The first image that materializes in the traveler's mind when he hears the word Galapagos it is that, not surprisingly, of one giant turtle.
Not surprisingly, I said, because on Santa Cruz island the turtles are there for real.
The island of Santa Cruz Galapagos is the second largest island and also the one from which, from the small port of Puerto Ayora, boats leave for cruises between the islands. It is therefore not surprising that one of the first excursions is to discover this gentle giant, which here can be seen mainly in two places: the Charles Darwin Research Center and El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve.
Charles Darwin Research Center
Il Charles Darwin Research Center is a scientific research center operated by Charles Darwin Foundation.
It is since 1964, the year in which it was established, that this center (reachable on foot from Puerto Ayora) aims to promote the search storage andeducation for everything related to the Galapagos Islands.
Inside the center work scientists and volunteers from all over the world who are involved in the collection of turtle eggs in order to protect them from wild animals rats, pigs and dogs. The small turtles, once born, remain in the center until they have reached the age to be able to survive in the wild.
Here there are different species of turtles and some remain here for their entire life: you remember Lonesome George? He was exactly here.
In the center there are also other animals such as numerous examples of marine iguana.
El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve
Despite the fact that it is a reserve and despite the fact that the territory here is privately owned, it is possible to see here free turtles in their natural habitat: there are no fences that enclose them in cages and therefore they are free to come and go as they please.
The trail starts from "El Rancho Manzanillo", a small farm where you can stop for a coffee or a drink. The path develops among the guava trees and apple trees in a rigorous silence, suddenly interrupted by the cries of amazement at the sight of the first turtle in the middle of the tall grass.
The journey takes about an hour and goes up to The Chato Lagoon a pond in which turtles love to dive.
There are some theories that explain this habit: some think it is for their own thermoregulation (i.e. to raise or lower body temperature depending on the conditions), others argue that they do it to get rid of ticks or to protect themselves from mosquitoes.
La El Chato reserve it is also one of the few places in the Galapagos that is possible visit for free and without a guide.
The farm from which the path to see the giant tortoises starts, is about 3 km from Santa Rosa, a village on the road to the airport). So to get there from Puerto Ayora you can take the bus to the airport (about $ 2) and get off at the park entrance. From there you have to walk for about an hour (2,8 km) before arriving. If you don't feel like walking, you can take a taxi and be dropped off directly at the ranch. Entry costs $ 3.
Did you know that the sex of the turtle is strongly influenced by temperature to which the egg is subjected during the incubation period?
And unfortunately did you know that and pirates Did they catch giant tortoises and keep them in the holds of their ships so that they always had a supply of fresh meat?