San Cristóbal (Chatham) is the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago, and one of the oldest geologically. It’s Spanish (and most commonly used) name San Cristóbal comes from the Patron Saint of seafarers, St. Christopher. Its older English name of Chatham is that of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. San Cristóbal has an area of 558 km² and its highest point rises to 730 meters. The capital of the archipelago, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the south-western tip of the island. Two airlines fly directly to San Cristobal airport from Guayaquil, Ecuador; flights from Quito stop for refueling in Guayaquil.
This island is one of the few that has permanent settlements (about 8,000 inhabitants) but this town resembles more a fishing village and there are not as many tourists as in the main tourist center Puerto Ayora. Already at the dock you are greeted by loud calling of the sea lions. If you look closely you can see sally light foot crab, marine iguanas, frigate birds and the endemic Chatham mocking bird not far from the town. The village offers also a modern info center where you gain insight of the most interesting evolution, history and unique flora and fauna of the archipelago. Parts of San Cristobal are used for livestock farming as well as fruit growing and the famous Galapagos coffee.
This was built with the cooperation of the Spanish Sience Centre. It gives a very good introduction to the Galapagos Islands, its marine and land life, fauna and flora. It is located in the outskirts of the small city of Pto. Baquerizo Moreno, which is the capital of the Galapagos province.
Cerro Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill):
The trip to the hill about 1.5 km outside of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno takes approximately 20-40 minutes. Once there, you can have a spectacular view of the white beaches on one side and the roofs of Puerto Baquerizo on the other. The hill is often visited by Frigate Birds, hence its name. Here it is possible to see Magnificent Frigate Birds and Great Frigate Birds in the same colony. This is the perfect place to compare and learn to distinguish them. This site offers some safe snorkeling without strong currents. Look out for sting rays, barber fish and butterfly fish.
Up in the highlands in the southwestern part of the island the crater lagoon El Junco is situated. It is about 700 m high and from there you have a great view to the deep blue ocean. White-cheeked pintails, common gallinules and frigate birds gather at this unique lagoon. It is surrounded by endemic tree ferns and miconia vegetation and represents one of the few permanent fresh water bodies on the islands.
La Galapaguera is a tortoise reserve in semi natural conditions. This beautiful facility was built by the GNPS to provide the chance for visitors to San Cristóbal to take a look at another race of giant tortoise, the Saddle Back. To reach the reserve it’s necessary to take a bus across the island from west to east. The ride takes 1 hour and the facility offers a dirt trail of easy access where 25 adult tortoises can be found in company with the very first babies to be born in captivity in this facility. When you observe those unhurried animals you get the impression that time passes more slowly up here.
Playa Ochoa is located 6 miles from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The beach is small with easy access; here you will find the Chatham mockingbird and various species of Darwin finches. Toward the rear of the beach is a little hyper-saline pond where white cheek pintails can often be seen wading. The beach also provides a chance for some introductory snorkeling.
Isla Lobos (Sea Lion Islet):
This small islet, named after the many sea lions that live here, is located only an hour by boat from Pto. Baquerizo Moreno and is separated from the main island by a narrow stretch of calm water. Upon its rocky shores Blue-footed Boobies nest and sea lions rest. The atmosphere is one of tranquility and natural beauty as typical for Galapagos.
Leon Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock, is a spectacular formation that rises 152 meters ( 500 feet ) out of the Pacific 4 miles off the central western coast of San Cristóbal . It takes the form of a sleeping lion or the Sphinx if you look at the rock from the south, but from the north you can see that the rock is split, forming a colossal tablet and, piercing the sea, a great chisel ready for etching. Small vessels can navigate through the narrow channel between the rocks. Its cliffs are the nesting sites of many seabirds that observe the boats that go through this narrow passage.
Punta Pitt is a visitor site with interesting volcanic tuff formations. It stands out because it is the only site where you run across all 3 kinds of boobies (blue footed, red footed and masked booby). The red-footed booby only exists here and on Genovesa. Even though there are far more red-footed boobies than blue-footed boobies, you mostly encounter the last. This is due to the fact, that red-footed boobies go fishing far off shore and usually use places for nesting that can only be visited by few tourists.