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San Cristobal Island (Isla San Cristobal), Galapagos Islands

Giant Tortoises - Isla San Cristobal - Galapagos Islands The fifth largest of the Galapagos Islands in terms of size, Isla San Cristobal has the second largest human settlement of this volcanic island chain. Also known as Chatham Island, Isla San Cristobal is important because it is home to the provincial capital of the Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno which sits on the islandís southwestern end. Around 560 sq km in size, Isla San Cristobal is named in honor of Christopher Columbus, and is the second most popular island after Isla Santa Cruz, as there is a domestic airport here as well as a number of hotels, tour/travel companies, restaurants, and bars.

Home to quite a few endemic wildlife species, this islandís claim to fame is that there is a lot to see and do here. With spectacular landscapes, San Cristobal has the only freshwater lagoon in the Galapagos. El Junco lagoon sits in the highlands about 700m above sea level. A rain filled crater around 6m deep, there are a lot of endemic trees and ferns surrounding the lake, making the views from here quite breathtaking, with some exceptional bird watching opportunities.

If you are an avid birdwatcher, then visiting this island is a must to see the Chatham Mockingbird. An endemic species, this mockingbird is similar to the Galapagos Mockingbird, but differs when it comes to plumage. With a thin white collar and obvious streakings on its wings and on the sides of its breast, this bird is very common throughout the island.

About a kilometer and a half from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is Cerro de las Tijeretas or Frigatebird Hill. Reached via a well marked out walking trail, this spot is the nesting ground for a number of Frigatebird species. From here, a trail leads down to Las Tijeretas Bay with some good snorkeling. However, if you follow the trail leading west, you will head to Playa Cabo de Horno, which has some fantastic opportunities for expert surfers to take on world class breaks, as the surf here is truly outstanding.

Head out to Puerto Grande which is a lovely protected cove on the northwestern coast of the island or visit Punta Pitt in the northeastern side. Ideal for swimming and snorkeling, Puerto Grande, is a sandy beach where one can spot a number of seabirds. While Punta Pitt, known for its unique geological features, is one of the few places where one can see all three species of Galapagos boobies nesting. In the northern most corner of the island is Los Galapagos, where one can see the Galapagos tortoises living in the wild.

If you donít mind a bit of traveling, then head off the island to places like Isla Lobos and Loen Dormido or Kicker Rock. An hourís journey away, Isla Lobos has the main booby and sea lion colonies of Isla San Cristobal. Here, one can also spot lava lizards along a 300m-long trail. Kicker Rock is a fantastic place to visit. Shaped like a sleeping lion, this rock sits in the middle of the sea and is an interesting place to snorkel and scuba dive.

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