In the center of the Galapagos archipelago lies Santa Cruz, the second largest island in size (after Isabela). It is also the commercial capital of the region, with the largest human settlement of about 20,000 residents. Santa Cruz is home to the National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation headquarters, whose contributions to the welfare of local ecosystems is key. The highlands region of this island is highly productive for agriculture and farming. This is also the place to see the island’s giant tortoises — icons of the archipelago — in their natural state. Puerto Ayora is a large town where we see how people can live in harmony with nature and participate in commerce under the umbrella of tourism.
National Geographic Islander II
Today we explored Bartolome Islet and Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz Island; these areas are remarkably beautiful because they offer impressive views of the Galapagos volcanic landscape. During the morning we hiked and snorkeled in Bartolome. For the afternoon we moved to Cerro Dragon to hike across dry forest looking for Galapagos land iguanas. Bartolome Islet is a small volcanic island located off the east coast of Santiago Island. It is known for its distinctive Pinnacle Rock, a towering volcanic formation that rises out of the sea. The island is relatively barren, with a stark landscape of black lava rocks and sparse vegetation. Right after breakfast the guests of National Geographic Islander II landed at Bartolome and climbed to the summit to take in one of the most scenic views of the archipelago. Our guests also had the opportunity to snorkel in the waters around Pinnacle Rock, where they observed a variety of marine life including fish, sea turtles, Galapagos sea lions, and Galapagos penguins. For the afternoon we explored Cerro Dragon (“dragon hill”), on Santa Cruz Island; this area is named for the land iguanas that live here. It is a volcanic hill on the northwest coast of Santa Cruz, and was formed over a million years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions. The climb up the hill provided breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Along the way, we encountered several land iguanas basking in the sun and occasionally crossing our path. We also saw some species of birds, including Darwin's finches and Galápagos mockingbirds. Once we reached the summit, we were rewarded with panoramic views of the coastline and the nearby islets.