San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal has it all! It is the fifth largest and easternmost Island in the Galapagos and is the ideal base camp for your Galapagos adventure because it has an abundant wildlife for the naturalist and photographer, great fishing, diving, surfing and eco tours for the adventure traveler, and it has easy access to the Islands with air traffic from Ecuador departing out of either Guayaquil or Quito.
San Cristobal Island is made up of three volcanoes. It is comprised of three or four fused volcanoes, all extinct. Its name comes from the Patron Saint of seafarers, “St. Christopher.” Its older English name of Chatham is named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It is home to the oldest permanent settlement of the islands and is the island where Darwin first went ashore in 1835. El Junco, a small lake located near the top of the island, is the only source of permanent fresh water in the islands. This resource led to the early settlement of San Cristóbal, which was home to the islands’ governor when Darwin visited the archipelago in 1835. In 1858, Manuel Cobos and José Monroy formed the Orchillera Company to harvest orchilla moss (a lichen), which was used at that time as a dye. Cobos later formed an agricultural center called “El Progreso” inland from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which produced leather from feral cattle, and fish and tortoise oil. A penal colony was built on San Cristóbal Island in 1880 for prisoners from mainland Ecuador. This was eventually run by Cobos. By 1891, sugar cane plantations were established and a sugar factory was put into operation. Cobos ruled “El Progreso” with an iron fist, treating convicts as slaves. Cobos was assassinated by a group of his workers on January 15, 1904, and the prisoners escaped. A fishing company, called “The Predial” flourished from 1952 to 1960. The company stored fish in large refrigerators before shipping them to the continent. The business eventually fell into ruin due to its excessive costs.
The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galapagos province. It is home to many government offices, an Ecuadorian Navy facility, and an airport with daily flights to the mainland. There are approximately 5,400 residents, making it home to the second largest human population in Galapagos, after Santa Cruz. The majority of inhabitants make their living in government, tourism, and artisanal fishing. The port town is home to the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. This institution serves as a base of operation for local university students to carry out thesis work, and for international students to participate in semester abroad programs. The GNPS Interpretation Center is located near town and provides an excellent source of information for the local community and visitors. Its fauna is characterized by the substantial number of sea lions that are present in the urban areas. The island also hosts frigate birds, Galapagos Tortoises, Red and Blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, dolphins, and more.