Thursday, January 15, 2009

Galapagos - Santa Cruz Highlands (Day 9 Afternoon)

The afternoon activity consisted of a bus ride to the highlands of Santa Cruz to observe giant tortoises in the wild. Both the Charles Darwin Research Center and this tour were offered in the morning and afternoon. We opted to do the research center in the morning.

The Zodiacs dropped us off at the landing pier in Port Ayora where we made a short walk to a waiting mini-bus. After a short drive through the highlands, we arrived at a farm. There was a light rain falling, so we were happy we had our nylon jackets and walking shoes.

We began walking along a path which was muddy from the rain that had fallen earlier. Since we had our walking sticks with us, we didn't have any problems navigating along the path. The first thing we saw was the entrance to a lava tunnel. We made our way down the path and went inside. After a few photos, we exited the tunnel and started on our quest to find giant tortoises who were roaming the farm freely.

It didn't take long before we saw our first tortoise grazing in the grass. He was just laying in the grass pretty much ignoring us. After a while, he lifted his head to look at us, but then went back to his original position, resting in the grass.

We headed further through the grass and before long we saw one giant tortoise and then another. There were about five of them in a relatively short distance. Some of them were moving slowly through the grass, others were just resting in the grass, and a couple of them were eating the vegetation.

There is a fenced in area on this farm, but the tortoises have plenty of room to move about freely. Below is a video taken near the fence of a giant tortoise having lunch. It consisted of a ripe grapefruit that had fallen from one of the trees.

This was a fitting conclusion to our excursions in the Galapagos Islands. The giant tortoises are probably the most widely known creatures of the Archipelago. It was amazing to be able to observe them in their nature habitat without any barrier between them and us. They were not bothered by us at all. We have several photos and videos to remember them by.

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