Galapagos Day 5: The freakishly large turtles of Santa Cruz.

Galapagos Islands Travel Blog

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Disembarking the Seaman II for the last time (Nancy, Karen, Matt).

Our first stop today was the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. This center was established in 1964 by the Charles Darwin Foundation to conduct research and provide education for conservation in the Galapagos. The center has a breeding program for Galapagos Land Iguanas and Land Tortoises, which was the focus of our visit.

I have seen photos of the giant tortoises of Galapagos, but pictures really didn't prepare me for how incredibly HUGE these creatures are up close. WOW! They are like small automobiles! We saw dozens of them -- some very, very old (they live about 200 years), collected from individuals who used to keep them as "pets" before the national park was created in 1959. There were also many baby turtles, bred at the center and waiting until their fifth birthday to be released into the wild, each species to the island from whence his breed originally came (each island developed independently and has its own breed or breeds of turtles).
Landing on Santa Cruz.


The most interesting guy at the center is Lonesome George. His breed was thought to be extinct when he was found by a student on Pinta Island in the 1970s... the last turtle on the island. He was brought to the center and a search for a mate began. They have called zoos and institutions across the world looking for a female Pinta turtle, all to no avail... Lonesome George remained lonesome. Finally, two similar breed females were introduced to his corral in hopes that they would breed. And twelve years later, they finally have! Scientists are waiting to find out if the new eggs are viable.

We also saw Land Iguanas, which are also being bred at the center. (Both iguanas and turtles were highly endangered on the islands because passing sailors kept eating them.) This was a good stop, and it was very interesting.
Older than time.


After Charles Darwin, our group broke up to explore the town of Puerto Ayora on our own. Steve and I did some shopping, checked in to the hotel, and I also signed up to go on a dive trip tomorrow (!). (Steve has work to do, so I will be going it alone.)

Later, we all met up again and boarded a bus bound for the highlands of Santa Cruz. Since we hadn't gotten the nice little snacks and cocoa that we have become accustom to on the boat, we were all ravenous! Lunch was slow and quiet, and when we finished it seemed we were all ready for a siesta. But it was time to board the bus again... we were off to see more turtles, this time in the wild. I expected something akin to tracking lions in Africa (except slightly less thrilling), but there was no need for stealth and long searches here -- when we got to Primicias Ranch we found turtles EVERYWHERE.
We had a real photo shoot going on.
Immobile as glaciers, they slowly grazed on the long grass and twigs, hissing and pulling in their worried-old-man heads if anyone got close.

Back at the hotel, the group from the Seaman II reconvened on the hotel patio for drinks, dinner and goodbyes. We all wished for more time in the Galapagoes, and Steve and I will actually get it: the rest of the group flies out tomorrow, but we have arranged to stay an extra night on Santa Cruz. I hope to spend that extra time in the company of hammerhead sharks on tomorrow's dive!

pinchora says:
oh... I do hope the eggs of lonesome george are fertile... that would be sad to think that his breed will fully be extint soon!!
Posted on: Oct 03, 2008
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Disembarking the Seaman II for the…
Disembarking the Seaman II for th…
Landing on Santa Cruz.
Landing on Santa Cruz.
Older than time.
Older than time.
We had a real photo shoot going on.
We had a real photo shoot going on.
Our Aussies stay behind (they are …
Our Aussies stay behind (they are…
Bill and John on the Zodiac.
Bill and John on the Zodiac.
Welcoming party.
Welcoming party.
Daniel introduces our group to the…
Daniel introduces our group to th…
Prickly pear cactus tree.
Prickly pear cactus tree.
Thats one HUGE turtle!
That's one HUGE turtle!
Steve and I make a new friend.
Steve and I make a new friend.
Prehistoric.
Prehistoric.
Crunch!
Crunch!
Yellow warbler takes a bath.
Yellow warbler takes a bath.
Eating, sleeping...not much else t…
Eating, sleeping...not much else …
Espanola tortoise.
Espanola tortoise.
This is high alert.
This is high alert.
His skin looks like paper...
His skin looks like paper...
Mockingbird.
Mockingbird.
Who eats something like this!? Lot…
Who eats something like this!? Lo…
Close up.
Close up.
That cant be comfortable.
That can't be comfortable.
Finch.
Finch.
Lonesome Georges info sign.
Lonesome George's info sign.
The famous, incomparable, one and …
The famous, incomparable, one and…
Turtle nursery!
Turtle nursery!
Baby turtles in the nursery.
Baby turtles in the nursery.
Each nursery had a sign with the t…
Each nursery had a sign with the …
Hopefully the start of long lives.…
Hopefully the start of long lives…
Checking me out?
Checking me out?
The harbor view from Puerto Ayora.
The harbor view from Puerto Ayora.
Sally Lightfoots.
Sally Lightfoots.
Sleepy Puerto Ayora.
Sleepy Puerto Ayora.
Lunch!
Lunch!
Back on the bus.
Back on the bus.
The boots are ugly...
The boots are ugly...
...but I am glad we have them.
...but I am glad we have them.
My fashion statement.
My fashion statement.
Matt makes his way through the muc…
Matt makes his way through the mu…
Checking out the turtles.
Checking out the turtles.
Field of wild tortoise.
Field of "wild" tortoise.
Hes huge!
He's huge!
I cant talk right now, my mouth i…
I can't talk right now, my mouth …
I think the turtle just told a goo…
I think the turtle just told a go…
These people are too loud. I am ou…
These people are too loud. I am o…
Pin tail ducks.
Pin tail ducks.
Anyone home?
Anyone home?
The other end.
The other end.
Try THAT on for size!
Try THAT on for size!
Thats disturbing.
That's disturbing.
Bill tries to come out of his shel…
Bill tries to come out of his she…
From of the pool area from our roo…
From of the pool area from our ro…
Visitors at our hotel.
Visitors at our hotel.
Galapagos Islands
photo by: Melboorn