Unfortunately, Santa Cruz Island is in grave danger as a result of continued development and travel. In fact, it has the largest population of all the Galapagos Islands, with over half of the archipelago’s 20,000+ inhabitants. Its future will depend on a recent moratorium on immigration to the islands and effective regulation of agricultural expansion as well as other indirect impacts of tourism.
Puerto Ayora, the main town and focal point for tourism, lies on the south side of the island. Within walking distance is the Charles Darwin Research Station. Most travel tours stop by the station at some point during their visit. The walk from town to the research station passes through a unique “forest” of manzanilla, saltbush, and various cacti. Insect, which are relatively under represented on the islands compared to the mainland, abound in various shapes and sizes. Birders will enjoy Darwin’s finches, fly catchers, and Galapagos mockingbirds.
The research station is important for understanding the magic of the Galapagos Islands and its struggle to survive. At the main travel center are numerous exhibits that describe the archipelago’s natural history, geology, historical issues, and conservation efforts. Slide shows are also presented here in serval different languages.
Farther along the main walkway is the tortoise conservation and rearing center. Learn about the natural history of the remaining endemic subspecies, as well as other ongoing projects. In addition, you can visit the center’s tortoise incubation and repartriation facilities, where repopulating efforts continue at full speed.
There are several small beaches nearby that are great for relaxing. Back in town, the ocean front street is a good place to pick up a souvenir or relax with a drink and a sunset view of the Academy Bay. Prices here are a bit higher than on the mainland. Don’t expect at the last minute to find an inexpensive, disposable underwater camera. They cost up to $25 here, compared to $15 in Quito. While you are lounging about near the shoreline, the wildlife – including marine iguanas, pelicans, and other shorebirds – may join you. Pangas, the little rubber motorboats, wait as water taxis at the pier to transport passengers between the island and their boats. Arrange to have a crew member pick you up, or take a water taxi for just over $1.
Recommended link: Travel and Tourism Directory