Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Galapagos, Day 7 & 8: Floreana and Santa Cruz

On the seventh day, we found ourselves on the green mineral beach of Floreana. The green crystals are known as Olivine, and you can see the distinct olive color here:

As we walked the length of the island, we found that Floreana is also home to white organic beaches as well.

Another unique  location on the island, this lagoon is home to many flamingoes. Unfortunately, they weren't here today, but we could see the pinkish tinge of the alge from which they get their distinctive color.

After a lovely, but quiet and animal-free hike, we had the most amazing snorkel of the trip at the Devil's Crown. Another volcanic formation shaped like a half moon crescent jutting out of the water, Devil's Crown acts as a protective enclosure for the most amazing coral, fish, and ocean life. It was spectacular, and I could have floated there all day.

We continued on to Post Office Bay, another location on Floreana. Post Office Bay was the past home of a fish cannery begun by a group of enterprising Scandinavians. Unfortunately, they could not figure out how to get enough fresh water, and so their business and colony went under. The remains of the cannery, however, were still standing.

Another relic of Floreana's past, and the origin of the Bay's name, was this "post office."

Floreana was actually home to many various groups of colonists, including the above-mentioned Scandinavians, Germans, and workers from mainland Ecuador. When they wanted to correspond with friends and family back home, colonists would put their letters in the barrel above. A postal boat would visit the barrel every so often, picking up outgoing mail and delivering incoming letters.

This mailbox of sorts is still active. You can leave postcards or letters in the barrel to be delivered by other tourists or picked up by a friend you know will be visiting the Galapagos soon. I left a letter for my parents, which was delivered to them just this past March. I also picked up a postcard for a family in Scottsdale, which I will deliver in May. I love that this tradition exists, and that it is still active after all these years.

The eighth day was the day we packed up left our boat for good. Before we got the bus to the ferry to the other bus to the airport, we visited the Charles Darwin Tortoise Sanctuary.

You can see above the distinct saddle-like shell of some of the tortoises. This is actually where the Galapagos gets its name. Galapagos is Spanish for "saddle."

The sanctuary is dedicated to preserving each of the tortoise species that have not already become extinct. To this end, they keep males and females in captivity for breeding purposes, a necessary evil, I guess. The tortoises looked so sad.

The two most famous tortoises at the sanctuary are Lonely George and Super Diego. Lonely George is so named because he is the last known tortoise of his kind. With no known females to mate with, Lonely George might be the end of his genetic line. Scientists and geneticists are looking for close matches that might produce a hybrid tortoise, but George has not yet mated with the females he lives with, and the future of his species is still unsure.

While we were visiting George's enclosure, he was hiding, and so I was unable to see him. But I did get a look at Super Diego.

Super Diego is Lonely George's opposite. He was found living in the San Diego Zoo, and returned to the Galapagos for mating purposes. And what a mate! At an advanced age, Super Diego fathers around two hundred babies each year. He's insatiable.

He has a long neck, which indicates that he is from an arid region. Tortoises from such dry zones must have long necks to reach their food, whereas tortoises from verdant zones look more like regular tortoises, no saddle back or long neck.

Here are some tortoise babies. Aren't they cute?

And that was the end of our trip to the Galapagos. Thanks for reading!

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