Monday, November 14, 2005

Day 4 and 5 - Tortoises everywhere....AND we swam with sea lions!

Day 4 meant we were back in port on Puerta Ayora... the capital of Santa Cruz Island. Today was the day to see giant tortoises. We chose to go to the official Tortoise Reserve in the morning so we could see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Some of them are over 170 years old , and they look incredible; they barely move when you get close (except for their heads and necks popping back inside their shell i.e. "go away, i`m shy!"..imagine ET in slow motion. Notice they are very toilet trained too, as you can see one of them heading off to the loo!

In the afternoon, we visited the Charles Darwin Centre in town, where for years now, biologists have been working to expand the number of tortoises in the centre, by rearing them and then putting them back into the wild once they reach a few years old. In the past, these animals were killed for their meat, shells etc. so for a while there was a great fear that they would become extinct. However, nowadays, this program is doing really well and the tortoise communities on the different islands continue to grow in leaps and bounds...

There is a funny story about Lonesome George, the famous bachelor tortoise who is the last in a particular type of tortoise from one of the outer islands. Scientists were puzzled as to why he hadnt "pro-created", even after about 80 years, and as time went on, and he became the only one left of his type, they brought him into the Darwin Centre; even provided him with a couple of girly tortoise friends, but all to no avail! There has been much discussion about whether to provide George with some viagra (seriously) or potentially clone him to help study and protect his DNA for the future. Poor George -looked like he just wanted a quiet life and to be left alone.. oh well!

We got some new recruits today as some folks only did the 4 day cruise so left the happy band; our new shipmates included the fabulous Ellis and Keimpe from The Hague (best salsa dancers in Holland - did you know salsa was very big there?), Vincent from France who lives in Barcelona, Kiara from Canada who lives in France (they both work for Backroads travel company, and were organizing a new trip for their clients, hence checking out the Galapagos!) and 2 ladies from France who didnt speak any Spanish and "muy muy poco" English. Our briefing was hilarious with everyone translating info into 3-4 different languages....later on it was back to Limon Y Cafe for some drinkies and a bitta┬┤salsa. Quite fun getting into a dinghy when you are a wee bitty tipsy but we all managed to make it back on board in one piece, if a bit damp!

Day 5`s itinerary included us visiting 2 small islands - Plazas and Sante Fe. On Plazas, again the landscape was incredible, very different and "other-planety". We`ve seen everything from pure white beaches, to black volcanic sand with lots of colored minerals through it, golden blond beaches, barren red earth, lush green mangroves and salt bushes, holy trees and cacti .. so so beautiful!

Lots of land iguanas that come in brilliant hues of yellows to try and blend in with the sand and surroundings.. - dont get too close, they like to spit when annoyed!

Two HUGE colonies of sea lions here (did i mention the difference between sea lions and seals is that seals have exterior ears and sea lions dont-- hhmnnn or is it the other way around!! Anyway there are tons of them behind Dominique and I.. and I mean tons!

Talking about sea lions - we went snorkeling after lunch (check out the swim team!)! and we really did swim with them! Apparantly, the "teenage sea lions" like to have fun and swim with us humans, and they did, and so close.. it was incredible, you could literally touch them as they swam round and about us; it looked like they were almost copying our movements.... definitely one of the best experiences of the trip, and something to behold. Nature really is amazing
More new "stuff" after snorkeling - we went to Sante Fe and saw tons of white tipped sharks right in the shallow water as we got out of the dinghy! They weren`t too big and apparantly were as frightened of us as we were of them.. I couldn┬┤t help it - just kept hearing the "Jaws" soundtrack in my head .....Tons of massive sting rays here too....

Ahh the pleasures of Galapagos.. love this place!


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