Monday, April 27, 2009

Galapagos, Day 1: Santa Cruz

Our flight to the Galapagos Islands, brought to you by Chivas Regal.

When we landed we were greeted by turquoise water

and abundant wildlife. This is a blue footed booby, the first of many.

Once we landed, we took a bus to the ferry, the ferry to another bus, then a long ride to Puerto Ayora, where we met our boat at the dock. While we were waiting for our boat, we saw another first, the marine iguana.

They really do get that close to you, and you must watch your step everywhere to avoid trampling them. One of the reasons the Galapagos have stayed so pristine is that they enforce strict regulations against handling or disturbing the animals in any way.

Once our luggage was safely aboard the boat, we boarded yet another bus for a ride to the Tortoise Farm. The tortoise below is a baby, less than 100 years old.

You can tell the approximate age of a tortoise by the texture of its shell plates. If the plates have rings, less than a century. If the plates are smooth, more than.

The farmers don't raise the tortoises here, but they do encourage them to inhabit the area by building wallows such as this one.

This serves two purposes. It brings the tourists, and it provides the tortoises with some necessary cool-down time. And take it from someone who knows: it gets hot!

It was mating season for many of the land animals, as you can see below.

The male is much bigger than the female, and the mating process can last up to two hours. They bellow out some mighty strange moans during this process as well.

Along with tortoises, we saw some beautiful plant life, including this Galapagos Passion Flower.

The flower is striking, but the name is deceptive, having no connection with the animal passion going on in its vicinity. Rather, this flower was named by a priest visiting the archipelago, who saw in its petals and stamen an allegory for the Passion of the Christ.

A short bus ride brought us to the first of two lava tube caves we would enter.

These caves were formed when rock and dirt covered streams of hot lava, which eventually cooled and eroded, leaving long corridors down into the earth. We entered this side, walked a ways, then had to get down on our bellies to squeeze through the other side. Unfortunately, I was unable to take a picture of the proceedings, as I was on my hands and knees in the mud, but returning to daylight was exhilirating.

Then it was back to the bus, and on the boat for the night. I'll leave you with another lovely example of the flora of Santa Cruz.

Be sure to return tomorrow for pictures of Santiago and Chinese Hat.

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