San Cristobal Island is one of the best places to see Giant Tortoises in semi-wild conditions. It is also home to the archipelago’s only freshwater lake, an excellent interpretation centre, hosts frigate birds, sea lions, marine iguanas, blue and red footed boobies and the endemic Chatam Mocking Bird. Also known as Chatam, San Cristobal is the easternmost island in the Galapagos and the archipelago’s fifth largest island. The oldest island geologically it has an area of 558 km2 (215 sq mi) with its highest point rising to 730 meters (2,400 ft). The most fertile island of Galapagos, it was the first place to have a permanent settlement and was where Charles Darwin first went ashore in Galapagos in 1835. The small town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in the south-western tip of the island is the capital of Galapagos.
The south east of San Cristobal is home to giant tortoise corral, where tortoises are kept in near-natural conditions. The site has been developed to help restore the Giant Tortoise population of the Island (which was badly impacted by whalers in past centuries) and provides a great chance to see these magnificent giants up close in a natural habitat with paths covering an area of 900 meters. You will also have great chances of seeing the San Cristobal Mockingbird, Woodpecker Finch and Large and Small Tree Finches here. It is also one of the few places that you can see Calandrinia galapagosa, a critically endangered plant endemic to San Cristobal.
Driving up to the highlands of San Cristobal, you take a narrow road up the sides of an extinct volcano and at the summit you are treated to a spectacular view of the El Junco Lagoon. Rainwater and condensation have collected in the caldera since the last ice age, creating this haven for Frigatebirds. Travelling up here gives you a glimpse of the islands many zones and their eco-systems within the island (you need good shoes and a jacket for this visit!).
Only accessible by boat, we can help organise day trips with local companies to visit Leon Dormido, sometimes called Kicker Rock. It is a huge rock formation near the coast of San Cristobal, an eroded cinder cone with two vertical rocks rising over 150 meters from the ocean, and a favourite spot for Tropicbirds along with Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds. You will visit this site by boat and it is a great spot for snorkelling.
Wreck Bay is a large bay where the port town of Baquerizo Moreno is situated. For hundreds of years the reefs around this bay were the site of many shipwrecks. One of the most recent wrecks happened during WWI, when the Caragua, a German transport ship sank here. Today it is an artificial reef where you can see lots of types of fishes, corals (black, orange) and many types of sea urchins. The crystal clear turquoise waters make it a great site for kayaking.
Overview: Just a short walk from the town, this museum tells of the colourful human history of the islands, from the arrival of the first humans in 1535 to the murderous reign of J.M. Cobos for over two decades to the people now living on the islands and the unique challenges they face.
Highlights & Animals: Cultural experience, mockingbirds, finches, Yellow Warblers
Tips: You can follow this visit with a visit to Las Tijeretas, as the trail begins right behind the Interpretation Centre.
Overview: Behind the Interpretation Centre are a series of paths through the dry, coastal vegetation zone which leads up to a view point (after walking up a hundred or so steps!) where you can see the off-shore rock formation of Kicker Rock, so named because of its resemblance to a boot, or more romantically as the locals call it Leon Dormido, for its characteristic shape of a sleeping lion! From here you can also see a beautiful turquoise bay where there is now a pier on the spot where Darwin made his first landing in Galapagos (further along the trail you will see a statue of Darwin commemorating this occasion). It’s well worth taking your mask and snorkel along so you can jump off the pier to snorkel around the shallow bay looking for colourful tropical fish and sea turtles. Schedule around 1.5 hrs for a round trip hike, and more if you go snorkelling.
Activities: Hiking and snorkelling
Highlights & Animals: Panoramic view, mockingbirds, finches, Yellow Warblers, tropical fish, sea turtles
Tips: Make sure you take plenty of water and sun screen.
Overview: This quirky place is a big hit, especially with children! It is a privately-owned tree house in a massive 40 metre high Kapok tree. But that’s not all, it has a huge rope swing, a tire swing, a fireman’s post you can slide down from the tree house and you can also climb up the tree with safety equipment. It also has an underground den nestled in between the massive buttress roots whose circumference measures almost 18 metres. There is a little bar/restaurant made of 22,000 green bottles, where you can get refreshments. You can also book to stay the night in the tree house as it is fully plumbed with a toilet and a kitchenette. To get here you can take a taxi from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to the town of Progreso where the tree house is located.
Highlights & Animals: Tree-house adventure! Lush vegetation scenery
Tips: The tree house in located in the town of Progreso which is on the way to El Junco and La Galapaguera, so you can combine all three visits for a full day of fun! There is a small entrance fee to pay on arrival to the tree house.