Get inspired, learn more and join us on our journey

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos highlight: Charles Darwin Research Station

Published July 08, 2016 by Nick Dall

See Galapagos giant tortoises in all stages of development – from tiny babies to adult behemoths. Plus a breeding program for land iguanas and other informative exhibits.
The Charles Darwin Foundation is an international non-profit which has been working with the Ecuadorian government since 1959 to provide scientific knowledge and assistance to help conserve the Galapagos’ unique ecosystems. In addition to the invaluable scientific work there is a small visitors’ centre at their HQ near Puerto Ayora.

Photo Les Williams
Great things happen in this building. (Photo: Les Williams)


You will encounter adult Galapagos giant tortoises at several points on your Galapagos adventure, but the Charles Darwin Research Station affords you the opportunity of seeing them at all stages of growth from unhatched eggs to full-grown adults. It is quite incredible to see the young hatchlings which weigh as little as 1.8 ounces and measure only 2.4 inches. Remember: the hatchery is about far more than pleasing tourists: when the tortoises are big enough to fend for themselves they are released into the wild, thus preserving the species for generations to come.

Babies Aaron Logan
Babies! (Photo: Aaron Logan)


In addition to the tortoises, there is a captive breeding program for land iguanas. When a pack of wild dogs brought over from the mainland nearly decimated a colony of iguanas in the 1970s, the 60 survivors were brought to the research station, and their impressive descendants are still going strong.
The Charles Darwin foundation plays a pivotal role in the conservation of the archipelago’s biodiversity and a visit to the research station is an essential component of any Galapagos itinerary. It was also, until recently, the home to the most famous tortoise in the world: Lonesome George passed away in 2012.

Lava lizard Claumoho
Also keep an eye out for unofficial residents like this lava lizard. (Photo: Claumoho)


Further reading:
Read more about the Galapagos giant tortoise here
Read more about the land iguana’s marine cousin here
Check out our Galapagos itineraries here
Full credit to Flickr user Claumoho for the cover image of this blog.