Visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center
There is perhaps no other name more synonymous with the Galapagos Islands than Charles Darwin.
The author of the 1859 book On the Origin of Species, Darwin ignited what would turn out to be a forever debate about the merits of evolutions against the traditional ideas of creation based on religious testaments. As he traversed the waters around the archipelago more than 150 years ago, Darwin came to define his observations of the local finch birds and their specific beak attributes. His idea was that birds and other animals may have evolved from their ancient forms into their current states based on what is now known as the survival of the fittest and adaptation to their environment.
Darwin’s theory of evolution aside, he was also a dedicated and passionate natural scientist who was deeply passionate about the world around him. The Charles Darwin Research Center, established in 1964 and found in the outskirts of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island,is run by the Charles Darwin Foundation and continues to respect and honor the Galapagos natural distinctions.
The Protected Galapagos Tortoise
The top reason many visitors go to the center today is to observe the giant Galapagos tortoises that are bred and protected on its grounds. These immense creatures are endemic to the Galapagos which means they are not found anywhere else in the world. Some can weigh more than 880 pounds and live more than 100 years! The most famous tortoise was named Lonesome George, a Pinta Island native and a very specific subspecies who was the last of his kind. Unfortunately Lonesome George passed away on June 24, 2012, but to this day he remains a beloved character of the Galapagos.
The Charles Darwin Research Center is also a great place to see baby turtles as they grow and before they are released back onto their respective native islands. Watch as they move surprisingly fast under rocks and into the shade, and also climbing on top of each other! Various exhibits throughout the grounds offer more background about the different animals found on the islands, not to mention many endemicOpuntia cacti (cacti that grow with trunks like trees), and colorful lizards that dart back and forth in front of your feet.
When visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen because the walking paths can be difficult under the harsh Pacific sun.