PUERTO AYORA - CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION, GIANT TORTOISES, AND LAVA TUNNEL

Santa Cruz Island Travel Blog

 › entry 18 of 22 › view all entries


DAY 8 (SEE VIDEOS)
(FINALLY CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION AND SEEING "LONESOME GEORGE" THE OVER 90 YEAR OLD GIANT TORTOISE)

 


The Galápagos tortoise (or Galápagos giant tortoise), is the largest living tortoise, endemic to nine islands of the Galápagos archipelago. Adults of large subspecies can weigh over 300 kilograms (660lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. Although the maximum life expectancy of a wild tortoise is unknown, the average life expectancy is estimated to be 150-200 years.

 

Appearance

 

The Galápagos tortoises have very large shells (carapace) made of bone which is an integral part of the skeleton.

SECONDS AFTER IT NUDGED ME
The bony plates of the shell are fused with the ribs and other bones to form a rigid protective structure. When a tortoise feels threatened it can withdraw its head, neck and forelimbs into its shell for protection, presenting a thick shield to a would-be predator. The legs have hard scales that provide an effective armour when withdrawn.

 

The scutes of the carapace are not coincident with the underlying bony plates and grow at their outer edges. Tortoises thus keep their characteristic scute pattern throughout life. These do have annual growth bands but are not useful for telling the age as the outer layers are rubbed off in the normal wear and tear of living.

 

The shape of the carapace and other physical features correspond to the habitat of each of the 13 subspecies.

US AND A GIANT TORTOISE
Larger islands with more wet highlands such as Santa Cruz and Isabela (where the Alcedo Volcano is found) with lush vegetation near the ground have tortoises with 'dome-back' shells; these animals have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and tend to have shorter limbs as well. These are the heaviest and largest of the subspecies.

 

Smaller, drier islands such as Española and Pinta are inhabited by tortoises with 'saddle-back' shells comprising a carapace elevated above the neck and flared or reverted above the hind feet, and longer, thinner limbs. This appears to allow them to browse taller vegetation. On the drier islands with tortoise populations, the Galápagos Opuntia cactus (a major source of their water) has evolved a more tree-like and taller form, giving evidence of an evolutionary arms race between progressively taller tortoises and correspondingly taller cacti.

ME AND GIANT TORTOISE
Saddleback tortoises tend to be smaller (females average 27 kg / 60 lb, males 54 kg / 119 lb) in size than their domeback counterparts.

 

In all subspecies, males have a concave undershell, which facilitates mating. The male is also always larger than the female. Shells are not either saddleback or domeback; they can also be of intermediate type with some characteristics of both the extreme types. The Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island is notable for the flat, so-called "tabletop" shells, differing from both the domebacks and saddlebacks. There is little variation in the dull-brown colour of the shell or scales between populations.

 

Behavior

 

The tortoises are herbivorous animals with a diet consisting of cactus, grasses, leaves, vines, and fruit.

GIANT TORTOISE AND MUM
Fresh young grass in particular is the favourite food of the tortoises, and others are the poison apple (Hippomane mancinella), which is highly poisonous to humans, the endemic guava (Psidium galapageium), the water fern (Azolla microphylla), and the bromeliad (Tillandsia insularis). Tortoises studied in the Santa Cruz tortoise reserve ate well over fifty different plant species. (ref Linda Cayot (1981)) In the drier areas, fallen Opuntia cactus pads and fruits are an important element in the diet of tortoises. Galapagos tortoises eat a large quantity of food when it is available at the expense of incomplete digestion.

 

By acquiring most of their moisture from the dew and sap in vegetation (particularly the Opuntia cactus), they can go for long periods without actually drinking. They can also survive for long periods of time being forcefully deprived of all liquids, by breaking down their body fat to produce water.

SMILE :)

 

The tortoises are slow-moving reptiles with an average long-distance walking speed of 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph). However, although feeding giant tortoises move about slowly, browsing with no apparent direction, if they have a purpose, such as moving to water or nesting grounds, they can move with surprising speed and determination given their size. Marked individuals have been reported to have traveled 8 miles (13 km) in 2 to 3 days.

 

On the wetter islands, the tortoises migrate down the gentle mountain slopes after the rainy season to feed on the grass-covered plains and they climb back to feed on grasses of the mountain meadows in the dry season (the increased precipitation at that altitude keeps the grasses watered). On these islands, the tortoises appear to be gregarious, often found in large 'herds'.

PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

 

Being cold-blooded, the tortoises bask for two hours after dawn, absorbing the energy through their shells, then becoming active for 8-9 hours a day. They may sleep for about sixteen hours in a mud wallow or pool or a 'pallet' (snug depressions in soft ground or dense brush) which probably help conserve heat and may aid digestion. On Alcedo Volcano, where there is a large population, repeated use of the same sites has resulted in the formation of small sandy pits.

 

Although capable of withstanding drought, tortoises seem to enjoy drinking and wallowing in water. When the tortoise arrives at a spring, seemingly ignoring any spectators, it puts its head in the water above its eyes, and swallows many mouthfuls, at the rate of about ten in a minute. On Alcedo Volcano in the wet season, large numbers of tortoises can be found partially submerged in rain-formed pools or even the dew ponds formed by garua-moisture dripping off trees.

GIANT TORTOISE
These pools tend to be churned up into mud baths. This may be both a thermoregulatory response and a protection from parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks

 

Tortoises have a classic example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with some species of Galápagos finch. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise then raises itself up high on its legs and stretches out its neck so that the bird can reach ticks on its skin, thus freeing the tortoise from harmful parasites and providing the finch with an easy meal. Other birds, including Galápagos Hawk and flycatchers, often use tortoises as observation posts from which to sight their prey.

Reproduction and development

 

Mating occurs at any time of the year although it does have seasonal peaks, usually between January and August.

GIANT TORTOISE
When two mature males meet in the mating season, they will rise up on their legs and stretch up their necks to assess dominance. The shorter tortoise will back off leaving the taller, larger tortoise to mate with the female. In groups of tortoises from mixed island populations, saddleback males have an advantage over domebacks. Frustrated non-dominant males have been observed attempting to mate with other males and boulders.

 

The male tortoise bellows loudly and bobs his head to attract a female. The male then rams the female with the front of its shell and nips her exposed legs until she draws them in, immobilizing her. Mating may last for several hours and the males may "roar" hoarsely. Males have a concave base to their shell and mount the females from behind. It brings its tail which houses the penis into the female's cloaca.

GIANT TORTOISE

 

After mating (between June and December), the females journey several kilometres to reach nesting areas of dry, sandy ground (often near the coast). Nest digging is an elaborate task and takes several hours sometimes spread out over several days. It is carried out blindly using only the hind legs to dig a one foot (30 cm) deep hole, in which it lays two to sixteen hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls (the number varies with population). The female makes a muddy plug for the nest hole out of soil mixed with urine and leaves the eggs to incubate.

 

The young emerge from the nest 120 to 140 days later (between December and April) and may weigh only 80 grams (2.8 oz) and measure 6 centimetres (2.4 in) (De Vries 1984). Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: if the nest temperature is low, more males will hatch; if it is high, more females will hatch.

When the young tortoises emerge from their shells, they must dig their way to the surface, which can take up to one month. Hawks are probably the only native predator of the tortoise hatchlings.

 

Sex can be determined when the tortoise is 15 years old, and sexual maturity is reached at 20 to 25 years old. The tortoises grow slowly for about 40 years until they reach their full size.

 

Distribution

 

The Galápagos tortoise is found on the Galápagos Islands west of Ecuador in South America. The shape of the carapace of some subspecies of the tortoises reminded the Spanish explorers of a kind of saddle they called a "galápago," and for these saddle-shaped tortoises they named the archipelago.

As many as 250,000 tortoises inhabited the islands when they were discovered. Today only about 15,000 are left (according to estimates by the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park Service), mainly due to harvest by whalers and pirates that killed them for food during the 18th and 19th centuries. Turned on their backs so they could not move, the Galápagos tortoise could survive for months without food or water, making them a good source of fresh meat on a whaling ship (before refrigeration). Their diluted urine could also be used as drinking water. In addition, non-native species such as goats were introduced on some islands resulting in destruction of the vegetation that provides the tortoises' diet; the resulting habitat loss further diminished the tortoise population.

 

Subspecies

 

There were probably thirteen subspecies of Geochelone nigra in the Galápagos Islands, although some recognise fifteen subspecies.

WOODPECKER FINCH
Now only eleven subspecies remain, five on Isabela Island, and the other six on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, Española and Pinta. The Pinta subspecies is likely due to become extinct as only one single male, known as Lonesome George, is known to be alive (though the possibility of other individuals remaining cannot be completely discounted).

 

Lonesome George is the rarest creature in the world. He is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdonii, one of 13 subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to the Galápagos Islands.

 

George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by American snail biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi and subsequently tracked down by goat hunters in March 1972.

GIANT TORTOISE
It's thought he was named after the character played by American actor George Gobel. Relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, Geochelone nigra becki from Wolf Island, in the hope that his genotype would be retained in the resulting progeny. Unfortunately, these attempts have not been successful to date.

 

George is estimated to be 60-90 years of age, and is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to George's island is now complete and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to what it once was.

 

In May 2007, analysis of genomic microsatellites suggested that other individuals of Geochelone nigra abingdoni may still exist. Researchers have identified one tortoise from the neighboring Galápagos island of Isabela which has half his genes in common with George's subspecies.

GIANT TORTOISE
This animal must be a first generation hybrid between the subspecies of the islands Isabela and Pinta. It is possible that a pure Pinta tortoise lives among the 2000 tortoises on Isabela.

 

The previous oldest known living specimen was a giant Galápagos tortoise named Harriet who lived at the Australia Zoo at Beerwah, Queensland, Australia until her death in 2006. Her estimated date of birth is 1830, and was believed to be the oldest living animal in the world after the death of Adwaitya, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise that lived in the Kolkata zoo in India.

 

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a biological research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. It is located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, with satellite offices on Isabela and San Cristóbal islands.

WOW

 

Background

 

In Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuadorian and foreign scientists work constantly on research and projects for the conservation of reptiles, birds and plants. The Charles Darwin Research Station, founded in 1959, has a Natural History Interpretation Centre and carries out educational projects in support of the Galapagos National Park Service. The Park has the following development programmes: conservation of natural resources, management of flora and fauna, sustainable use of resources. Others are related to environmental education, marine resources, agricultural development, monitoring and vigilance. Their aim is to conserve this natural habitat and allow tourists to appreciate all these unique species.

 

Objectives and work

 

The objectives of the CDRS is to conduct scientific research and environmental education for conservation.

HUGE
The Station has a team of over a hundred scientists, educators, volunteers, research students and support staff from all over the world.

 

Scientific research and monitoring projects are conducted at the CDRS in conjunction and cooperation its chief partner, the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS), which functions as the principal government authority in charge of conservation and natural resource issues in the Galapagos.

 

The work of the CDRS has as its main objectives:

 

    * To promote, facilitate, design, and implement the scientific investigation necessary for the understanding of biological principles, better understanding of ecosystems, and adequate management of the islands’ natural resources.

GIANT TORTOISE

    * To advise the Ecuadorian authorities on the subject of conservation and management of natural resources in the Galapagos Islands.

    * To collaborate with Ecuadorian institutions on the implementation of programs involved in scientific investigation and education on the islands.

    * To contribute to the development of scientific and technical personnel from Ecuador who are specialized in natural sciences and natural resource management.

    * To contribute and collaborate on educational programs related to the conservation of the islands.

    * To compile the results of the scientific investigations and the other activities of the organization and to disseminate this information regionally, nationally, and internationally.

GIANT TORTOISE

 

In 2002, the Station was awarded the International Cosmos Prize.

 

Puerto Ayora is a town in central Galápagos, Ecuador. Located on the southern shore of Santa Cruz Island, and it is the seat of Santa Cruz Canton. Named after Isidro Ayora, an Ecuadorian president. The town is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Santa Cruz

 

Puerto Ayora is the most populated town in the Galapagos Islands, with more than 10,000 inhabitants. For many people Santa Cruz may be the only inhabited island they visit while in Galapagos. It has the best developed infrastructure in the archipelago. The largest of the two banks (Banco del Pacifico) in Galapagos is located here. A variety of schools, hotels, restaurants, clothing stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, marine stores tourist shops and night clubs here.

WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
It is the best place in Galapagos for communicating with the outside world via numerous cybercafes with Internet access or phone offices where you are able to call anywhere in the world. Puerto Ayora emergency medical facilities include a new hospital opened in 2006 and the islands only hyperbaric chamber.

 

Home to both the Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park, it is headquarters of Galapagos conservation efforts. Most visitors to the Galapagos will have a scheduled visit to Puerto Ayora in order to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the history of the islands and the future conservation.

 

Puerto Ayora has a privileged location, along the shores of Academy Bay. During most of the year, it receives a refreshing breeze which gives the town wonderful weather.

WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
Temperatures vary year round between 18 and 29 degrees. The months of the hot season (December to May) make Puerto Ayora a tropical paradise.

 

Academy Bay located in front of Puerto Ayora is a busy harbor. Normally full of boats cruising the islands, passing private yachts and local fisherman boats. This bay is a good location to spot brown pelicans, golden rays, marine iguanas, herons, lava gulls, frigate birds, Galapagos sea lions, and large numbers of blue-footed boobies, which fish by spectacular plunge diving.

 

Transportation

 

Flights from continental Ecuador fly into either San Cristobal or to Baltra Island just off the north end of Santa Cruz.

Those airlines are AeroGal & TAME

 

There are also daily speed boats which take passengers to or from Puerto Ayora and the other inhabited islands of San Cristobal or Isabela.

 

 

The hub of most activity in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora is a charming port town where sea, sun, seabirds and sailboats coexist in happy equilibrium. On the town's outskirts, you will also find the headquarters to the world-renown Charles Darwin Research Station.

 

Although it is the Galapaganean town most frequented by visitors, the majority of travelers just pass through on their way to see Lonesome George (a 150-year old tortoise; the last of his species) at the Darwin Station.

However, those that linger a moment longer, discover that Puerto Ayora has more than geriatric reptiles. In fact, Puerto Ayora is a lively seaside town offering international cuisine, oceanfront hotels, outdoor bars, scuba diving schools and an avenue of boutiques with everything from tie-dyed sarongs to Panama hats.

It's not the dock, it's where the dock is: Puerto Ayora, Galapagos.

 

Most travelers who know Puerto Ayora won't hesitate to recommend a few post or pre-cruise days in town. The pricey plane fare and park fee certainly warrant a few extra days in paradise: stay a moment longer and relish the Islands' crescent slices of sand, spectacular diving, mountain top vistas and tropical climate. Fortunately TAME, the national airline whisking passengers to and from the mainland, makes it very easy to extend your ticket; Just stop by their centrally located offices on Puerto Ayora's main drag and request a date change at no extra charge.

 

You may also want to consider a multi-day stay in Puerto Ayora as an excellent alternative to a boat tour. Being land-based allows you to tailor your own days, visit select islands, and choose from an array of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding and mountain biking. This option is particularly attractive to families with small children, scuba-enthusiasts with non-diving friends, landlubbers, independent travelers, and those traveling on a shoestring.

 

Arriving

 

Puerto Ayora is located on the southern end of Isla Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the archipelago. Most visitors arrive by plane (about 3 hours from Quito) and land in Baltra, a separate island at the northernmost tip of Santa Cruz.

 

Upon arrival travelers pass through immigration. Visitors must present a passport with an Ecuadorian visa, as well as $100 for the park entrance fee and the island tax. You must pay with traveler's checks or cash; credit cards are not accepted. If you have a censo (the national ID card for foreigners) the total fee is only $25.

 

Flights depart daily from Quito at 8:30 am with a 30 to 45 minute layover in Guayaquil (a direct flight from Quito is available one day a week). On Wednesdays and Sundays additional flights are often scheduled depending on passenger demand. The fare varies according to the high and low tourism season. Tickets can be purchased through most Quito travel agents or directly from TAME, a commercial airline (prices are about the same).

GIANT TORTOISE

 

To make it easy for those on the web, see the complete Galapagos trip planner, GalapagosIslands.com.

 

From Baltra passengers either head directly to a pre-arranged boat, anchored five minutes away from the airport (you will be met by your guide) or to Puerto Ayora, a 45-minute journey.

 

If you are heading to Puerto Ayora hop on the TAME bus waiting outside the airport -- it is the only option to get to the channel and is of no cost; five minutes later you will reach the ferry which takes passengers across the channel (under a dollar and about five minutes). On the other side, public buses and private cars await passengers for the last leg of the journey to Puerto Ayora (the planes, ferry and buses are scheduled to coincide, so you won't have long to wait).

GIANT TORTOISE
The trip is beautiful; you will pass through the core of Island's lush highlands before descending down to the coast with its cactus forests and sea breezes.

 

The bus will drop you off in the town center upon which you may be bombarded with offers for boats and hotels. Most of these hawkers are trustworthy islanders despite being a bit aggressive. If you do need help looking for a hotel, boat or diving company, Victor "Poncho" Vaca or Jenni Devine are two people who seems to know the latest scoop on everything in Puerto Ayora (he speaks English, German, and Spanish).

 

Joining an organized boat tour in Puerto Ayora a day or two before it leaves is always the cheapest way to island hop. Not surprisingly most boats prefer to sell last minute tickets at bargain basement prices than leave berths empty.

I AM HIDING
If you have the time to look and wait for a boat with a last minute berth, this is a great way to save money. However, your service may be below the class that you expected and your once-in-a-lifetime trip may not be the time of your life. Groups with more than five people can often use the power of numbers to negotiate an all-around lower fare for everyone. During the high season (around holidays and the summer) both tactics can be a bit tricky and may leave you stranded without a tour for over week.

 

Puerto Ayora itself is small and easily navigable, so its straightforward to find your own way around town. The main drag, Charles Darwin, runs east-west along the bay. At the westernmost end of town you will find the Academy Bay port, the main grocery store, hardware store and post office. At the easternmost end of town is the Charles Darwin Research Station.

NEED TO EAT SOON
In between you will find most of the town's hotels, bars, shops and the only bank, El Banco del Pacifico.

 

For more information on flights to the Galapagos Islands, please check out our Domestic Flights page in our Transportation section.

 

Banking & Money

 

El Banco del Pacífico is open Monday to Friday 8:00 - 3:30; Saturday 9:30 -12:30. The bank cashes dollars, however expect rates a bit lower than on the mainland. Personal checks are not accepted.

 

The bank's ATM (money machine) accepts only Cirrus and Mastercard (7 am - 11:30 pm). Unfortunately, the ATM is down more often than the bank would like to admit. If this is the case you can request a cash withdrawl with your Mastercard (but not with a Cirrus card) from a bank teller.

PAPAYA

 

Money transfers are possible, however they take 4 to 7 days. Faster but more expensive is a MoneyGram with American Express. With a MoneyGram you will receive your dinero within hours -- if the phone lines are working. You do not have to be a card holder to use a MoneyGram.

 

Traveler's checks are widely accepted on the Island, as are US dollars. Credit cards become a bit trickier: Mastercard is commonly accepted while American Express and VISA usually receive shrugs and apologies.

 

For more information on money and banking in Ecuador and the Galapagos, please visit our Money Matters page.

 

Communications

 

Phone

 

International, national and local calls can be made at Pacifictel after painstakingly waiting in line.

HELLOOOOO
A more efficient way of making a call, although more expensive, is at a top-end hotel. Calling cards can be used, however most establishments charge about USD 1 per minute for the call to the Quito operator.

 

Warning: When making a phone call from the Galapagos patience is more than just a virtue, it is required, as the phone lines here are among the worst in the country.

 

Fax

 

Banco Pacifico allows people to send and receive faxes: 25 cents per page to receive; USD 3 to send to mainland/USD 15 to send abroad. They have two numbers. The first (04-2564636) goes to Banco Pacifico in Guayaquil and then to the Galapagos. The second number (04-2562297) goes directly to the Galapagos. Pacifictel offers a similar service at cheaper prices.

GIANT TORTOISE

 

E-mail

 

Electronic communication is still a bit primitive in Puerto Ayora: Only twenty-six people on the entire island have access to one wobbly internet connection! There is talk of an internet cafe opening, but really there are few places that the public can go in and send a message. Jenni Devine offers email and internet services for a few dollars a minute and a smattering offices will let you get on their computers for a price. The Red Mangrove Inn is another option for those that are in dire need of the internet. Expect to wait a good while until the shared connection goes through.

 

Post

 

The only post office in town is located across from the supermarket at the port end of town.

Prices to mainland Ecuador are the same price as a postcard or letter to North America (USD .50) and international post is at least double that price. If planning to send a postcard to friends back home, better to wait till you are back on the mainland.

 

Time

 

Remember to set your watch back an hour -- the Galapagos is one time zone behind the mainland.

 

For more information on communications in Ecuador, feel free to visit our Communications page.

 

Medical

 

Try to avoid bodily damage while on the islands as good medical care is limited. For basic health problems such as cuts, infections and parasites visit English-speaking Dr.

GIANT TORTOISE ON THE ROAD
Darquea. He reportedly offers the best treatment in town in a clean private environment. His office is a bit inland from the Charles Darwin Station, ask a local for specific directions; tel: 526496. For more complicated injuries go to the Red Cross hospital; for major health problems its best to go immediately to the mainland. If you need to be medi-evacuted the fastest service available is Ecuavia, an air ambulance from Guayaquil. The cost is about USD 2,000.

 

For dental problems contact Dr. Pino or Dr. Carrion at the hospital.

 

The pharmacy, Cruz Rojo, just up from the bus stop is the best-stocked pharmacy in town. Do not expect an actual pharmacist behind the counter, as there simply isn't one.

 

Warning: Divers should be aware that the closest decompression chamber is in Guayaquil.

DON'T RUN OVER ME

 

For more detailed information on medical concerns in Ecuador and the Galapagos, please read our 8-page Health Section.

 

Shopping

 

The main grocery store in town is small by mainland standards, but does offer an good array of dried, canned, and boxed goods, as well as basic toiletries, cheeses, bottled water, and a liqueur section. For fresh produce your best bet is the open air market located on the road to the airport (a ten minute walk from town). Some of the produce is grown locally, while much of it is actually brought in by boat from the mainland. For this reason prices are a bit high and the town can run out of the simplest items such as tomatoes, lettuce or watermelon, for over a week.

GIANT TORTOISE
On one recent occasion the Island actually ran out of beer!

 

If you are in the market to buy souvenirs there is no shortage of boutiques offering Galapagos and Ecuadorian goods. T-shirt shops are ubiquitous, as are shops selling beach paraphernalia. Just outside the Charles Darwin Station is a unique ceramic studio, Galapagos Ceramics, producing whimsical mugs with iguana handles and other imaginative items. There are also a number of jewelry stores selling hand-crafted items from silver, tagua nut and black coral. Tagua nut, also known as vegetable ivory, is a great thing to buy. It is a sustainably harvested nut from a mainland palm that provides income to small communities. Black coral on the other hand is an endangered animal and illegal to sell in any form. The same goes for turtle shells. Please support the conservation of Galapagos wildlife and do not buy these items, as beautiful as they may be.

 

Hotels

 

Being an international port, Puerto Ayora has a good selection of hotels. Backpackers on a shoestring can find a basic room across the street from the sea for as little as $6 (single) in the low season and those without budgetary constraints can check into an oceanfront bed and breakfast for around USD 75 single/USD 115 double per night. For a complete listing of recommended hotels in Puerto Ayora, please refer to our Galapagos hotels page.

 

Where to Eat

 

Stroll along the main drag, Avenida Charles Darwin, and choose from a variety of open air cafes, restaurants and bars. Seafood and Italian cuisine (especially pizza!) seem to dominate the food scene, however in between you can find sandwiches, empanadas, fruit salads and good coffee.

GIANT TORTOISE

 

The little street veering inland across from the bank has a row of outdoor stalls with tables that serve tasty plates of traditional Ecuadorian food. According to the locals, "Williams" serves up the most savory dishes. (Hint: Its best to arrive early and be one of the first served, as dishes are merely rinsed in a bucket of cold water and then re-used.)

 

All of the establishments listed below are located on the main drag, Avenida Charles Darwin. Most places do not have addresses, so its best to practice your Spanish and ask a local.

 

Capricho

 

This open air German-run cafe dishes up tasty treats all day. Come in the morning and start your day with Maria's piping hot pancakes and a glass of fresh juice or stop by later for their yummy potato-chicken salad with toasted rolls (USD 3.

GIANT TORTOISE
50), sandwiches (USD 3), garden salad (USD 2) or plate of homemade spaghetti (USD 4). One or two freshly-baked cakes (USD 1) are also available daily to compliment a mug of coffee. Mono-lingual travelers will appreciate the tri-lingual menu which tells you how to say cheese in German, English and Spanish. While you are waiting for your lunch, play a game of chess or checkers or browse the cafe's book exchange and gift shop.

 

If you plan to spend the whole day at the beach, no worries --Maria can send you off with a box lunch for USD 4. Capricho is located a couple of minutes west from the entrance to the Charles Darwin Research Station on the main street. Open: around 7 am until 8 pm. Upon request by large groups Capricho will open earlier.

 

Limón y Café

 

A typical coastal restaurant/bar in an international port, Limón y Café dishes up tasty seafood dishes and appetizers along with great tunes ranging from Bob Marley to REM.

SHROOMS
As early as 9 am when the Cafe opens, patrons start clamoring for seafood. Ceviche (a lemon-marinated fish cocktail) is the ultimate chuchaki (hang-over) cure in Ecuador. Along with ceviche, they serve other traditional foods from Esmeraldas (comida negra) such as patacones (fried green bananas) and encocados (seafood or chicken in a coconut marinade). After a hearty meal, stay a moment longer and enjoy a tropical cocktail or expresso. Open 9 am - midnight; Monday - Sunday. Accepts VISA, MC, dollars and travelers checks.

 

Tambulero's Pub

 

Located across from Pelican Bay on the main drag, pint-sized Tambulero's Pub has quickly become one of the coolest after dark spots on the Island.

SHROOMS
As the day settles into night, the locals (and travelers in the know) climb up Tambulero's stairs to get closer to the equatorial stars and a cool pint of brew. Beto, the manager, proudly reminds imbibers that his beer is ecological. Ecological beer? Well, what he means is

that every used bottle gets recycled back on the mainland. If ecological beer is beyond your comprehension just order a tequila body shot, sit back and enjoy the tunes on what will undoubtedly be a warm Galapagos night. Rain dancing, by the way, is popular on wet nights. Open: 8 pm to midnight... or later if the party is still pulsing strong.

 

Quatro Laternas

 

One of Puerto Ayora's most popular restaurants, Quatro Laternas not surprisingly dishes up some of the tastiest Italian food in Ecuador.

TREE MOSS
(Silvana, the owner is an authentic import from Italy). Start your dining experience with a caprese salad, garlic bread and a glass of red wine. And then lean back and consider the entrees: pasta and pizza being the house specialties. Heartier diners will appreciate the chicken and steak options. Open for dinner only.

 

Land-based Exploration

 

Puerto Ayora is an excellent base in which to explore the islands, by land or by sea. Most of the sport equipment necessary for the activities listed below can be rented. See individual sections for

details.

 

Beaches

 

One of the Galapagos' most spectacular beaches, Tortuga Bay, is only a half an hour walk from Puerto Ayora.

ENTERING THE LAVA TUNNEL
Although the walk can be a bit grueling under midday sun its worth every sweat drop. Upon arrival you'll immediately see why; at low tide a wide swath of glistening white sand awaits your footprints. Drop your towel here and jump into the surf or follow this sandy crescent to its point to discover a mangroved lagoon with glassy emerald water and bobbing pelicans. One of the best things about Tortuga Bay is that you'll invariably have most of it to yourself. The majority of locals find the walk too arduous and tourists generally do not stick around long enough to make the trek.

 

If you stay until dusk you can watch the sun set and the sky melt from hues of tropical warmth into the cool colors of night. Don't forget your repellent, since battalions of mosquitoes will definitely make their presence known. If its a clear night the walk down the beach under the velvety black sky, the Southern Cross, and Venus beaming brightly is nothing short of magnificent.

LAVA TUNNEL

 

Warning: The first beach has a considerable current and no lifeguard, so swim with caution.

 

A closer beach to town is located in the Charles Darwin Research Station. Not nearly as dramatic as Tortuga Bay, this little pocket of beige sand is nevertheless popular with the locals and Station personnel. It does have great snorkeling, so bring your fins and mask.

 

A third medium-sized beach is located at the Hotel Delphin, however it is only reachable by boat. You can hire an aqua-taxi at the main dock which can whisk you over to "el otro lado" in a few miuntes. Once on this side of the bay, you can also walk fifteen minutes to Las Griegas, a magical little split in the earth which fills with refreshingly cool seawater during high tide.

LAVA TUNNEL
The crevice is so deep that intrepid locals climb up the rock wall and jack-knife the crystal-clear water. If you try this always check the water depth first; it varies greatly according to the tides.

 

Sea Kayaking

 

Sea Kayaking is a relatively new sport to the islands and has yet to gain mass popularity. Currently the only place to rent a kayak is at the Red Mangrove Inn and they don't even advertise this fact other than to their own guests. For USD 10 an hour non-guests can take one of their four boats out for a paddle. No motors, no crowds; just you, the kayak and the sound of your paddle as it strokes the sea. Undoubtedly, kayaking is one of the most intimate ways to explore the hidden inlets and mangroved bays of Isla Santa Cruz.

 

Scuba Diving

 

Declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, the Galapagos Islands offers one of the highest levels of endemism in the world, as well as a sea swimming with contradictions: Only here can you swim with sea turtles, manta rays, penguins, tropical reef fish and "friendly" hammerhead sharks in the same water.

INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL

 

The islands feature about 30 dive sites, a combination of which can be accessed on day trips from Puerto Ayora. Divers are accompanied by professional bilingual naturalist guides and dive masters who specialize in Galapagos flora and fauna. Dives with a reputable company average about USD 110 per day (two dives). Reliable PADI dive courses are also available. For diving or dive courses contact Scuba Iguana or Sub-Aqua, the two best dive companies in Puerto Ayora.

 

For More info on diving in the Enchanted Islands, take a look at GalapagosIslands.com , a complete Galapagos trip planner.

 

Snorkeling

 

From Puerto Ayora you can access a number of good snorkeling spots either from land or by boat.

INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
The most accessible sites are:

 

    * The Charles Darwin Research Station's beach

    * Loberia (the small island 15 minutes off shore from Puerto Ayora)

    * Punta Estrada (one of the best local places to see white-tipped sharks, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and sealions)

    * The underwater barranco (shelf) just off shore from the beach at Hotel Delphin

 

Snorkeling equipment is available at Neptuno, Scuba Iguana and Sub-Aqua. Rates range from as little as USD 3 up to USD 8 a set per day.

 

Surfing

 

The farthest beach at the Charles Darwin Station, Ratonera, has become popular surf turf for the local wave junkies, as have Angermeyer Break and Tortuga Bay.

INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
For a full review of surfing in the Galapagos, check-out Surfer Magazine's 1997 article.

 

For informaiton a list of surf tour providers in Ecuador, please check out our Surf Tours page.

 

Glass-Bottom Boat

 

Captain Haro's glass bottom boat is a one of a kind in the Galapagos. His magical boat will take you to a collection of interesting wildlife sites including Naufruagio, Buque Iguana, Isolate Caamano, Punta

Estrada, Las Grietas and Bahia Franklin. See sharks, sealions, colorful reef fish and iguanas feeding on the ocean floor. With 19 years of guiding experience in the Galapagos, Captain Haro also provides you with a few lessons in natural history (in Spanish, English or Italian).

INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
Minimum of four people; USD 20 per person. Monday through Sunday. Contact Neptuno Tours or head directly to the port for specific information on departures.

 

Mountain Biking

 

Mountain bikes let you explore the back roads of the Santa Cruz Highlands: Peddle across undulating hills rich and green with moss-covered trees, enjoy a hilltop picnic with panoramic views of the surrounding islands, observe free-roaming tortoises, visit local farmers, sample their tropical fruit, and see the island in a way that few visitors do. Contact: Neptuno or the Red Mangrove Inn. Rentals start at USD 10 per day; tours with a guide and/or support vehicle are also available.

 

For further information on mountain biking and biking tours in Ecuador, check out our Moutain Biking Guide and our Biking Tour Providers page.

BROWN PELICAN

 

Horseback Riding

 

Galapagos horses are descendants of the purebreds brought to the islands by an American colonist before the Islands were declared a National Park. Over the generations they have lost their purity but gained a toughness that allows them to scamper over the island's rugged volcanic terrain and whisk you off to the island's remotest corners. Contact: Neptuno or Amalca Horseback Tours via channel 22 on the radio or just ask around town. USD 15 per person with four or more people.

 

For more information on horseback riding in Ecuador and the Galapagos, feel free to visit our Horseback Riding Guide and our Horseback Riding Tours page.

 

Highland Jeep Tours

 

Highland jeep tours usually include a walk through lava tunnels, around a sunken crater, and through Scalesia forests (related to sunflowers) and a wild tortoise sanctuary.

On a clear day you are assured spectacular views of the sea and neighboring islands. Most tours also include either a picnic, barbecue or lunch at one of the highland restaurants. Contact: the Red Mangrove Inn, Neptuno Tours, or Victor Vaca.

 

Charles Darwin Research Station

 

Most organized boat tours and independent travelers stop by the world famous Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the island's flora and fauna, and local conservation issues. The highlight of the Station is its tortoise breeding program, with 150-year old Lonesome George as its poster tortoise. Poor George is the last of his species and to the chagrin of the Station's biologists, he has no interest in the perky females (of a closely related sub-species) let loose in his pen. The younger tortoises seem to find the Station a perfectly adequate environment for romance, as the Station's repopulation program is continuing strong after five years.

Stroll through the Station and see tortoises of all ages starting at two weeks old.

 

The Educational Center provides a photo exhibit with information in Spanish and English about the Island's unique flora and fauna. Open daily.

 

There is no entrance fee, yet the Station miraculously manages all that it does on a bare-bones budget. Donations are much needed and always appreciated. Contact the administrative office for more information or Roslyn Cameron at: cdrs@fcdarwin.org.ec

 

One-Day Island Tours

 

Puerto Ayora provides the most convenient land-base in the Galapagos for island hopping. There are three boats, the Delphin, Esmeraldas III and Santa Fe, that offer day trips to Florena, Bartoleme, North Seymore and Plazas.

Prices range from USD 50 to USD 100 per person per tour. The higher the price tag the more comfortable the boat.

 

Working & Volunteering

 

Being a tourism magnet, Puerta Ayora has an array work and volunteer opportunities. Landing a position on-the-spot is not uncommon. Ask around town for the right contact. Below is a typical list of options:

 

Dive Masters: contact Scuba Iguana or Sub-Aqua

Dive Instructors: same as above

Charles Darwin Station

English Teachers

Translators

Computer Technicians

Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes

 

 

 

 

The Galápagos tortoise (or Galápagos giant tortoise), is the largest living tortoise, endemic to nine islands of the Galápagos archipelago.

ME AND ROGELIO
Adults of large subspecies can weigh over 300 kilograms (660lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. Although the maximum life expectancy of a wild tortoise is unknown, the average life expectancy is estimated to be 150-200 years.

 

Appearance

 

The Galápagos tortoises have very large shells (carapace) made of bone which is an integral part of the skeleton. The bony plates of the shell are fused with the ribs and other bones to form a rigid protective structure. When a tortoise feels threatened it can withdraw its head, neck and forelimbs into its shell for protection, presenting a thick shield to a would-be predator. The legs have hard scales that provide an effective armour when withdrawn.

 

The scutes of the carapace are not coincident with the underlying bony plates and grow at their outer edges.

Tortoises thus keep their characteristic scute pattern throughout life. These do have annual growth bands but are not useful for telling the age as the outer layers are rubbed off in the normal wear and tear of living.

 

The shape of the carapace and other physical features correspond to the habitat of each of the 13 subspecies. Larger islands with more wet highlands such as Santa Cruz and Isabela (where the Alcedo Volcano is found) with lush vegetation near the ground have tortoises with 'dome-back' shells; these animals have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and tend to have shorter limbs as well. These are the heaviest and largest of the subspecies.

 

Smaller, drier islands such as Española and Pinta are inhabited by tortoises with 'saddle-back' shells comprising a carapace elevated above the neck and flared or reverted above the hind feet, and longer, thinner limbs.

This appears to allow them to browse taller vegetation. On the drier islands with tortoise populations, the Galápagos Opuntia cactus (a major source of their water) has evolved a more tree-like and taller form, giving evidence of an evolutionary arms race between progressively taller tortoises and correspondingly taller cacti. Saddleback tortoises tend to be smaller (females average 27 kg / 60 lb, males 54 kg / 119 lb) in size than their domeback counterparts.

 

In all subspecies, males have a concave undershell, which facilitates mating. The male is also always larger than the female. Shells are not either saddleback or domeback; they can also be of intermediate type with some characteristics of both the extreme types. The Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island is notable for the flat, so-called "tabletop" shells, differing from both the domebacks and saddlebacks.

There is little variation in the dull-brown colour of the shell or scales between populations.

 

Behavior

 

The tortoises are herbivorous animals with a diet consisting of cactus, grasses, leaves, vines, and fruit. Fresh young grass in particular is the favourite food of the tortoises, and others are the poison apple (Hippomane mancinella), which is highly poisonous to humans, the endemic guava (Psidium galapageium), the water fern (Azolla microphylla), and the bromeliad (Tillandsia insularis). Tortoises studied in the Santa Cruz tortoise reserve ate well over fifty different plant species. (ref Linda Cayot (1981)) In the drier areas, fallen Opuntia cactus pads and fruits are an important element in the diet of tortoises. Galapagos tortoises eat a large quantity of food when it is available at the expense of incomplete digestion.

PRICKY PEAR CACTUS

 

By acquiring most of their moisture from the dew and sap in vegetation (particularly the Opuntia cactus), they can go for long periods without actually drinking. They can also survive for long periods of time being forcefully deprived of all liquids, by breaking down their body fat to produce water.

 

The tortoises are slow-moving reptiles with an average long-distance walking speed of 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph). However, although feeding giant tortoises move about slowly, browsing with no apparent direction, if they have a purpose, such as moving to water or nesting grounds, they can move with surprising speed and determination given their size. Marked individuals have been reported to have traveled 8 miles (13 km) in 2 to 3 days.

 

On the wetter islands, the tortoises migrate down the gentle mountain slopes after the rainy season to feed on the grass-covered plains and they climb back to feed on grasses of the mountain meadows in the dry season (the increased precipitation at that altitude keeps the grasses watered).

On these islands, the tortoises appear to be gregarious, often found in large 'herds'.

 

Being cold-blooded, the tortoises bask for two hours after dawn, absorbing the energy through their shells, then becoming active for 8-9 hours a day. They may sleep for about sixteen hours in a mud wallow or pool or a 'pallet' (snug depressions in soft ground or dense brush) which probably help conserve heat and may aid digestion. On Alcedo Volcano, where there is a large population, repeated use of the same sites has resulted in the formation of small sandy pits.

 

Although capable of withstanding drought, tortoises seem to enjoy drinking and wallowing in water. When the tortoise arrives at a spring, seemingly ignoring any spectators, it puts its head in the water above its eyes, and swallows many mouthfuls, at the rate of about ten in a minute.

On Alcedo Volcano in the wet season, large numbers of tortoises can be found partially submerged in rain-formed pools or even the dew ponds formed by garua-moisture dripping off trees. These pools tend to be churned up into mud baths. This may be both a thermoregulatory response and a protection from parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks

 

Tortoises have a classic example of a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with some species of Galápagos finch. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise then raises itself up high on its legs and stretches out its neck so that the bird can reach ticks on its skin, thus freeing the tortoise from harmful parasites and providing the finch with an easy meal. Other birds, including Galápagos Hawk and flycatchers, often use tortoises as observation posts from which to sight their prey.

HUGE ALBATROSS

Reproduction and development

 

Mating occurs at any time of the year although it does have seasonal peaks, usually between January and August. When two mature males meet in the mating season, they will rise up on their legs and stretch up their necks to assess dominance. The shorter tortoise will back off leaving the taller, larger tortoise to mate with the female. In groups of tortoises from mixed island populations, saddleback males have an advantage over domebacks. Frustrated non-dominant males have been observed attempting to mate with other males and boulders.

 

The male tortoise bellows loudly and bobs his head to attract a female. The male then rams the female with the front of its shell and nips her exposed legs until she draws them in, immobilizing her.

BROWN PELICAN AND MUM
Mating may last for several hours and the males may "roar" hoarsely. Males have a concave base to their shell and mount the females from behind. It brings its tail which houses the penis into the female's cloaca.

 

After mating (between June and December), the females journey several kilometres to reach nesting areas of dry, sandy ground (often near the coast). Nest digging is an elaborate task and takes several hours sometimes spread out over several days. It is carried out blindly using only the hind legs to dig a one foot (30 cm) deep hole, in which it lays two to sixteen hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls (the number varies with population). The female makes a muddy plug for the nest hole out of soil mixed with urine and leaves the eggs to incubate.

 

The young emerge from the nest 120 to 140 days later (between December and April) and may weigh only 80 grams (2.

BABY TORTOISES
8 oz) and measure 6 centimetres (2.4 in) (De Vries 1984). Temperature plays a role in the sex of the hatchling: if the nest temperature is low, more males will hatch; if it is high, more females will hatch. When the young tortoises emerge from their shells, they must dig their way to the surface, which can take up to one month. Hawks are probably the only native predator of the tortoise hatchlings.

 

Sex can be determined when the tortoise is 15 years old, and sexual maturity is reached at 20 to 25 years old. The tortoises grow slowly for about 40 years until they reach their full size.

 

Distribution

 

The Galápagos tortoise is found on the Galápagos Islands west of Ecuador in South America.

BABY TURTLES
The shape of the carapace of some subspecies of the tortoises reminded the Spanish explorers of a kind of saddle they called a "galápago," and for these saddle-shaped tortoises they named the archipelago. As many as 250,000 tortoises inhabited the islands when they were discovered. Today only about 15,000 are left (according to estimates by the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park Service), mainly due to harvest by whalers and pirates that killed them for food during the 18th and 19th centuries. Turned on their backs so they could not move, the Galápagos tortoise could survive for months without food or water, making them a good source of fresh meat on a whaling ship (before refrigeration). Their diluted urine could also be used as drinking water. In addition, non-native species such as goats were introduced on some islands resulting in destruction of the vegetation that provides the tortoises' diet; the resulting habitat loss further diminished the tortoise population.
BABY TURTLES

 

Subspecies

 

There were probably thirteen subspecies of Geochelone nigra in the Galápagos Islands, although some recognise fifteen subspecies. Now only eleven subspecies remain, five on Isabela Island, and the other six on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, Española and Pinta. The Pinta subspecies is likely due to become extinct as only one single male, known as Lonesome George, is known to be alive (though the possibility of other individuals remaining cannot be completely discounted).

 

Lonesome George is the rarest creature in the world. He is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdonii, one of 13 subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to the Galápagos Islands.

BABY TORTOISES

 

George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by American snail biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi and subsequently tracked down by goat hunters in March 1972. It's thought he was named after the character played by American actor George Gobel. Relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, Geochelone nigra becki from Wolf Island, in the hope that his genotype would be retained in the resulting progeny. Unfortunately, these attempts have not been successful to date.

 

George is estimated to be 60-90 years of age, and is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to George's island is now complete and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to what it once was.

BRAWL

 

In May 2007, analysis of genomic microsatellites suggested that other individuals of Geochelone nigra abingdoni may still exist. Researchers have identified one tortoise from the neighboring Galápagos island of Isabela which has half his genes in common with George's subspecies. This animal must be a first generation hybrid between the subspecies of the islands Isabela and Pinta. It is possible that a pure Pinta tortoise lives among the 2000 tortoises on Isabela.

 

The previous oldest known living specimen was a giant Galápagos tortoise named Harriet who lived at the Australia Zoo at Beerwah, Queensland, Australia until her death in 2006. Her estimated date of birth is 1830, and was believed to be the oldest living animal in the world after the death of Adwaitya, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise that lived in the Kolkata zoo in India.

BABY TORTOISES

 

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a biological research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. It is located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, with satellite offices on Isabela and San Cristóbal islands.

 

Background

 

In Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuadorian and foreign scientists work constantly on research and projects for the conservation of reptiles, birds and plants. The Charles Darwin Research Station, founded in 1959, has a Natural History Interpretation Centre and carries out educational projects in support of the Galapagos National Park Service. The Park has the following development programmes: conservation of natural resources, management of flora and fauna, sustainable use of resources.

BABY TORTOISES
Others are related to environmental education, marine resources, agricultural development, monitoring and vigilance. Their aim is to conserve this natural habitat and allow tourists to appreciate all these unique species.

 

Objectives and work

 

The objectives of the CDRS is to conduct scientific research and environmental education for conservation. The Station has a team of over a hundred scientists, educators, volunteers, research students and support staff from all over the world.

 

Scientific research and monitoring projects are conducted at the CDRS in conjunction and cooperation its chief partner, the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS), which functions as the principal government authority in charge of conservation and natural resource issues in the Galapagos.

BABY TORTOISE

 

The work of the CDRS has as its main objectives:

 

    * To promote, facilitate, design, and implement the scientific investigation necessary for the understanding of biological principles, better understanding of ecosystems, and adequate management of the islands’ natural resources.

    * To advise the Ecuadorian authorities on the subject of conservation and management of natural resources in the Galapagos Islands.

    * To collaborate with Ecuadorian institutions on the implementation of programs involved in scientific investigation and education on the islands.

    * To contribute to the development of scientific and technical personnel from Ecuador who are specialized in natural sciences and natural resource management.

    * To contribute and collaborate on educational programs related to the conservation of the islands.

    * To compile the results of the scientific investigations and the other activities of the organization and to disseminate this information regionally, nationally, and internationally.

 

In 2002, the Station was awarded the International Cosmos Prize.

 

Puerto Ayora is a town in central Galápagos, Ecuador. Located on the southern shore of Santa Cruz Island, and it is the seat of Santa Cruz Canton. Named after Isidro Ayora, an Ecuadorian president. The town is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Santa Cruz

 

Puerto Ayora is the most populated town in the Galapagos Islands, with more than 10,000 inhabitants.

THE FOUNDER
For many people Santa Cruz may be the only inhabited island they visit while in Galapagos. It has the best developed infrastructure in the archipelago. The largest of the two banks (Banco del Pacifico) in Galapagos is located here. A variety of schools, hotels, restaurants, clothing stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, marine stores tourist shops and night clubs here. It is the best place in Galapagos for communicating with the outside world via numerous cybercafes with Internet access or phone offices where you are able to call anywhere in the world. Puerto Ayora emergency medical facilities include a new hospital opened in 2006 and the islands only hyperbaric chamber.

 

Home to both the Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park, it is headquarters of Galapagos conservation efforts. Most visitors to the Galapagos will have a scheduled visit to Puerto Ayora in order to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the history of the islands and the future conservation.

 

Puerto Ayora has a privileged location, along the shores of Academy Bay. During most of the year, it receives a refreshing breeze which gives the town wonderful weather. Temperatures vary year round between 18 and 29 degrees. The months of the hot season (December to May) make Puerto Ayora a tropical paradise.

 

Academy Bay located in front of Puerto Ayora is a busy harbor. Normally full of boats cruising the islands, passing private yachts and local fisherman boats. This bay is a good location to spot brown pelicans, golden rays, marine iguanas, herons, lava gulls, frigate birds, Galapagos sea lions, and large numbers of blue-footed boobies, which fish by spectacular plunge diving.

 

Transportation

 

Flights from continental Ecuador fly into either San Cristobal or to Baltra Island just off the north end of Santa Cruz.

Those airlines are AeroGal & TAME

 

There are also daily speed boats which take passengers to or from Puerto Ayora and the other inhabited islands of San Cristobal or Isabela.

 

 

The hub of most activity in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora is a charming port town where sea, sun, seabirds and sailboats coexist in happy equilibrium. On the town's outskirts, you will also find the headquarters to the world-renown Charles Darwin Research Station.

 

Although it is the Galapaganean town most frequented by visitors, the majority of travelers just pass through on their way to see Lonesome George (a 150-year old tortoise; the last of his species) at the Darwin Station.

However, those that linger a moment longer, discover that Puerto Ayora has more than geriatric reptiles. In fact, Puerto Ayora is a lively seaside town offering international cuisine, oceanfront hotels, outdoor bars, scuba diving schools and an avenue of boutiques with everything from tie-dyed sarongs to Panama hats.

It's not the dock, it's where the dock is: Puerto Ayora, Galapagos.

 

Most travelers who know Puerto Ayora won't hesitate to recommend a few post or pre-cruise days in town. The pricey plane fare and park fee certainly warrant a few extra days in paradise: stay a moment longer and relish the Islands' crescent slices of sand, spectacular diving, mountain top vistas and tropical climate. Fortunately TAME, the national airline whisking passengers to and from the mainland, makes it very easy to extend your ticket; Just stop by their centrally located offices on Puerto Ayora's main drag and request a date change at no extra charge.

HUGE TURTLE WALKING

 

You may also want to consider a multi-day stay in Puerto Ayora as an excellent alternative to a boat tour. Being land-based allows you to tailor your own days, visit select islands, and choose from an array of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding and mountain biking. This option is particularly attractive to families with small children, scuba-enthusiasts with non-diving friends, landlubbers, independent travelers, and those traveling on a shoestring.

 

Arriving

 

Puerto Ayora is located on the southern end of Isla Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the archipelago. Most visitors arrive by plane (about 3 hours from Quito) and land in Baltra, a separate island at the northernmost tip of Santa Cruz.

GALAPAGOS GIANT TURTLES FIGHTING

 

Upon arrival travelers pass through immigration. Visitors must present a passport with an Ecuadorian visa, as well as $100 for the park entrance fee and the island tax. You must pay with traveler's checks or cash; credit cards are not accepted. If you have a censo (the national ID card for foreigners) the total fee is only $25.

 

Flights depart daily from Quito at 8:30 am with a 30 to 45 minute layover in Guayaquil (a direct flight from Quito is available one day a week). On Wednesdays and Sundays additional flights are often scheduled depending on passenger demand. The fare varies according to the high and low tourism season. Tickets can be purchased through most Quito travel agents or directly from TAME, a commercial airline (prices are about the same).

 

To make it easy for those on the web, see the complete Galapagos trip planner, GalapagosIslands.

MAD TORTOISE :)
com.

 

From Baltra passengers either head directly to a pre-arranged boat, anchored five minutes away from the airport (you will be met by your guide) or to Puerto Ayora, a 45-minute journey.

 

If you are heading to Puerto Ayora hop on the TAME bus waiting outside the airport -- it is the only option to get to the channel and is of no cost; five minutes later you will reach the ferry which takes passengers across the channel (under a dollar and about five minutes). On the other side, public buses and private cars await passengers for the last leg of the journey to Puerto Ayora (the planes, ferry and buses are scheduled to coincide, so you won't have long to wait). The trip is beautiful; you will pass through the core of Island's lush highlands before descending down to the coast with its cactus forests and sea breezes.

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

 

The bus will drop you off in the town center upon which you may be bombarded with offers for boats and hotels. Most of these hawkers are trustworthy islanders despite being a bit aggressive. If you do need help looking for a hotel, boat or diving company, Victor "Poncho" Vaca or Jenni Devine are two people who seems to know the latest scoop on everything in Puerto Ayora (he speaks English, German, and Spanish).

 

Joining an organized boat tour in Puerto Ayora a day or two before it leaves is always the cheapest way to island hop. Not surprisingly most boats prefer to sell last minute tickets at bargain basement prices than leave berths empty. If you have the time to look and wait for a boat with a last minute berth, this is a great way to save money. However, your service may be below the class that you expected and your once-in-a-lifetime trip may not be the time of your life.

TORTOISE FEET
Groups with more than five people can often use the power of numbers to negotiate an all-around lower fare for everyone. During the high season (around holidays and the summer) both tactics can be a bit tricky and may leave you stranded without a tour for over week.

 

Puerto Ayora itself is small and easily navigable, so its straightforward to find your own way around town. The main drag, Charles Darwin, runs east-west along the bay. At the westernmost end of town you will find the Academy Bay port, the main grocery store, hardware store and post office. At the easternmost end of town is the Charles Darwin Research Station. In between you will find most of the town's hotels, bars, shops and the only bank, El Banco del Pacifico.

 

For more information on flights to the Galapagos Islands, please check out our Domestic Flights page in our Transportation section.

TORTOISE FEET

 

Banking & Money

 

El Banco del Pacífico is open Monday to Friday 8:00 - 3:30; Saturday 9:30 -12:30. The bank cashes dollars, however expect rates a bit lower than on the mainland. Personal checks are not accepted.

 

The bank's ATM (money machine) accepts only Cirrus and Mastercard (7 am - 11:30 pm). Unfortunately, the ATM is down more often than the bank would like to admit. If this is the case you can request a cash withdrawl with your Mastercard (but not with a Cirrus card) from a bank teller.

 

Money transfers are possible, however they take 4 to 7 days. Faster but more expensive is a MoneyGram with American Express.

With a MoneyGram you will receive your dinero within hours -- if the phone lines are working. You do not have to be a card holder to use a MoneyGram.

 

Traveler's checks are widely accepted on the Island, as are US dollars. Credit cards become a bit trickier: Mastercard is commonly accepted while American Express and VISA usually receive shrugs and apologies.

 

For more information on money and banking in Ecuador and the Galapagos, please visit our Money Matters page.

 

Communications

 

Phone

 

International, national and local calls can be made at Pacifictel after painstakingly waiting in line.

A more efficient way of making a call, although more expensive, is at a top-end hotel. Calling cards can be used, however most establishments charge about USD 1 per minute for the call to the Quito operator.

 

Warning: When making a phone call from the Galapagos patience is more than just a virtue, it is required, as the phone lines here are among the worst in the country.

 

Fax

 

Banco Pacifico allows people to send and receive faxes: 25 cents per page to receive; USD 3 to send to mainland/USD 15 to send abroad. They have two numbers. The first (04-2564636) goes to Banco Pacifico in Guayaquil and then to the Galapagos. The second number (04-2562297) goes directly to the Galapagos. Pacifictel offers a similar service at cheaper prices.

TORTOISE NEST

 

E-mail

 

Electronic communication is still a bit primitive in Puerto Ayora: Only twenty-six people on the entire island have access to one wobbly internet connection! There is talk of an internet cafe opening, but really there are few places that the public can go in and send a message. Jenni Devine offers email and internet services for a few dollars a minute and a smattering offices will let you get on their computers for a price. The Red Mangrove Inn is another option for those that are in dire need of the internet. Expect to wait a good while until the shared connection goes through.

 

Post

 

The only post office in town is located across from the supermarket at the port end of town.

hmmmm 2 male tortoises
Prices to mainland Ecuador are the same price as a postcard or letter to North America (USD .50) and international post is at least double that price. If planning to send a postcard to friends back home, better to wait till you are back on the mainland.

 

Time

 

Remember to set your watch back an hour -- the Galapagos is one time zone behind the mainland.

 

For more information on communications in Ecuador, feel free to visit our Communications page.

 

Medical

 

Try to avoid bodily damage while on the islands as good medical care is limited. For basic health problems such as cuts, infections and parasites visit English-speaking Dr.

this is not right?!?!!?
Darquea. He reportedly offers the best treatment in town in a clean private environment. His office is a bit inland from the Charles Darwin Station, ask a local for specific directions; tel: 526496. For more complicated injuries go to the Red Cross hospital; for major health problems its best to go immediately to the mainland. If you need to be medi-evacuted the fastest service available is Ecuavia, an air ambulance from Guayaquil. The cost is about USD 2,000.

 

For dental problems contact Dr. Pino or Dr. Carrion at the hospital.

 

The pharmacy, Cruz Rojo, just up from the bus stop is the best-stocked pharmacy in town. Do not expect an actual pharmacist behind the counter, as there simply isn't one.

 

Warning: Divers should be aware that the closest decompression chamber is in Guayaquil.

 

For more detailed information on medical concerns in Ecuador and the Galapagos, please read our 8-page Health Section.

 

Shopping

 

The main grocery store in town is small by mainland standards, but does offer an good array of dried, canned, and boxed goods, as well as basic toiletries, cheeses, bottled water, and a liqueur section. For fresh produce your best bet is the open air market located on the road to the airport (a ten minute walk from town). Some of the produce is grown locally, while much of it is actually brought in by boat from the mainland. For this reason prices are a bit high and the town can run out of the simplest items such as tomatoes, lettuce or watermelon, for over a week.

On one recent occasion the Island actually ran out of beer!

 

If you are in the market to buy souvenirs there is no shortage of boutiques offering Galapagos and Ecuadorian goods. T-shirt shops are ubiquitous, as are shops selling beach paraphernalia. Just outside the Charles Darwin Station is a unique ceramic studio, Galapagos Ceramics, producing whimsical mugs with iguana handles and other imaginative items. There are also a number of jewelry stores selling hand-crafted items from silver, tagua nut and black coral. Tagua nut, also known as vegetable ivory, is a great thing to buy. It is a sustainably harvested nut from a mainland palm that provides income to small communities. Black coral on the other hand is an endangered animal and illegal to sell in any form. The same goes for turtle shells. Please support the conservation of Galapagos wildlife and do not buy these items, as beautiful as they may be.

 

Hotels

 

Being an international port, Puerto Ayora has a good selection of hotels. Backpackers on a shoestring can find a basic room across the street from the sea for as little as $6 (single) in the low season and those without budgetary constraints can check into an oceanfront bed and breakfast for around USD 75 single/USD 115 double per night. For a complete listing of recommended hotels in Puerto Ayora, please refer to our Galapagos hotels page.

 

Where to Eat

 

Stroll along the main drag, Avenida Charles Darwin, and choose from a variety of open air cafes, restaurants and bars. Seafood and Italian cuisine (especially pizza!) seem to dominate the food scene, however in between you can find sandwiches, empanadas, fruit salads and good coffee.

 

The little street veering inland across from the bank has a row of outdoor stalls with tables that serve tasty plates of traditional Ecuadorian food. According to the locals, "Williams" serves up the most savory dishes. (Hint: Its best to arrive early and be one of the first served, as dishes are merely rinsed in a bucket of cold water and then re-used.)

 

All of the establishments listed below are located on the main drag, Avenida Charles Darwin. Most places do not have addresses, so its best to practice your Spanish and ask a local.

 

Capricho

 

This open air German-run cafe dishes up tasty treats all day. Come in the morning and start your day with Maria's piping hot pancakes and a glass of fresh juice or stop by later for their yummy potato-chicken salad with toasted rolls (USD 3.50), sandwiches (USD 3), garden salad (USD 2) or plate of homemade spaghetti (USD 4). One or two freshly-baked cakes (USD 1) are also available daily to compliment a mug of coffee. Mono-lingual travelers will appreciate the tri-lingual menu which tells you how to say cheese in German, English and Spanish. While you are waiting for your lunch, play a game of chess or checkers or browse the cafe's book exchange and gift shop.

 

If you plan to spend the whole day at the beach, no worries --Maria can send you off with a box lunch for USD 4. Capricho is located a couple of minutes west from the entrance to the Charles Darwin Research Station on the main street. Open: around 7 am until 8 pm. Upon request by large groups Capricho will open earlier.

 

Limón y Café

 

A typical coastal restaurant/bar in an international port, Limón y Café dishes up tasty seafood dishes and appetizers along with great tunes ranging from Bob Marley to REM. As early as 9 am when the Cafe opens, patrons start clamoring for seafood. Ceviche (a lemon-marinated fish cocktail) is the ultimate chuchaki (hang-over) cure in Ecuador. Along with ceviche, they serve other traditional foods from Esmeraldas (comida negra) such as patacones (fried green bananas) and encocados (seafood or chicken in a coconut marinade). After a hearty meal, stay a moment longer and enjoy a tropical cocktail or expresso. Open 9 am - midnight; Monday - Sunday. Accepts VISA, MC, dollars and travelers checks.

 

Tambulero's Pub

 

Located across from Pelican Bay on the main drag, pint-sized Tambulero's Pub has quickly become one of the coolest after dark spots on the Island. As the day settles into night, the locals (and travelers in the know) climb up Tambulero's stairs to get closer to the equatorial stars and a cool pint of brew. Beto, the manager, proudly reminds imbibers that his beer is ecological. Ecological beer? Well, what he means is

that every used bottle gets recycled back on the mainland. If ecological beer is beyond your comprehension just order a tequila body shot, sit back and enjoy the tunes on what will undoubtedly be a warm Galapagos night. Rain dancing, by the way, is popular on wet nights. Open: 8 pm to midnight... or later if the party is still pulsing strong.

 

Quatro Laternas

 

One of Puerto Ayora's most popular restaurants, Quatro Laternas not surprisingly dishes up some of the tastiest Italian food in Ecuador. (Silvana, the owner is an authentic import from Italy). Start your dining experience with a caprese salad, garlic bread and a glass of red wine. And then lean back and consider the entrees: pasta and pizza being the house specialties. Heartier diners will appreciate the chicken and steak options. Open for dinner only.

 

Land-based Exploration

 

Puerto Ayora is an excellent base in which to explore the islands, by land or by sea. Most of the sport equipment necessary for the activities listed below can be rented. See individual sections for

details.

 

Beaches

 

One of the Galapagos' most spectacular beaches, Tortuga Bay, is only a half an hour walk from Puerto Ayora. Although the walk can be a bit grueling under midday sun its worth every sweat drop. Upon arrival you'll immediately see why; at low tide a wide swath of glistening white sand awaits your footprints. Drop your towel here and jump into the surf or follow this sandy crescent to its point to discover a mangroved lagoon with glassy emerald water and bobbing pelicans. One of the best things about Tortuga Bay is that you'll invariably have most of it to yourself. The majority of locals find the walk too arduous and tourists generally do not stick around long enough to make the trek.

 

If you stay until dusk you can watch the sun set and the sky melt from hues of tropical warmth into the cool colors of night. Don't forget your repellent, since battalions of mosquitoes will definitely make their presence known. If its a clear night the walk down the beach under the velvety black sky, the Southern Cross, and Venus beaming brightly is nothing short of magnificent.

 

Warning: The first beach has a considerable current and no lifeguard, so swim with caution.

 

A closer beach to town is located in the Charles Darwin Research Station. Not nearly as dramatic as Tortuga Bay, this little pocket of beige sand is nevertheless popular with the locals and Station personnel. It does have great snorkeling, so bring your fins and mask.

 

A third medium-sized beach is located at the Hotel Delphin, however it is only reachable by boat. You can hire an aqua-taxi at the main dock which can whisk you over to "el otro lado" in a few miuntes. Once on this side of the bay, you can also walk fifteen minutes to Las Griegas, a magical little split in the earth which fills with refreshingly cool seawater during high tide. The crevice is so deep that intrepid locals climb up the rock wall and jack-knife the crystal-clear water. If you try this always check the water depth first; it varies greatly according to the tides.

 

Sea Kayaking

 

Sea Kayaking is a relatively new sport to the islands and has yet to gain mass popularity. Currently the only place to rent a kayak is at the Red Mangrove Inn and they don't even advertise this fact other than to their own guests. For USD 10 an hour non-guests can take one of their four boats out for a paddle. No motors, no crowds; just you, the kayak and the sound of your paddle as it strokes the sea. Undoubtedly, kayaking is one of the most intimate ways to explore the hidden inlets and mangroved bays of Isla Santa Cruz.

 

Scuba Diving

 

Declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, the Galapagos Islands offers one of the highest levels of endemism in the world, as well as a sea swimming with contradictions: Only here can you swim with sea turtles, manta rays, penguins, tropical reef fish and "friendly" hammerhead sharks in the same water.

 

The islands feature about 30 dive sites, a combination of which can be accessed on day trips from Puerto Ayora. Divers are accompanied by professional bilingual naturalist guides and dive masters who specialize in Galapagos flora and fauna. Dives with a reputable company average about USD 110 per day (two dives). Reliable PADI dive courses are also available. For diving or dive courses contact Scuba Iguana or Sub-Aqua, the two best dive companies in Puerto Ayora.

 

For More info on diving in the Enchanted Islands, take a look at GalapagosIslands.com , a complete Galapagos trip planner.

 

Snorkeling

 

From Puerto Ayora you can access a number of good snorkeling spots either from land or by boat. The most accessible sites are:

 

    * The Charles Darwin Research Station's beach

    * Loberia (the small island 15 minutes off shore from Puerto Ayora)

    * Punta Estrada (one of the best local places to see white-tipped sharks, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and sealions)

    * The underwater barranco (shelf) just off shore from the beach at Hotel Delphin

 

Snorkeling equipment is available at Neptuno, Scuba Iguana and Sub-Aqua. Rates range from as little as USD 3 up to USD 8 a set per day.

 

Surfing

 

The farthest beach at the Charles Darwin Station, Ratonera, has become popular surf turf for the local wave junkies, as have Angermeyer Break and Tortuga Bay. For a full review of surfing in the Galapagos, check-out Surfer Magazine's 1997 article.

 

For informaiton a list of surf tour providers in Ecuador, please check out our Surf Tours page.

 

Glass-Bottom Boat

 

Captain Haro's glass bottom boat is a one of a kind in the Galapagos. His magical boat will take you to a collection of interesting wildlife sites including Naufruagio, Buque Iguana, Isolate Caamano, Punta

Estrada, Las Grietas and Bahia Franklin. See sharks, sealions, colorful reef fish and iguanas feeding on the ocean floor. With 19 years of guiding experience in the Galapagos, Captain Haro also provides you with a few lessons in natural history (in Spanish, English or Italian). Minimum of four people; USD 20 per person. Monday through Sunday. Contact Neptuno Tours or head directly to the port for specific information on departures.

 

Mountain Biking

 

Mountain bikes let you explore the back roads of the Santa Cruz Highlands: Peddle across undulating hills rich and green with moss-covered trees, enjoy a hilltop picnic with panoramic views of the surrounding islands, observe free-roaming tortoises, visit local farmers, sample their tropical fruit, and see the island in a way that few visitors do. Contact: Neptuno or the Red Mangrove Inn. Rentals start at USD 10 per day; tours with a guide and/or support vehicle are also available.

 

For further information on mountain biking and biking tours in Ecuador, check out our Moutain Biking Guide and our Biking Tour Providers page.

 

Horseback Riding

 

Galapagos horses are descendants of the purebreds brought to the islands by an American colonist before the Islands were declared a National Park. Over the generations they have lost their purity but gained a toughness that allows them to scamper over the island's rugged volcanic terrain and whisk you off to the island's remotest corners. Contact: Neptuno or Amalca Horseback Tours via channel 22 on the radio or just ask around town. USD 15 per person with four or more people.

 

For more information on horseback riding in Ecuador and the Galapagos, feel free to visit our Horseback Riding Guide and our Horseback Riding Tours page.

 

Highland Jeep Tours

 

Highland jeep tours usually include a walk through lava tunnels, around a sunken crater, and through Scalesia forests (related to sunflowers) and a wild tortoise sanctuary. On a clear day you are assured spectacular views of the sea and neighboring islands. Most tours also include either a picnic, barbecue or lunch at one of the highland restaurants. Contact: the Red Mangrove Inn, Neptuno Tours, or Victor Vaca.

 

Charles Darwin Research Station

 

Most organized boat tours and independent travelers stop by the world famous Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the island's flora and fauna, and local conservation issues. The highlight of the Station is its tortoise breeding program, with 150-year old Lonesome George as its poster tortoise. Poor George is the last of his species and to the chagrin of the Station's biologists, he has no interest in the perky females (of a closely related sub-species) let loose in his pen. The younger tortoises seem to find the Station a perfectly adequate environment for romance, as the Station's repopulation program is continuing strong after five years. Stroll through the Station and see tortoises of all ages starting at two weeks old.

 

The Educational Center provides a photo exhibit with information in Spanish and English about the Island's unique flora and fauna. Open daily.

 

There is no entrance fee, yet the Station miraculously manages all that it does on a bare-bones budget. Donations are much needed and always appreciated. Contact the administrative office for more information or Roslyn Cameron at: cdrs@fcdarwin.org.ec

 

One-Day Island Tours

 

Puerto Ayora provides the most convenient land-base in the Galapagos for island hopping. There are three boats, the Delphin, Esmeraldas III and Santa Fe, that offer day trips to Florena, Bartoleme, North Seymore and Plazas. Prices range from USD 50 to USD 100 per person per tour. The higher the price tag the more comfortable the boat.

 

Working & Volunteering

 

Being a tourism magnet, Puerta Ayora has an array work and volunteer opportunities. Landing a position on-the-spot is not uncommon. Ask around town for the right contact. Below is a typical list of options:

 

Dive Masters: contact Scuba Iguana or Sub-Aqua

Dive Instructors: same as above

Charles Darwin Station

English Teachers

Translators

Computer Technicians

Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes

 


rossmickel says:
Whoa! that's lot of information and seems like lots of fun too. I went tot Galapagos during last spring break and it was one of the best trip of my life.After coming back I developed a new hobby of writing articles on Galapagos Giant tortoise and the Galapagos islands you can read it on : http://www.slideshare.net/rossmickel/galapagos-islands-33213112. After reading your blog I will plan the trip to Galapagos again. Thank you for sharing such a greate information and the pictures.
Posted on: Apr 15, 2014
pukdam says:
I am so envious, I want to go there SO BAD... its killing me to watch your fantastic pictures :(
Posted on: Sep 23, 2010
pearcetoyou says:
Holy Tortoise, Batman!! This is a novel! I may have to print this out and read it on my flight to Europe!!! Nice job, and a lot of work, Melanie.
Posted on: May 05, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
SECONDS AFTER IT NUDGED ME
SECONDS AFTER IT NUDGED ME
US AND A GIANT TORTOISE
US AND A GIANT TORTOISE
ME AND GIANT TORTOISE
ME AND GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE AND MUM
GIANT TORTOISE AND MUM
SMILE :)
SMILE :)
PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS
PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
WOODPECKER FINCH
WOODPECKER FINCH
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
WOW
WOW
HUGE
HUGE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
WHITE CHEEKED PINTAIL
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
I AM HIDING
I AM HIDING
NEED TO EAT SOON
NEED TO EAT SOON
PAPAYA
PAPAYA
HELLOOOOO
HELLOOOOO
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE ON THE ROAD
GIANT TORTOISE ON THE ROAD
DONT RUN OVER ME
DON'T RUN OVER ME
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
GIANT TORTOISE
SHROOMS
SHROOMS
SHROOMS
SHROOMS
TREE MOSS
TREE MOSS
ENTERING THE LAVA TUNNEL
ENTERING THE LAVA TUNNEL
LAVA TUNNEL
LAVA TUNNEL
LAVA TUNNEL
LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
INSIDE THE LAVA TUNNEL
BROWN PELICAN
BROWN PELICAN
ME AND ROGELIO
ME AND ROGELIO
PRICKY PEAR CACTUS
PRICKY PEAR CACTUS
HUGE ALBATROSS
HUGE ALBATROSS
BROWN PELICAN AND MUM
BROWN PELICAN AND MUM
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TURTLES
BABY TURTLES
BABY TURTLES
BABY TURTLES
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISES
BRAWL
BRAWL
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISES
BABY TORTOISE
BABY TORTOISE
THE FOUNDER
THE FOUNDER
HUGE TURTLE WALKING
GALAPAGOS GIANT TURTLES FIGHTING
MAD TORTOISE :)
MAD TORTOISE :)
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
TORTOISE FEET
TORTOISE FEET
TORTOISE FEET
TORTOISE FEET
TORTOISE NEST
TORTOISE NEST
hmmmm 2 male tortoises
hmmmm 2 male tortoises
this is not right?!?!!?
this is not right?!?!!?
Santa Cruz Island
photo by: aswold