Most tours visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. In 1959, the same year the National Park was established, the Charles Darwin Foundationâ€”an international non-governmental organizationâ€”was formed. Its basic objectives were to promote scientific studies and environmental education in partnership with the GalĂˇpagos National Park, through the management of an on-site investigative facility, the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS). Since its foundation, the Charles Darwin Foundation and its Research Station have gathered baseline scientific data for a variety of conservation initiatives.
An important nexus of these conservation efforts has been the mitigation of the harmful effects of introduced species and the regeneration of native populations, a process that visitors to the CDRS can watch with their own eyes. Following the interpretive trails along the wooden boardwalk, you will meet Lonesome George, who was thought to be the last of a subspecies of giant GalĂˇpagos tortoise to survive introduced predators. However, there may be hope for George, recently another male of his species was found. At the station tou will also see the solution to the turtle population problem: a tortoise captive breeding center that has been successful in restoring healthy populations to the wild.
Other attractions at the CDRS include close-up views of several of the 11 subspecies of tortoise, land iguanas, Darwinâ€™s finches, paths through coastal and arid-zone vegetation, including salt bush, mangroves, prickly pear, and other cactus, an elaborate presentation and video of the stationâ€™s conservation efforts in the Van Straelen Exhibition Center, access to a white-sand beach, and the customary souvenir kiosk, whose profits go to support the station (since it is 100% privately funded, receiving zero support from the Ecuadorian government).