Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Galapagos Islands - Day 3

After another enjoyable breakfast overlooking our new arrival port of Floreana we caught the dingy to shore, then crammed into the back of a van and drove up the mountain to where about 20 large tortoises had been re-introduced to the island. It is an experiment aimed at not only increasing the tortoise numbers, but also to monitor how long it takes the tortoises to adapt to their new environment or vice versa.  The previous tortoise inhabitants met an unfortunate end hundreds of years ago when pirates collected them all for food, with most of them staying in the ships hulls for months on end.  They’re not even really sure what the tortoises looked like (e.g. the differences in their shell shape which varies from island to island) because the pirates threw the scraps overboard after dinner.

The 'new' tortoises on Floreana
Currently all the good vegetation is too high up for the new tortoises to reach, so rangers put food out a couple of times a week.  The hope is that over time the tortoises will be able to forage for themselves as they begin to adapt to the surrounding environment with each new generation.  Most of the tortoises we saw were between 60 – 100 years old and, as expected, didn’t really do too much (but this did mean it was easy to get a great up close photograph of the differences in their shells and unique faces).  

This part of the island was also one of the first places which the German’s inhabited when they arrived in the 1900’s.  There are a few faces carved into the stones, presumably out of boredom as there wasn’t a lot to do back then on the islands and food (i.e. the last of the original tortoises) was easy to come by.  

Watching the dolphins at play beside us
From the top of the mountain we descended and drove to a very picturesque cove where we got to swim with more sea turtles – this time we got really up close.  While we were watching one large turtle feeding a large wave passed over the top of us and the current flipped the turtle over onto its back.  He didn’t seem too fazed by it and casually flipped himself back over, eyed us off for a little while, and continued to feed.  We had a great time following turtle after turtle, breaking it up with a quick play with a baby sea lion (until the male came over barking at us), and went back to following around sea turtles.  They were very graceful as they swam around and we continued to follow them until we were too cold and had to get out to defrost.

We spent the afternoon sailing from Isla Floreana back to Santa Cruz, great fun on a catamaran as we could sit in the nets and watch the water rush by.  Just after we’d started sailing the captain sighted dolphins and we were soon surrounded by a pod of at least 50 dolphins that spent the next hour racing us and jumping in and out of the water as they played with each other.  It was one of the highlights of our travels - relaxing on the front of the boat watching the dolphins at play, a real magic moment! The incredible part was lying in the catamaran nets, and listening to them communicating amongst each other.

It was a beautiful sunset from the boat, we ate dinner while we sailed, and docked that evening in Puerto Ayera (where we all promptly jumped in the dingy to go into the port in the hunt out some more ice cream ).  We also had a farewell drink as it was the last night on the catamaran for six members of the group, including two really nice Italian guys who had been great company and who promised to email us their pictures of the blue footed booby since we still hadn’t managed to get a good photo of one ourselves after forgetting the camera on the first day.

We stayed in the harbour that night so everyone managed to have a fairly decent sleep, which was much needed after the days activities and the promised ones for the next day....

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