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Arriving in Galapagos!

Updated: 18 hours ago

The cobalt blue of the skies in Quito was reflected in the sea as we approached Galapagos.  You can just see the eastern most part of San Cristobal island under the clouds

In Galapagos, the tortoises, birds, iguanas and sealions are all protected and free to roam.  There are no boundaries or barriers and so we had to step over lazy iguanas on the pathway from the plane to passport control.  Sealions flop up onto the jetty to bask in the sun – and the fencing to manage the cattle and farmed land has no lower bar or barbed wire, so that the tortoises can travel across the boundary!

On Santa Cruz island, I’m staying in a treehouse, which is enchanting.  Mine is shrouded with Jasmine and has some confused tree frogs trying to get in through the window!  It’s in a tortoise conservation ranch with a forest of Teak (I’d no idea how HUGE the leaves are) and the tree houses sit on the stumps of Teak trees which needed to be felled.

There’s something so restful about the complete absence of everyday sounds – no people, no cars, no air conditioners – just cicadas and tree frogs and the wind in the teak forest that sounds like rain.  The rhythm of life slows to tortoise pace.

I hadn’t realised there are mainly two types of tortoise in the Galapagos.  The dome-backed kind who wander about around my treehouse and the saddlebacks, who I saw in the Charles Darwin Research station.  It was the saddleback which gave the islands their name.  The invading Spaniards thought their shell looked like the shape of a saddle, which is called Galapagos in Spanish!  They are such antediluvian characters.  They can live to be 150 and the first one above is over a hundred.  If they need to, they can go a whole year without food or water. 

The little ones at the Research Station need to be between 5 – 7 years before their shells are hard enough to protect them from predators and they can be released back into the wild.

Their bone structure has evolved to cope with mobilising their massive weight (they mature at over 20 stone) and when they stop moving, and settle to resting, there’s a kind of decompression hiss, as air escapes their lungs. Life for a tortoise, or smiling tourist, is the ultimate press-up!

The night-time chorus of cicadas and tree frogs becomes much more varied in the day with hummingbirds, smooth billed annies, flycatchers (like the one below) and Galapagos doves with the famous blue eyering

There’s balsa (the tall straight tree in the crater ), the strange button mangrove with the little fruits, candelabra cactus and prickly  pear (with the occasional heartshaped plate 😊).  The poison apple tree is dangerous for people but yummy for tortoises!  Hedges are of hibiscus and banana trees everywhere and I found a strange tree with curved thorns: called the cats claw tree, it has a role to play in medicating rheumatoid arthritis!  And there’s the pendulous angels’ trumpet which is properly hallucinogenic!  Primrose yellow sulphur butterflies are everywhere.  Either my hands were shaking on a long zoom – or the butterfly wings were flapping too hard for a crisp photo – but they are everywhere and beautiful, so I’ve included an imperfect picture.

The last thing I caught on camera today was the Oosterschelde. She is the beautiful three masted top-sail schooner I will joining to sail from San Cristobal to Easter Island and she is already here - rolling around at anchor in Puerto Ayora.  Thankfully, she is much more stable when she is moving and slicing through the seas with elegant dash 😊 😊😊

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