Giant Tortoises

28-JAN-11: Isla Santa Cruz

We arrived off Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos’ largest settlement, late last night. Plan for the day: giant tortoises.

In the morning, we hopped on a tourist bus (brand=”Buscars” which is a fun play on words if you speak both Spanish and English) and rode up to the highlands above Puerto Ayora to see giant tortoises in the wild. Before, though, we stopped off at Los Gemelos, a pair of big sink holes. The holes were… well, holes in the ground. What was funny was that we were all somewhat land-sick. I think it was the bus ride that did it, as none of us had any issues hiking on the islands. It wasn’t anything more than feeling a bit dizzy, and the dizziness, I think, was caused by many of us unconsciously swaying. I saw one woman, Sandy, rocking back and forth, and mentioned it to her. She was utterly shocked. She had no idea she was swaying.

I only noticed I was swaying when I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera, and the whole world started moving. The camera made me extra dizzy.

The tortoises, though… on the one hand, seeing a turtle that huge—big enough to ride on—just walking around in the wild was amazing. From a photographic perspective, though… First, the light was horrible. The first tortoise we saw stayed in the shade (probably to keep cool), and with the equatorial sun blasting down, you had bright light and dark shadow making super contrasty pictures. Second, the tortoises were nasty, dirty things. Faces covered in mucus, masticated vegetation and slimy muck. That didn’t make for a great picture either.

2011-02-06 tortoise-face

The rest of the tortoises we saw were in pools of water. Mucky, muddy, nasty, algae covered water.

2011-02-06 tortoise-water

I didn’t get a single shot I liked.

The afternoon… we went to the Darwin Research Center, run by the National Park. Lots of big tortoises with lots of bad lighting. No good shots there either. I snapped 130 frames, least of any day on the cruise. Maybe Katie will have some good ones.

After that, we had the afternoon to ourselves. We stopped by a little restaurant for a snack and a cool drink. Ended up having waffles with fruit, ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was delicious.

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