From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos August 24, 2010
It’s early morning; we have just anchored at Academy Bay. It is time to wake up and start another adventure in the Galápagos Islands. Today we are visiting Santa Cruz Island; we are going to spend the whole day out on this island — even for lunch!
The first outing will be a visit to the iconic Charles Darwin Research Station. Here we have Galápagos giant tortoises from different places. These reptiles are kept here under breeding programs in order to restore their many endangered populations from different islands.
The Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos National Park Service are located here on Santa Cruz. They have been working in partnership for more than fifty years with great achievements in the field of conservation.
As we visited the giant tortoises we came across with the legendary Lonesome George who has lived here since the early seventies. It was a cool sighting to have George right in front of us and to get to know him. This giant tortoise has become a symbol for conservation since he is the last of his kind from Pinta Island, and we do not want the rest of the Galápagos subspecies to suffer the same fate. The latter gives us inspiration for conservation of these unique creatures.
In the afternoon we explored the giant tortoises’ reserve, and we were lucky for we found many of these long-living reptiles grazing and wallowing in the ponds alongside pin-tail ducks. The highlands of Santa Cruz are green with large trees and with a cool temperature unusual for a tropical region. The vegetation is lush all year round and the giant tortoises spend most of their lives in the grasslands and forests.
Santa Cruz Island has a population of around eight-thousand tortoises distributed on several spots with most of them on the southwestern slope of the island; the place we visited today.
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