|Travel Ecuador : Galapagos Islands :|
In the heart of the Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz Island is one of the most-visited destinations for tourists to the islands, given its proximity to the airport at Baltra where most tourists arrive. As such, Santa Cruz is the kicking-off point for a large majority of Galapagos islands cruises and land-based tours alike. The island has a fairly large human population compared with the other islands.
The Charles Darwin Research Station
At the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island, visitors get to wander around and learn a bit about the species and geology of the Galapagos Islands. Famous Lonesome George is housed at the research station, and you can see other giant tortoises and get in their enclosure with them for a picture. It is especially fun to be there at feeding times. You can also see land iguanas, tortoises that are being bred and lots of explanatory information about the islands.
Often the naturalist guides will include an optional extra for cruise tourists, that is, a visit to the highlands of Santa Cruz. Here, it is possible to visit giant tortoise farms and view this magnificent beast living in a semi-natural environment. One such place where this can be done is the El Chato reserve.
Los Gemelos is a spot that is often frequented on trips to the island of Santa Cruz. It consists of two massive sink holes. Los Gemelos is a Spanish phrase, which can be translated to “the twins”. This volcanic site is also a good place for bird watching. In particular it is a good spot to see the Vermillion flycatcher and various species of Darwin’s finches.
Santa Cruz island has a number of interesting lava tubes or tunnels that are formed through volcanic activity. This occurs when the outer layer of the lava gets cold and solidifies, while the lava continues flowing underneath the hardened stream. One commonly visited tunnel is known as the “Tunnel of Endless Love”, which is approximately 800 meters in length.
Other visitor sites
Cruise boats in the Galapagos stop at other visitor sites on or around Santa Cruz island. These include Tortuga Bay, Bachas Beach, Black Turtle Cove, Conway Bay, Garrapatero Beach and Whaler Bay. Most of these can also be visited by the independent traveler who does not have the budget for a Galapagos cruise, or who prefers just to not take a cruise and to go it alone. Visitors also enjoy wandering along Puerto Ayora harbour, where they often get their first glimpse of Galapagos wildlife first-hand.
On Santa Cruz island it is possible to find most amenities that travelers require. These can be found in the busy, main town of Puerto Ayora. Here there are numerous hotels and restaurants, dive shops and souvenir stores. In addition, there are internet cafes for visitors who want to keep in touch with those back home and ATMs for those who need a bit more cash for their trip.