Today, we hiked among giants!
We anchored north of Santa Cruz Island. Tracking changes in vegetation as we drove, we started in a coastal zone with mangroves and passed through a dry zone of palo santo. We finally reached the humid zone, where we stopped to see the unique cloud forest. This magical place hosts Scalesia, a tree endemic to the Galapagos Islands. We also spotted several species of finches.
We drove a few more minutes to reach the tortoise natural reserve. This place is astonishing! The vegetation, ponds and fresh grass make it the perfect habitat for Galapagos giant tortoises. These turtles are truly giants. Some males weigh nearly 600 lbs., or 272 kg. This is a lot, especially since 80% of their body mass is fat. The turtles can break down body fat slowly, allowing them to survive for over a year without food or water.
When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835, 15 different types of giant tortoises roamed the islands. Only 11 species exist today. These animals do not have natural predators as adults, but rats, ants, cats and dogs threaten young turtles. Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Station Center work hard to breed species of endangered tortoises and to eradicate non-endemic species from the island.
Giant tortoises were everywhere, and we were pleased to witness the healthy population on Santa Cruz Island. It was an inspiring morning as we hiked among the giant tortoises in their natural habitat. To close the day, we went to a secret beach to enjoy a beautiful sunset with our National Geographic Endeavour II family.