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Exploring the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

April 2019

At the Charles Darwin Research Station you can learn more about the conservation efforts of the Galapagos Islands. It was established in 1964 as a headquarter for scientific research and conservation efforts. Its main objective is to study the environment and ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, to care for endangered or injured creatures and to prepare them for release into the wild. There is a breeding program for giant tortoises and land iguanas which can be visited.

How to get there?

The Charles Darwin Research Station is located on the edge of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. From the town it is a 20 minute walk which passes several huge tortoises. Along the way you can also find two beaches, so make sure to take your swim suits with you. At the station is a little tourist shop where you can get water, some snacks and souvenirs.

Visiting giant tortoises

At the Charles Darwin Research Station you can get a lot of information about giant tortoises, land iguanas and the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. Many interesting exhibits show the efforts that are being made.


One of the efforts is the breeding program for giant tortoises that live on average over 100 years. You can see baby turtles that are reared and released into the wild after a few years. The program is particularly important as baby tortoises are at risk from introduced species, like rats, dogs and pigs. In the past, tortoises were at risk because of overexploitation for meat because pirates took them as food. As the number has been reduced significantly the species is threatened with extinction.


The most famous giant tortoise might be Lonesome George. There have been many attempts to find a partner for Lonesome George, but all have been unsuccessful. He died in 2012. Sadly, Lonesome George was the last known creature of the Pinta Island Giant Tortoises and his species is now extinct.

Visiting land iguanas


Another effort is the breeding program for land iguanas which can be viewed. A number of land iguanas were brought to the station in a rescue mission to save them from wild dogs. The introduced species drastically reduced the population in the 1970s. Today, there is an ongoing and successful land iguana breeding program and land iguanas can be observed.

Relaxing at the beach


After we explored the Charles Darwin Research Station we found two beaches very close to the station. One of the beaches is called Playa de la Estacion. It is a rather small beach and wasn't too crowded when we were there. If you want to take a dip in the sea, this is the perfect place. Just bring your swim suit and jump into the water or just relax there and admire the incredible wildlife. In our case, pelicans appeared right in front of us.



Punta Ayora, Santa Cruz

All day, closes at 6pm

Duration & Distance

At least 1,5 hours




No guide necessary


Sun screen

Water and snacks

Swim suit (optional)

Towel (optional)

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