Galapagos – 19, More Tortoises!

Not ready to leave the Anahi, I do believe we should have taken the 15 day trip! Up early and we bring our airport bags down to the main deck.  The crew takes the bags and leaves us with just our backpacks for the days adventure.  We take our last trip in the panga to the boat dock at Puerta Ayora, Santa Cruz island. Part of our group had stayed on this island before the cruise and some were staying here tonight.

We took a walk up the main street to meet a bus to the Charles Darwin Station which is a research and animal protection facility.

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The long paved road up to the facility

The facility has many areas of study but we were focusing on the Giant Tortoise Restoration Program area. Lonesome George was the mascot of this facility.  Lonesome George died in 2012 but his fame has helped to keep and expand the tortoise breeding programs. There are over a dozen types of tortoises in the Galapagos and the most defining feature is the rise in the carapace which determines how far they can raise their head to reach for food.  You will notice differences in the pictures below.

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Notice how high they can lift their head to reach food

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Juveniles

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Close up

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Tortoise in motion

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Showing their flexible legs

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They move faster than you’d expect

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The facility also protects endangered Land Iguanas

After about an hour at the Charles Darwin Research Center we took a long bus ride to the highland area of Santa Cruz.  We went to Rancho Manzanillo. This part of the island was much more wooded. Not trees like you would see in the mountains of the Hawaiian Islands, but small diameter and shorter trees. Here was a large tortoise reserve and it had quite a nice facility to greet guests and serve lunch.  They allowed us to walk quite a bit of the reserve.

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Rancho Manzanillo, Santa Cruz Island welcome area and restaurant

This place is set up for large groups but don’t let that stop you from going and wandering the large grounds where the tortoises can live freely in an environment that offers them everything they need.

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This gives you an idea of the trees and area where the tortoises live

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Tortoise coming towards us on the path

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Large fresh water area for the tortoises to cool off

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Tortoise at the side of the pond

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Tortoise in the covered area

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Large tortoise

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Anther large tortoise

We enjoyed walking this area and seeing the tortoises in a more natural habitat than at the Charles Darwin Station.

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Not my most flattering picture, but it does give you the size of the tortoises

Next, it was back onto the bus and finding out how we would get to Baltra Island and the airport.  We found this very interesting, particularly if we were to come back and stay on one of the islands.  I posted the instructions that were on the wall at the airport at the start of the blog.  But since we were being escorted, I really didn’t pay close attention.  However, after understanding that you must have a boat pick you up to get to any land accommodations from the airport, I was now much more interested.

The bus took us down a narrow two lane road, with many taxis and buses parked hugging the side of the road.  Obviously, they were waiting for a ferry to arrive and pick up passengers.  This was the ferry we would take.  We departed the bus and walked to the ferry landing.  There, we noticed our luggage being put on top of a small passenger boat, which we found out was the ferry.

All went well.  It seems that we were picked up almost at the same location that the pangas picked us up to get on the Anahi.  At the other side was a bus that took everyone to the airport.  We had a couple of hours before our flight to Quito, Ecuador. The Galapagos Airport had a large shopping mall of stalls and a few take out restaurants to pass the time.

We had booked ourselves from the Galapagos to Quito to Atlanta to San Francisco with about 3 hours between flights which was not smart.  If we had to do again we would have done something different.  Staying in Quito was not appealing since the only flight out was very early in the morning, 5:30 AM. If we could have found a later flight that would have been best. Alternatively, we arrived in Atlanta at 8:30 am in the morning and maybe should have just spent the day and night at an airport hotel and fly home the next day.  But we made it.  We have done worse! Somehow, leaving SFO at 7 am to Atlanta, GA then to Lima, Peru did not seem near as bad as the flights home.  But we did pick up a bug the last day of the cruise and I’m sure that didn’t help our flights!

Overall, an amazing trip.  Peru and the Galapagos Islands exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend doing this trip whenever you can! One more post to follow, it will showcase the beautiful pictures from Andres Moreano.

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Galapagos – 15, Tortoises on San Cristobal Island

Day 13, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 San Cristobal Island land tours

Another early breakfast then back on the panga (rubber boats like Zodiacs used to get to/from the ship) to town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.  We went by bus for approximately 45 min to Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado or Cerro Colorado Galapagos which is a Giant Tortoise Breeding Station and protected area for tortoises.  This area is also part of the National Park. This is a large area and facility.

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A tortoise using the walkway into the center

Saw baby Tortoise about 1 month up to 200 years old.  Also saw 10 year olds.  The 10 to 20 year old ones are only about 15 inches across,  they stay separate from the mature ones. The older ones cannot be returned to the wild but the hatch-lings are kept until 5 years old and then released on the island.  They try to simulate actual conditions with the hatch-lings so they can be released. Only 14 eggs are laid,  versus 100’s for sea turtles.  Mature ones can go a year without food or water. Eggs are not sex determined when laid.  A higher temp incubation produces female eggs, colder males. According to our guide, the program manipulates the temperature based on what they want to put into the wild.

Tortoises come together to feed or mate, generally they are solitary

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We even saw mating tortoises as we walked the reserve.  You hear them first!

Stayed in town after the bus trip. Bought drinks and used WiFi at the restaurant as we didn’t have any WiFi on the boat. We went back to the boat for lunch. Baby sea lion came all the way up to 1st deck and was checking out the shoes, then decided to take a nap.

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Seal came up to the deck

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Seal decided to nap; so Bob imitated the seal

We sadly said goodbye to the 7 group members that had signed up for just 5 days.  Most left before lunch and a few left after lunch.  Today 8 more passengers arrived for the last 3 days of the cruise.

Went to a natural history museum for Galapagos after lunch. The architect for the building was our guide Andreas’ father.  Covered the history both cultural and physical for the Galapagos Islands. Centro de Interpretacaion Ambiental Gianni Arismeni.


Then went to public beach in town. Went in the water to cool off, surprisingly cold water. Stayed about 1.5 hours there then walked back to town, about 10 minutes.  Got picked up by the panga at the dock and went back to the boat to meet our new group members.

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One of the many tour stores in town

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Beautiful sunset while we waited for the panga

Another good day given it was a transition day for the ships crew.  Next up Espanola Island with many animals to see.

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