Charles Darwin Research Station is situated in the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, at the east end of Avenida Charles Darwin. It was established in 1964 and it is the headquarters of the Charles Darwin Foundation. Here more than 100 scientists, students and volunteers are working with research and conservation projects to protect the Galapagos ecosystem and endangered species.
At Charles Darwin Research Station there is a museum and information centre where you can learn much about the wildlife and ecology of the Galapagos Islands. There is a breeding centre and a house where baby-tortoises are incubated. The young tortoises are taken care of until they are old enough to be taken to their home islands and natural habitat. In the Galapagos Islands there are 11 different subspecies of the Giant Tortoise, and at Charles Darwin Research Station you can see several of them. The most famous tortoise here is Lonesome George. He is the only surviving Tortoise of the subspecies from Isla Pinta. Many attempts have been made to mate him with closely related females, but without success.
There are several enclosures with adult Giant Tortoises and in one of them you can go down to come close to the tortoises. There are also enclosures with Land Iguanas.
I visited Charles Darwin Research Station on the first day of the Cruise with M/S Cachalote, so we got a very good guided walk around the area. However, it is easy to visit on your own. It is only a 15 minutes walk from central Puerto Ayora and around the Research Station there are several trails and information boards. It is free to visit.
Update June 2012: Lonesome George died on the 24th of June 2012. He was found dead in the morning by his caretaker and it is believed that he died because his heart stopped and because of old age. Lonesome George was between 90 -107 years.
Also known as Solitary George, Lonesome George is the last turtle of his sub-species (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni). His turtle buddies were all killed by either whalers in the 19th century (who used them for food) or introduced goats (who competed with them for food - and won).
He was found in 1971 on Pinta and currently resides at Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island while scientists try to find him a mate.
To find out more, see website (address below)
The Darwin centre is a short walk from the center of town. It's primary purpose is the conservation of the Galapagos ecosystems. Among it's various roles is the aim to educate it's visitors by providing information on the life cycles for many of the inhabitants of the archipelago.
Among the various inhabitants at the center which you can see are the land and marine iguanas, various birds and tortoises including the famous 'Lonesome George' tortoise.
This is a general must-see when visiting Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, though it doesn't require a lot of time. It was so damn hot when we visited in the middle of the day that I was ready to ditch that place and dive into the cool, refreshing water. But we DID see lots of tortoise babies (they are raised there until they are old and big enough to be released to the wild without being eaten by rats and mean frigates!). We also saw the classic 100 kilo and 100+ year old Lonesome George as well as Diego, the 125 year old tortoise.
At the westernmost end of the main street in Puerto Ayora is the Charles Darwin Center where giant tortoises are raised for repatriation and where Lonesome George, the most known of the kind is kept. He is the last of his kind coming from Pinta island. They have tried hard to get him to mate with the three females of a similar species but he seems to be too old to bother about perpetuating his DNA. As they are against the ambiguous method of cloning his species will be extinct after him.
The one thing that even the cruise ship set does in Puerto Ayora is visit the Charles Darwin Research Center . It is generally included in the price of your tour and is the first or middle day of your trip depending on if you signed up for the three, four seven day tour. It's actually a wasted day, not because the center is not worth seeing but the truth is you can do it by yourself for free. It's included in your $100 National Park entrance fee and is a short interesting walk from the town center. Though the exhibits are not of the quality of a National Park of the Galapagos Islands' stature, it is an interesting and informative if small set of displays. The real attraction here is the tortoise breeding center where you can see not only full grown examples of the species that is the gave the islands their name but also wee baby ones. One of the stars is Lonesome George, a ninety plus old boy who is the last remaining member of the Isla Pinta subspecies. There is a nice boardwalk walkway that meanders shortly through some lovely cacti and you can also walk amongst the tortoise as well.
In contrast to the breeding stations on the islands, this centre is devoted to research rather than breeding of tortoises.
The only two guys who enjoy the privilege of being allowed to breed are the two most famous tortoises in the world, most notably Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island species. They have found him two lady-friends which are closest to his own species, but unfortunately he does not show a great interest in them, and one theory is that maybe he has been alone for so long that he has forgotten what to do.
The other tortoise is ancient-looking Diego, who is much more inclined to give his ladies some undivided attention, and when we arrived to visit him he was busy chasing one of them around his enclosure, as far as "chasing" can be applied to tortoises...
At the end of the tour you will also get a great photo opportunity where you can pose with some of the gentle giants.
If you’re doing a tour of the Galapagos then most likely it will take you to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. It is located on Santa Cruz (a very cool island) and is about a 20 minute drive from the main town area.
The research centre is a protection and breeding centre for lots of animals but most of all its focus is on the giant tortoise. As you first walk in you encounter little Genesis who is a very cute baby tortoise. Little “Gennie” is a prime example of successful breeding and hope towards building the numbers of tortoises above the near extinction rate. Very cute as well!!
The research centre is also the home of Lonesome George. He is the last of his breed of tortoise and refuses to mate!! There is even speculation that he may be gay as he doesn’t like the two females housed with him!! Poor George….
I highly recommend a visit to the research centre. It doesn’t feel like a zoo as you can get quite close to the animals and find out a lot about them and their habits at the same time.
Bonus: You can get your passport stamped here with a Galapagos stamp!!
The Charles Darwin research foundation strives towards conservation of the Galapago's environment and biodiversity; through various means most importantly education of the public. This research station is their Headquarters on the Galapagos Islands, on the Island of Santa Cruz. Here congregate scientists, volunteers and students from around to world to study about various topics concerning the Galapagos.
Apart from the information provided the highlights of the Station are the Giant Tortoises, the most notorious being Lonesome George. Lonesome George is the last tortoise from the island of Pinta - the last one of the species - making it the rarest known species of the world. For resons of protection and monitoring, George now lives in the station.
Any trip to the Galapagos will most certainly include this stop - it is a great way to learn about the islands, the threats, conservation and a chance to see the Giant Tortoises.
On the island of Sant Cruz is the Charles Darwin Research Station. There you can see baby turtles being raised. Large tortoises that were once people's pets roam there. Here you can find the famous "Lonely George" tortoise. Say hi..