I got up before 5.30 this morning to get to Quito airport for our flight to Baltra on the Galapagos. In the van I met the other people who are going to be working at the giant tortoise research station with me, there´s a couple called William and Judith who are quite quiet but nice, an older guy called Peter and Angus and Liz. Angus is at the beginning of a year trip and Liz at the end and between we all have a smattering of Spanish so we should get by!
At Baltra we had to get to the main island of Santa Cruz, which involved a bus, then a boat where they just chuck the luggage on the roof and a drive. Chris met us though and took us around the Paniciera farm where they grow coffe and fruit and work cattle, but more importatnly where the giant tortoises come out of the wild and wallow in the water! So I got my frist encounter with them - they are huge! and realy slow at moving, but just so tame too so we could get really close and they just sort of lifted their heads to check us out and then went back to wallowing...we also went into a lava tunnel, which are formed when volcanoes erupt and an upper layer sets before the main current of molten rock. it was pretty muddy and dark but cool too.
We´re staying in quite a nice place in Puerto Ayora, which is quite small and basiacally just one main street of tourist shops, internet cafes and tour operators. More exciting is al the wild life! Walking along the pier I nearly trampled some land iguanas and we also saw pelicans feeding at the fish market. When we arrived the birds just swooped down past us to catch the fish and caught me totally off guard!
After lunch we went to the Charles Darwin Research station, which had a fair bit of info about all the conservation efforts going on and sadly stuff about the species that have been wiped out from foreign animals and plants like feral pigs, dogs and goats. We could walk inside the corral with some of the males and get up close which was so cool! I probably toook a few too many photos,and you may not believe this but they really are all individuals! like one was more active, one always was eating and they think one way even gay...the guide also told us some funny stories about when the femailes had mixed with them and were chased around the corral -the most active those tortoises ever get! We got to see Lonesome George, the really old tortoise who was here when Darwin arrived but he´s quite shy. There were also some really cute little babies in the hatcheries and some went swimming/ wading - I´m really looking forward to getting the the project on Isabela so I can get even closer to them!