Dragon Hill is one of the newest visitor's sites on Santa Cruz Island. Named for the large number of land iguanas that frequent the area, Dragon Hill has become an important nesting site for iguanas reintroduced there by the Charles Darwin Research Center.
Visitors will take a short walk from the beach to a hypersalinic (saltier than the ocean) lagoon that is frequented by pink flamingos, common stilts, pintail ducks and other species of birds. From here, they will pass through a Scalesia tree forest. Endemic to the Galapagos, there are only 400 specimens of the Scalesia tree left in the world. Past the forest, hike up Dragon Hill itself for impressive views of the bay.
This island is located to the west of Isabela, which makes it the westernmost island in Galapagos. No foreign species have ever invaded this island, and as a result it claims one of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. On your walk across this island you will pass the largest colony of land iguanas in Galapagos, and if you're lucky and if the water is clear enough, you might see them feed underwater while snorkeling. Continue on your walk and pass a group of lazy sea lions, before arriving at the island's highlight - the flightless cormorant nesting site.
The flightless cormorants have earned their names from a truly evolutionary happening. They are flightless because they have no predators on the islands. Since it was easier to find food in the ocean, their feet and wings have adapted for swimming. As you will see, if you see them standing up in the breeze after coming out of the water to dry, their wings are quite undersized and naturally of no use for flying.
This is one of the islands that has the most interesting human history. It was one of the earliest islands to be inhabited. In 1793 a post office barrel was erected on Floreana to facilitate delivery to the United States and Europe. Today, this area of the island is of course called Post Office Bay. You will also find the remains of a Norwegian commercial fish drying and canning operation in this area and a lava tube that extends to the sea.
At Punta Cormorant more than 50 volcanic cones rise in an 80-mile area. Pink flamingos, clear water and interesting coral growths make this a perfect spot for snorkeling.
The Devil's Crown is a volcanic crater near Floreana that has been eroded by the waves. Here snorkelers are immersed in a world of color and movement filled with schools of fish that move as one: king angelfish, yellowtail surgeonfish, and needlefish. There are also parrotfish, Moorish idols, and damselfish, sea cucumbers, sea stars, sea urchins, sleeping sharks, turtles, rays and many more, making this one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos.
Isabela is the largest and one of the most volcanically active islands in the Galapagos. The island has five active volcanoes and it is well known for the 5 subspecies of giant tortoise that live in the cloudforests of Isabela. These forests, as well as the massive volcanoes silhouetting against the sky, offers a remarkable contrast to the lower islands of the eastern archipelago. West of Isabela, you might very well catch a glimpse of humpback whales breaching completely out of the water, as well as playful dolphins. Stingrays, small sharks, and turtles are found in mangrove lagoons on Isabela.
Tagus Cove is one of the landing spots on the island and was historically used as an anchoring site for pirates and whalers. The trail that goes from Tagus Cove will take you through many different vegetation zones and offers spectacular views of Darwin Lake, which is a saltwater crater lake. Once you get to the top of the trail, you will be able to see Darwin Volcano as well as Wolf Volcano, which is the highest point of the islands.
Located between North Seymour and Baltra Island is the small island of Mosquera. The island consists is a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks, and tide pools. Created by geological uplift, the island is flat rather than the conical shape of the volcanic islands. Mosquera Island is a great place for snorkeling, strolling on the beach, and enjoying wildlife without the tourist crowds common at many of the more popular islands.
Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic Turtle crossing sign on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands center of the archipelago, with the largest population of the 4 inhabited islands, approximately 8,000. Tourism, fishing, boat building and commerce are the major productive activities. Santa Cruz is also the only island where six different vegetation zones can be seen: Coastal, Arid, Transition, Scalesia, Miconia and Pampa zones.
Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Station, where visitors can observe tortoise research and breeding programs. Scientists, park rangers, and park managers among others conduct the conservation of the islands and make huge efforts to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A trip to the lush greenery of the Santa Cruz highlands offers a welcome contrast with the arid scenery of the smaller, lower islands. You will get a chance to see enormous pit craters, lava tunnels and giant tortoises roaming freely.