The first Island on our itinerary was Santa Cruz Island. We arrived on the island by tender craft launched from the expedition cruise ship MV Galapagos Explorer ll. We didn’t realize it at the time but we were about to be treated to something very special.
One of the reasons for visiting Santa Cruz Island was to meet with long term resident Lonesome George, the 100-year-old Giant Land Tortoise and other younger Giant Tortoises that lived with him on Santa Cruz Island.
Lonesome George was the last survivor of Pinta Islands Giant Land Tortoises. He was first found in December 1971 on Pinta Island and relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in March 1972. Lonely George was relocated to Santa Cruz Is. for his protection and to be part of a breeding program.
Charles Darwin Research Station
The research station is where we had the privilege of seeing him and other Giant Land Tortoises. Giant Land Tortoises like Lonely George can weigh up to 250kg and estimates have them living to the ripe old age of 170 years and beyond.
Apart from seeing Lonesome George, the visit to the Island offered the opportunity to see other Giant Tortoises of varying ages and to be educated into their history, life cycles and the breeding programs in place to ensure the long term survival and of these unique and magnificent creatures.
Seeing Lonely George was both a special and sad experience, for within a month of returning to Australia we were advised that Lonely George died on the 24th June 2012.
A visit to Santa Cruz Island also provides the opportunity to tour the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Research Station was established in 1959 and is located on Santa Cruz Island near the main town of Puerto Ayora. The station provides and environment for scientists to research and work on conservation projects associated with the Galapagos archipelago.