Hike In Search of Giant Tortoises, Santa Cruz Island
Most of the cruises we work with start on or near Santa Cruz Island and this day makes a perfect introduction to your Galapagos trip. In the company of your own private National Park Guide you will explore the remarkable highlands of Santa Cruz and spend some quality time with giant tortoises in the wild. You will have lunch in a hacienda which is regularly visited by giant tortoises, then after lunch the trip will conclude with a visit to Cerro Messa, a private ecological with an impressive sinkhole crater.
Morning: Santa Cruz Highlands The highlands of Santa Cruz are home to fascinating geological features, like lava tubes and the twin sinkhole craters of Los Gemelos, which are home to some 300 different fern species as well as a forest of Scalesias, a relative of sunflowers. This is an excellent area to look for some elusive endemics like the Woodpecker Finch (one of only a few bird species in the world to use tools), Small Tree Finch, Vegetarian Finch and Galapagos Rail. The highlands of Santa Cruz are one of the best places to see Giant Tortoises in the wild.
Activities: Hike (0.9 mi / 1 ½ km)
Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
Highlights & Animals: Pitt craters, Scalesia Forest, Darwin finches, Warblers, Flycatchers.
Afternoon: Cerro Messa Ecological Reserve Cerro Messa is a private ecological reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz with many forest paths filled with endemic Galapagos vegetation and an impressive and deep sinkhole crater. You will get the chance to watch White Cheeked Pintail ducks, rails, stilts and Frigate birds who are usually present in the lagoon here. The reserve also offers the opportunity to see mockingbirds, flycatchers, warblers, Galapagos doves and Darwin’s finches.
With luck you will also be able to see some of the population of giant tortoises that live in the reserve, which are geographically isolated from the main population of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. (This nature reserve is a great example of a private initiative trying to work and protect the fragile Galapagos ecosystem alongside the Galapagos National Park).
Activities: Short hike (1.2 mi /2km)
Highlights & Animals: Interesting vegetation, Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Doves and sometimes Giant Tortoises