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Entries about tortoises

Discovering Animals like Charles Darwin

Our time camping in the Galapagos Islands


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Our flight to Galapagos seemed to take forever! We left Quito and touched down in a city of Guayaquil before continuing on. Getting off the plane I was instantly surprised about the terrain; when I thought of the Galapagos I wasn't instantly thinking of volcanic rocks and cactus everywhere! It looked so bare and desert like. When we arrived it was a bus, ferry, bus and boat before we arrived at Floreana, our island home for the next few days. The boat ride was choppy and I managed to get a seat on the upper deck with the captain. Besides getting saturated it was a great way to fight off the seasickness that was happening down below.

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Floreana Island has a community of only 150 people living on it and on our first night they were celebrating Saint Maria who the island is also named after. This meant that there was a community party with dancing and bingo until well into the morning. Floreana was the first island inhabited in Galapagos. A German family inhabited the Island, as well as pirates and whalers.

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The whalers have a famous postbox that is still used today. The way it works is as you put in your postcard you collect the mail and deliver it by hand when they arrive back to anyone from your area. There were none from the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and we realised the mail wouldn't reach anyone until December anyway. The landscape of the islands is interesting. The highlands are green and get alot of rain but the lowlands get minimal rain and so are dry and desert like. We explored the greener highlands; seeing the caves the family and pirates used to live in; the towns water supply and some tortoises who used to be locals pets on the island. It was our first encounter with these massive creatures and these ones were so tame they walked right up to you!

We enjoyed the black beach on our return and saw the cutest baby seal pup running after its parents out to see. While staying on Floreana the community feed us well! Each meal was always massive and usually consisted of soup, chicken and rice followed by desert. Eating was a little difficult for Lewis, he had been unwell since we had arrived in Ecuador.

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Sadly it was a trip to the doctor for him and medication to combat any parasites, worms or amebas in hopes he would be back to normal ASAP. Luckily for us the Doctors visit and medication was free for us in Ecuador. While Lewis rested the rest of us spent the afternoon in Seal Colony Bay snorkelling. It took a little to get use to the swell as well as the lack of visibility and to be honest I couldn't stop falling over due to my massive flippers. Luckily Lewis didn't miss a lot.
We had to leave our lovely homestay's the next day and start camping in the highlands on our next island, the largest island in the archipelago called Isabella. I discovered Isabella was where Charles Darwin was based for most of his famous observations. As we were camping in the highlands we just hoped it didn't rain too much! Floreana was our first island and we had already seen so many animals of a wide variety of types (sea lions, marine iguanas, crabs, finches, tortoises, birds and turtles). The exciting part was we knew we had so much more to see.

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The boat ride took a good two hours to Isabella and along the way we saw a large bird nesting island. The birds on there included the famous ones that blow a balloon up on there chest when they're are mating... A few were practising this meeting ritual so we got to see if at a distance. We also stopped at a flamingos pond once we arrived and got to watch them feeding away on the shrimp. They sounded like a vacuum!

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Our first campsite was better than we were both expecting..to be honest it definitely felt a little like glamping. We also had an amazing surprise at the camp; a three month old baby turtle had been born there. It was tiny and so adorable.

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Sierra Negra volcano was our first stop to see the lava field, the most recent addition was added in 2005. You could see the height difference between the two areas as we looked down from the rim. The area was vast with geysers occasionally releasing steam. The clouds swirled over the rim just after we arrived and got caught inside the vast space at times it completely whitened the area.
We were on the search for two birds while walking around the Sierra Negra. One was the red flycatcher, a cute bird that was extremely fast which meant that photos were basically impossible. The other bird we were searching for was the Galapagos Hawk, which was sadly to elusive for us and we didn't spot one that day.

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I discovered that the islands all have problems with introduced species and for the highlands the white guava is of particular concern. This surprised me as I had never considered pests being an issue here like they are in New Zealand. We got a stunning sunset along the beach in town that evening before we headed back to camp for a cold shower.

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Our next stop was the tortoise breeding centre where we saw the giant and flat-backed tortoises. There sizes ranged from tiny to l00's of years old. The tortoises from all of the different islands are all slightly different and you can see how they have adapted to there different habitats. The size difference between male and female tortoises was also rather significant, with males potentially being over three times larger than females at the same age. We saw that at 10 weeks of fertilisation the tortoise fetus already has colour in it's shell. It was pretty cool to see the successful breeding cases. We saw a lot of minor fight but no mating.

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The rest of the day at the famous snorkelling area called Los Tuneles. After battling through massive waves to reach a calm area that was full of arches made by lava fields. The sea was still and full of life in between and through all the pools. There were turtles (some were massive!), golden rays, penguins, seals, topical fish, seahorses, sharks, puffer fish and once we had anchored and began exploring on top of the arches we saw more seals, penguins and blue footed boobies. The boobies were mating and we got to see the dancing rituals and as well as a few nesting. It was a highlight!

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The snorkelling was also better than I expected. We saw plenty of different animals including sharks in the caves sleeping and swimming round. I was pretty happy with the calm water. On the ride back to the port l managed to get saturated even in the massive coat they gave me.
It was another three hour boat ride to our final island, Santa Cruz.

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Yet again people were seasick due to the rough open ocean. We arrived and our camp which was more remote and 30 minutes from the main town. Our first afternoon was going to a reserve to see the tortoises in the wild. They were much more skittish compared to the others we had seen but I managed to get close to one of giant old males. We looked into each other eyes figuring each other out for some time. It was an awesome experience. While there we also walked through a massive lava tunnel that had been created some time ago. It was impressive!

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The evening was spent in town and while there we discovered delicious waffles from Il Giardino. Hot waffle with chocolate and coffee ice cream.Yum! We also went down to where the boats dock and saw the pelicans and seals hilariously begged for food scraps. They pretty much live at the dock.

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Our final day we visited, the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see the massive yellow land lizards and meet Diego, a pımpster Saddleback that has increased the population numbers. The two males were extremely picky with who they mated with. Diego was brought back from an American Zoo and well... wasn't. This has helped save this population. We spent the rest of the day at Tortuga Bay, an idyllic white sanded cove.

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The place was picture perfect and there were finches everywhere. That evening it was our final group dinner at the local food market-basically stalls selling grilled fish with seats on the street before an early flight the next morning.

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Galapagos was interesting. The terrain was varied from green in the highlands to desert-like near the shore.If we went back we would need to live on a boat or spend more time or days on day trips.
Aside from the rushedness we got a magical taste of the galapagos and it's cute inquisitive animals. Its a interesting but expensive place and a must if you have time and the budget to include it.

Posted by chellebelle 16:44 Archived in Ecuador Tagged snorkelling food beach camping tortoises iguanas highlands galapagos boobies seals gadventures catcus Comments (0)

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