At the station’s newest addition, the Charles Darwin Exhibition Hall, visitors can view exhibits, including the skeleton of a 43-foot (13-meter) Bryde's whale, and murals by local Galapagos artists. Next door, at the giant tortoise breeding center, you can walk among the popular creatures. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the biological research station aids the Government of Ecuador in the conservation of the Galapagos. Most guided tours of Santa Cruz include a stop here.
Things to know before you go
- One of the station’s most popular attractions, Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise of the Pinta Island subspecies, died in 2012.
- The center accepts donations to help fund its projects.
- Science and nature lovers will enjoy seeing the tortoises at different ages.
- There are restrooms, a gift shop, and a cafe on site.
How to get there
The station is located about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, and is about a 20-minute walk or 6-minute taxi ride from town. To reach Puerto Ayora, fly to Baltra and then take a bus to the ferry to Santa Cruz, where you can get a bus or taxi to Puerto Ayora.
When to get there
Charles Darwin Research Station is 7 days a week, but the facility closes for lunch for a couple of hours every day. The Galapagos is considered a year-round destination, so the best time to visit really depends on what you want to do. From January through June, the calmer seas and warmer waters are ideal for snorkeling. Hiking is good from July through December since it’s drier and cooler then.
What to Know About the Galapagos Tortoises
Giant tortoises live the longest of all vertebrates, with an average age of over 100 years. It’s believed that there are only 10 types of giant tortoises left in the Galapagos (when Darwin arrived, there were 15). For centuries, they were hunted for food, causing them to become endangered. The station is helping in the conservation efforts.
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