The Charles Darwin Station Galapagos is a common feature on many Galapagos cruise itineraries, and many visitors want to know what there is to see and do here. Below we will explain the things to do at the Charles Darwin Station as well as the wildlife you can see here. We’ll also look at the best time to go, and offer our insider tips on visiting this popular Galapagos visitor site.
The main thing to do at the Charles Darwin Research Station is to learn more about the conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands. The research station is run by the Charles Darwin Foundation, and it was set up in 1964 as a base for research on the islands. The Charles Darwin Station has a remit to study the environment and ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands and to understand the biodiversity there. This includes reviewing conservation on the islands, and where necessary taking care for endangered or injured creatures, preparing them for release into the wild. Various creatures are tracked on and around the islands.
The station has breeding programs for giant tortoises and land iguanas which can be viewed. However, it is also researching to understand the movement of other creatures, such as Galapagos penguins, sea turtles and sharks. There are many interesting exhibits that you can view here to help educate yourself on the efforts that are being undertaken at the current time in the Galapagos Islands. Exhibits are located both indoors and outdoors, and you can find gifts and snacks available here too.
There is no wet or dry landing when you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, as it is visited by land (it is just on the edge of Puerto Ayora). If on a Galapagos Islands cruise, you will dock at Puerto Ayora, and either walk or be transported by road to the station.
You will probably want to spend an hour or two at the Charles Darwin Station to make sure that you get to see everything in a relaxed manner.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands that are on a cruise may find that the Charles Darwin Research Station is included in their itinerary, though this is not always the case. It may also be included on day tours of Santa Cruz Island, but again, not always. If visiting on your own as part of a land-based Galapagos trip, the Charles Darwin Research Station can be found on the edge of the town Puerto Ayora, and it is a short walk from town.
There is no particular “best time” to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. It operates all year around with little discernable seasonal difference. The breeding programs also run all year around.
The Charles Darwin Station runs a program to breed and raise young giant tortoises, after which they are released into the wild. The breeding program can be seen at the station. This program is particularly important as baby tortoises are at risk from introduced species that are their predators, like rats and dogs. It is fascinating to learn about the life cycle of the giant tortoise and see everything from tiny baby giant tortoises at various stages of their development. Aside from this, there are also several giant tortoises that reside at this research center.
Those hoping to see Lonesome George roaming in his pen at the station will be disappointed. For a long time he was the last remaining Pinta Island giant tortoise. A long-time resident at the Charles Darwin Research Station, he died in 2012. There were many attempts to find a partner for Lonesome George and to try and get him to breed, but all of these were ultimately unsuccessful. Sadly, George was the last known creature of his species, so now there are no known Pinta Island tortoises left. An exhibit dedicated to this creature, including taxidermized Lonesome George can be seen at the station.
Land iguanas are also a feature at the Charles Darwin Research Station. A number of individuals were brought to the center in a rescue mission to save them from wild dogs. This introduced species was decimating the land iguana population in the 1970s. Today, there is an ongoing and successful land iguana breeding program here, and as such land iguanas may be seen here.
Our main insider recommendation for your trip to the Charles Darwin Research Station is, if you are booking onto a cruise and want to visit this site, make sure your cruise will include this in its itinerary. Not all cruises visit Santa Cruz Island, and even if they do, not all include a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders can provide guidance on booking your Galapagos Islands Cruise, if you want to make sure that you will definitely be stopping at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Contact us to find out more.