This island is home of the famous Pinnacle Rock, which is the most representative landmark of the Bartolome Island in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. Climbing to the top of this popular landmark rewards visitors with panoramic views of varied lave formations, volcanic peaks and moon-like landscape. Walking on the rocks at the base of Pinnacle Rock are Galapagos Penguins. This is the smallest species of penguins and the only species found north of the Equator.
At the beach on the southern side, if you come in the right season, you can see nesting sea turtles resting in the sand or wading in the shallow water. You might also spot a white-tipped reef shark patrolling the close to the shore.
This island was formed by volcanic activity and since it is relatively young, the colonization is very fragile. Therefore it is important to be careful and stay as much as possible on the trails.
Visit the world famous Charles Darwin Research Center where efforts to protect and preserve the native and endemic animals are developed. Learn about the giant tortoise rearing programs.
The Charles Darwin Research Center was created in 1960 by an international committee in order to promote research, conservation, and education in the Galapagos Islands. The center is located on Isla Santa Cruz, a short walk away from Puerto Ayora. At the center, visitors can tour the Van Straelen Exhibition Center where staff members are available to answer questions about the islands and the ongoing restoration process. The center also runs slide shows (narrated in several languages) that describe the history of the islands and the current conservation efforts.
In addition to the exhibition center, the tortoise rearing house and the adult tortoise house, provide opportunities for visitors to observe the 11 subspecies of tortoises up close. In the rearing house, hatchlings and young tortoises are nurtured until they can be released, at about four years of age, to their home islands. Nearly 2000 young tortoises have been released so far!
Tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild find their home in the adult tortoise house, an area with several different enclosures for the education and protection of tortoises from each subspecies. Handling the tortoises is prohibited, but this is a great place to get close up photos of the tortoises feeding on cacti and snoozing by the artificial pond.
Beyond the tortoises are several shaded patios along the elevated boardwalks that weave throughout the center. Here visitors can take a break from the crowds and observe many of the native bird species, including Darwin's famous finches.
Genovesa is a sensation of unspoiled nature and is considered a bird-watchers paradise. The volcanic sea cliffs around Darwin Bay offer prime breeding places for frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls, storm petrels, tropic birds and red-footed boobies. If you climb up the Prince Phillip's Steps onto the plateau, you will find that no matter where you look there will be a bird.
Genovesa offers good snorkeling opportunities at the beach or alongside the cliffs on the shoreline. Because of the richness of nutrients in the bay, you never know what you might encounter.
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.
Unlike most of the islands in the Galapagos that were formed by volcanic eruptions, Santa Fe was formed by an uplift caused by tectonic activity. This means that the island does not have the typical cone shape. Santa Fe has one of the most beautiful coves of all the visitor sites in the region - a turquoise lagoon protected by a peninsula of rocks and small islands that extends from the shore.
Hike along the coastline and discover colorful flora and fauna. The well-known land iguanas here can grow over five feet long. The Sanfa Fe species of iguana are more bright yellow and have uncommonly large spikes on their spine. In true Galapagos style the opuntia cactus, a favorite food of the land iguana, has responded by growing tall and woody - up to 33 feet high and are the largest of their kind in Galapagos. Manta rays and sea turtles flit by as dark shadows against the sandy bottom of Santa Fe's beautiful anchorage.
After a long hike, relax with a swim in the calm waters of the beautiful bay, or snorkel along in the company of sea lions at the base of the rocks.