Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the most populous of the islands and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Galapagos. It also is a focal point for scientific research, housing the Charles Darwin Research Station, where a variety of Galapagos land animals are studied, including the Galapagos giant tortoise.

Symbolic of the islands’ fragile biodiversity, the Galapagos giant tortoise has persevered despite continued threats. Whaling and poaching depleted their numbers almost to extinction in the 19th century, and today, introduced species and population pressures continue to threaten their survival. Despite these challenges, conservation efforts are making strides to protect them.

Santa Cruz Highlands
From its lush highlands to the beautiful beaches in the coastal town of Puerto Avora, Santa Cruz features some of the most varied and dramatic landscapes in the Galapagos. In contrast to the dry lowlands, the highlands of Santa Cruz are often shrouded in mist, providing an ideal habitat for many Galapagos land animals and plants. One of the highlands’ top attractions is Los Gemelos, Spanish for “the twins”, two volcanic craters located in the Scalesia forest. These dramatic depressions provide an ideal location for wildlife viewing. Bird watching is at its best here, and almost every bird known to exist in the Galapagos has been spotted in Santa Cruz.

Giant Tortoise Reserve
The north shore of Santa Cruz features Black Turtle Cove, an extensive mangrove lagoon and reserve for giant tortoises. Accessible only by sea, the reserve protects the turtles in their natural habitat, providing a protected area where they can lumber through wild grasses and break the surface of the still waters while fish, rays, and sharks swim below.

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