We took a bus from the town of Puerto Ayora to the highlands
of Santa Cruz. There we went to a private ranch that has an agreement with the
Galapagos National Park to protect the tortoises found there, rather than farm
the land. The tortoises there are wild, and it was mating season. One of our
groups of ten saw the tortoises mating but I didn't get to. Apparently they
mate for several hours and their shells bang on one another and the male lets out
loud groans. Pretty cool! My favorite photo was the tortoise we spotted while
we were just driving in the bus toward the ranch. The tortoise was just plodding
along down the road.
There are different subspecies on nearly every island, but some island populations
have gone extinct. There are two different shell types for tortoises based on
what they eat, which depends on the elevation they occur at. For tortoises that eat
vegetation low to the ground they have rounded shells like these in the photos.
There is also a saddle-back shaped shell that has a huge indentation that allows
the tortoises to reach their necks up to eat from trees.
We also went on a short walk around the highlands forest including walking
through a lava tube, where we had to scoot on our belly and all 4s at one point.
I am not a big fan of small spaces, especially because Karina was telling us how
the tube is continually collapsing over time...
and we saw evidence via fallen rock and boulders all around as we walked and crawled through...
but I did it to challenge my fears.