Santa Cruz—Puerto Ayora

Well, okay—that’s enough tortoise talk for now.  The CDRS also had a display of Land Iguanas. LandIguanaF  You can tell LandIguanathe sexes apart pretty easily in mature adults.  The female (left) has shorter spines on the crest along her spine than the male does (right); she is also smaller.  (You can tell this better in the photo of the 2 separated by a partition, below.)  In fact, the scientific name of this species, Conolophus, derives from the Greek words for “spiny” (cono) and “crest” (lophos).  The archipelago has 3 species of Land Iguana—Conolophus subcristatus (found on 6 islands), C. pallidus (endemic to Santa Fé), and C. marthae (a pink Land Iguana found only on Volcán Wolf on Isabela—and not confirmed as a species until 2009).

LandIguanasWe spotted other wildlife as we wandered through the exhibits.  A Galápagos Mockingbird GAMOstopped to check us out (left).  A pair of Yellow Warblers (below) YEWAsenjoyed the water at an enclosure.  A ground finch (below) posed for us along the way.  I’d guess it was a female-type Large Ground Finch:  Males are black, so this streaky brown plumage indicated a female or possibly a recent fledgling.  The beak was about as long as it was deep (top to bottom), which is typical for that species; finally, it was quite big for a finch.

spacerGRFI_1spacer     GRFI_2spacer    GRFI_3
Continued on p. 3; click below.

2 Responses to Santa Cruz—Puerto Ayora

  1. Doug Mullens says:

    Just found your interesting site and have a question. Which Islands that you might visit on a cruise still have Giant Tortoise living in their natural habitat?


    • Tina says:

      Hi, Doug–

      I’m not sure how much of a stickler you are about “natural habitat.” The most likely place to see Giant Tortoises living free is in the highlands of Santa Cruz. They are indeed living in their original habitat there, but they are often “cohabiting” with farms, so the habitat doesn’t seem quite as natural. But they’re easy to see there, that’s for sure.

      Another spot in the SC highlands is El Chato Reserve. I’ve not been there, but it might be a more natural habitat, if that’s important to you, since it’s a reserve. You can read about it here: .

      Another spot that you might (emphasis, MIGHT) come across a tortoise in its natural habitat is on the landing at Urbina Bay on Isabela. (We saw one young one walking down the path in front of us.) Urbina Bay lies at the foot of Volcán Alcedo, which is home to the largest single population of tortoises in the archipelago. Another spot that some folks report seeing a tortoise or 2 is on the walk to the Wall of Tears, near Puerto Villamil on Isabela. But again, you have to be very lucky to happen on that.

      Finally, I have read about La Galapaguera on San Cristóbal, but I haven’t read any reports of travelers who’ve gone there. It sounds like it’s a long, hot walk: .

      On both our trips, we saw these lovely behemoths in the agricultural lands of the highlands of Santa Cruz. That was natural habitat enough for us–and a delightful alternative to seeing them at any of the breeding centers. I highly recommend these spots for their ease and the ability to see good numbers of tortoises in a short while.

      Don’t hesitate if you have other questions!



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