way down Tortuga Bay, you'll get to a nice protected area (small beach) where swimming is safe. Garrapatero is another beautiful beach and a good place for swimming.
Next to Puerto Ayora harbour is a small shadowed lagoon where you can see nymphs. It is a nice cool place to walk around or to have a rest.
Charles Darwin, on his "Voyage" to the Galapagos islands, didn't visit Santa Cruz. He did stop in San Cristobal, in Floreana, in Isabela and in Santiago. Not in Santa Cruz. For many years -Puerto Ayora is one of the youngest settlements of the archipelago-, the island was nothing but an exile destination for convicts or "rebels" sent there by the "emperor" (Manuel J. Cobos) of San Cristobal. Like Camilo Casanova who spent almost 4 years on the island, before being rescued by an Ecuadorian military ship. The first settlement was started in 1926. In 1959, the Galapagos islands were officially declared National Park area. The same year the Charles Darwin Foundation was created. The Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station (inaugurated in 1964) both have their headquarters in Puerto Ayora. Santa Cruz, also know as Indefatigable, had not less than 8 different names (Bolivia, Chavez, Norfolk, etc,) in its short history !