Galapagos Islands - Day 1 - Tortoise spotting on Santa Cruz island

Puerto Ayora Travel Blog

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My first giant tortoise spotting!

It was good to finally be heading out to the islands after all the running around I'd done to organise the trip.  Even better was the fact that my plane and boat tickets were still valid despite being in my daypack when I emptied most of a bottle of mossie spray there!  The act of getting tourists to their boats is a pretty well-oiled machine, meet you at the airport (I'm glad I thought to buy an underwater camera here, better late than never), shuttle bus to the ferry, 10 minute ferry, then on to a bus for the 45 min trip across to Puerta Ayora on the other side of the island.  Around the airport at Baltra is quite dry so there aren't any immediate iguanas to trip over or anything like that.

It's quite surreal really, just going through paddocks seeing cow, cow, another cow then tortoise! You can tell them apart by the way cows don't have big shells ;)

After another quick boat ride out to the Aida Maria we were introduced to the captain, bartender (priorities!) and guide Ruben, then were given a quickfire lunch.  I was coming on to the boat about halfway through a tour so there was an Aussie couple (Matt and Peta) and a French couple who had already been cruising around for 4 days, but the other 10 or so of us were rookies. I even managed to get a cabin of my own since the Swedish family I was to split with decided to all try and cram in to one.  Strangely enough I didn't protest too much ;)

Only about an hour after arriving we were back on the boat to Puerta Ayora to drive up to the highlands for some giant tortoise spotting.  It's so surreal to just be driving through these paddocks which look like farms anywhere else in the world, watching the cows do what cows do, then all of a sudden you just spot these giant shells.

These guys were racing
  The tortoises were pretty incredible to watch, some of them were down by the road and tend to stop when they feel vibrations which can cause a delay here and there.  This is a real problem for drivers on the island at night since they can't see the tortoises, and the tortoises don't get out of the way.  Apparently tortoises do survive these car vs tortoise encounters though.

A bit further down is the national park area, rather than private farmland, so we could cross the fence and go get up close and personal with our tortoise friends.  Each tortoise has a number etched  on it's shell (that's man-made, not evolutionary ;) ) so they can tell which one is which, and even know a few names. I think my photo is with Walter.  It's good just to watch these guys plod along for a while, it does feel like a bit of a step back in time.

Up close and personal

I was given the very handy tip by Matt and Peta that I should grab some snacks while I had the chance before returning to the boat.  They were spot on too, the meals were good quality but not huge so a Snickers for dessert was a welcome addition.  The only really tricky aspect of this day was that the boat cruises to the next island at 1 a.m. in the morning, so after drifting off to sleep you suddenly wake up to find yourself shuffling from side to side.  Fortunately no seasickness tablets were used :)

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My first giant tortoise spotting!
My first giant tortoise spotting!
Its quite surreal really, just go…
It's quite surreal really, just g…
These guys were racing
These guys were racing
Up close and personal
Up close and personal
We interrupted his meal, sorry tor…
We interrupted his meal, sorry to…
The Schner and the Tortoise
The Schner and the Tortoise
This guy managed to thumb a ride! …
This guy managed to thumb a ride!…
Our boat for the trip, the Aida Ma…
Our boat for the trip, the Aida M…
A quick view of Puerto Ayora befor…
A quick view of Puerto Ayora befo…
Puerto Ayora
photo by: timbo