San Cristobal, Ecuador
Get Shell ShockedSeptember 16, 1835.
Darwin's first encounter with tortoises may have come during his landing at Cerro Tijeretas, on the island of Cristobal, where he spent a little more than an hour surveying.
During the 19th century, two large populations of tortoises lived on Cristobal; one has been wiped out due to poaching and the havoc wrought by invasive species, while the other numbers approximately 1,500 individuals (still threatened by goats, pigs, rats, dogs, and cats). The best place to view the tortoises today is Cerro Colorado, on northern Cristobal; stop in at the visitor center to learn more about this iconic creature.