Charles Darwin Research Center, Galápagos Islands

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  • Baby tortoises
    Baby tortoises
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  • Charles Darwin Research Center
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    Tortoises at Charles Darwin Research...
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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Charles Darwin Research Center

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 1, 2008

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    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.

    a wee baby tortoise D enjoys the trail through massive cacti Lonesome George, truly a dying breed Lonesome Richie
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    Charles Darwin Research Station

    by SanguiniA Written Oct 28, 2005

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    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.

    Who's the youngest-looking of us both??
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    First stop: The Darwin Station

    by Quero Updated Dec 4, 2004

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    If you are staying in Puerto Ayora before boarding your boat, make sure to take the time to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here you will get an overview of the islands' geography and climate as well as a first look at some of the wildlife that has made this place so famous.

    The photo shows a tortoise with a saddle-shaped carapace (shell). This type of tortoise is what gave the islands their popular name, as "galapagos" was the term for a particular kind of saddle popular when the sailors who "discovered" the islands first landed.

    If you click the photo to enlarge it, you may notice that the tortoise has a number etched into its carapace. I saw people going around checking tortoises' numbers to find a "lucky" one to take a photo of themselves next to. As for me, I've got plenty of pictures of myself, so I'm giving you one of this beautiful creature all by itself.

    As I was saying, the center collects tortoise eggs and rears the hatchlings until they are large enough to defend themselves from the scourge of rats and dogs that have been imported into the islands. When they are released, individual animals can then be monitored for research purposes by checking the numbers on their shells and recording their habits.

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    Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 29, 2012

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    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.

    Tortoises at Charles Darwin Research Station Tortoise at Charles Darwin Research Station Boardwalk around Charles Darwin Research Station Lonesome George, Charles Darwin Research Station
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    Genesis!!

    by nattybabe Written Sep 12, 2006

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    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!!

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    giant tortoises

    by elsadran Updated May 30, 2008

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    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.

    ...in the shell!
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    Charles Darwin Research Station

    by windsorgirl Written Dec 18, 2003

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    You will find the Research Station only a 20 minute walk from downtown Puerto Ayora. This is the place to come to get up close and personal with a giant tortoise and to pose for that classic photo. You will also see baby giant tortoises in their nursery and you will meet Lonesome George. He is the last of his species. They have tried to mate him with similar species, but he's just not interested. The good news is that George is only 50 yrs old and they expect him to live another 50, which gives the researchers plenty of time to come up with another way to make sure his lineage carries on. Apparantly cloning has been suggested as an option.

    Giant Tortoise, Charles Darwin Research Station
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    Charles Darwin Research Center

    by roamer61 Updated Aug 22, 2003

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    The Center is a great place to see the famous giant tortoises that gave the islands their name. Eggs are also incubated and the young tortoises are eventually returned to the wild after they hatch when they are big enough to protect themselves from introduced animals which may harm or eat the babies. Certainly a fascinating place. The center is open to the public. Check for latest details on the Official Website.

    The painting is of the centers namesake as a young man sailing aboard the HMS Beagle.

    Young Charles Darwin

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    Lonesome George

    by lenoreva Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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)

    Lonesome George looks lonely
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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Day 2-Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station

    by Dabs Updated Jun 7, 2014

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    Much is made of the connection between Charles Darwin and the Galapagos Islands, I found it a little ironic that a center built to protect and nurture the giant tortoise was named for a man who thought nothing of eating them. Tortoises can live for up to a year without eating or drinking so it was quite common to round them up and eat them as the crew needed food on the journey back home. Darwin only spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos Islands, and his theory on the origin of species was not entirely developed based on what he saw in the Galapagos islands but he is still one of the 1st things people think about when they think about this place.

    We stopped at the Charles Darwin Research Station on our way back from the Rancho Manzanillo to see the different kinds of tortoises, some of them just babies held in pens with numbers written on their backs as if they would be out later in the day doing a tortoise race. Besides man, adult tortoises do not have any natural predators, however, the babies are quite vulnerable, rats, dogs and pigs eat the eggs and babies, donkeys, cattle and and horses trample their nests, so they are incubated here and allowed to grow to a size where they are safe to be released into the wild.

    Lonesome George was their most famous resident, he died in 2012 and was estimated to be over 100 years old at the time of his death. He was the last of the land tortoises from Pinta Island, attempts to breed him with a closely related breed of tortoise were unsuccessful as were attempts to locate any other tortoises on Pinta Island.

    There was another enclosure with all male tortoises, I believe they were a hybrid that they are intentionally not propagating, it was interesting to see that some of the randier males were still trying to mate with the other males. In another enclosure we saw two tortoises mating, the process can last for several hours, no wonder the female tortoises try to run away! The male makes a very distinctive roaring sound.

    Baby tortoises

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    Charles Darwin Research Centre

    by Krumel Written Dec 27, 2007

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    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.

    Lonesome George Diego

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    Charles Darwin Research Station

    by CrazyShoes Written Oct 12, 2005

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    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..

    Relaxing Caged young tortoises
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  • K1W1's Profile Photo

    Darwin Research Centre

    by K1W1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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.

    Put your best foot forward
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    Charles Darwin Research Station

    by lenoreva Updated Apr 1, 2003

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    Go to the Charles Darwin Scientific center on Santa Cruz Island. You will learn a lot about the history and nature of the islands. In addition to an information center and a natural history museum, there is a very interesting baby-turtle house where you can see turtles from birth to 4 years of age. You can also hang with giant turtles!

    There is also a section where you can walk though arid-zone plant life and see tons of birds, including Darwin's famous finches (on which he based his theory of evolution).

    look but don't touch
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  • Kindra's Profile Photo

    Visit Lonesome George, Diegito and the whole gang

    by Kindra Updated Jun 19, 2009

    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.

    The daycare area for the baby tortoises The big 200 kilo tortoises Just a comparison of their size Lonesome Gorge taking a siesta - it was HOT Docking our panga in Puerto Ayora harbour

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