Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos supports one of the largest human populations of the five inhabited islands. Some 8,000 residents are distributed between the cattle-farming communities in the lush highlands and the coastal town of Puerto Ayora.

Here you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see the huge land tortoises, or los galapagos, which once flourished in the islands. The populations were decimated in the early 1800s by the whaling ships that stopped in the islands to fill their holds with fresh meat. A bus ride into the highlands takes you to Los Gemelos, two deep pit craters situated in the Scalesia forest with lots of interesting bird life. Or, go for a trek through giant lava tubes, or to the Tortoise Reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings. On the north shore of the island, accessible only by sea, is an extensive mangrove lagoon called Black Turtle Cove. Here in the peacefulness of the mangroves turtles break the surface of the still waters, while fish, rays, and small sharks cruise below.