From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galapagos
Jan 8, 2013 - National Geographic Endeavour
Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora & Highlands of Santa Cruz Island
As we approached the shore and right before we disembarked at the dock, our expectations were high; this was the day we would meet the giants of the Galapagos Islands – the famous Galapagos giant tortoises. Just before arriving to the dock we found a great blue heron, standing on a rock, a few feet away from us, however it was impossible to stop to take pictures, this was the main traffic canal, and we could not create a “traffic jam” for all the other Zodiacs disembarking more explorers like us, so we just recorded that memory in our minds and got ready to disembark.
It was a cloudy day, which helped us a lot as it didn’t get too hot during the walk. The abundance of green plants was impressive for everyone, as the days before we only saw an arid terrain with few plants and mostly with a gray color.
When we began the visit to the Tortoise Breeding Center our expectations began to grow again. In the beginning we saw the little tortoises that hatched just a few months ago, and in one corral there were some from 2013, only a few days old and already crawling around and getting ready to probably live over 100 years.
After this experience we saw the giants, over 200 kilograms, some maybe 250 kilograms and moving around, but at a slower speed than the little hatchings we saw a few minutes ago. In the corral with the animals from Española, Diego was taking some time off, resting on a small water pond that was built in this facility. Diego is famous tortoise that was given back by the San Diego Zoo to start the breeding program; this program literally brought back these animals from almost extinction. Diego is probably the father of hundreds of tortoises born in this facility and repatriated back to the island their ancestors came from.
During the afternoon we had the chance to see the giants of the Galapagos again, but this time in the wild, as our explorers walked among them in the misty highlands of Santa Cruz Island. It was a little muddy, but the experience was worth every second of effort.