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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Galapagos Islands: Hiking in Highlands & Famous Giant Tortoises

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THE BUS TO THE HIGHLANDS

From the same port we boarded a bus to take as an hour inland up one of the volcanoes high into the clouds where we got to see another side of the Galapagos Islands. Up to this point we had boated and the hiked mostly coastal or about a mile inland of the islands. That landscape was so different from this tropical, cooler paradise. When I first imagined the Galapagos Islands, before I started my research, this is more like what I was expecting to see.

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GREEN JUNGLE THIS WAS MORE OF WHAT I WAS ORIGIONALLY EXPECTING

I loved this hike through the highlands. Not only was it much cooler, the trees protected us from the sun and the elevation cut out some of the heat, we also ended up encountering 48 wild Giant Tortoises.

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SEEN IN THEIR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

You could tell an age of a tortoise by the wrinkles on their skin, this female was about 25 years old according to our guide. Our best guess of life expectancy is approximately 100 to 150 years. A tortoise which was presented to the Queen of Tonga in 1770 died in 1966; that’s 196 years. WOW that’s a long long long life.

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SEEN IN THEIR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

I was super hopeful of seeing some of the bird species that are only found in the highlands. In particular I let the guide know that I would like to see the Galapagos Owl he said that in the lava caves there was a chance of seeing them.

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CLIMBING DOWN INTO THE OLD LAVA CAVE

Lava caves or lava tubes are natural conduits which lava used to travel through when a volcano eruption occurred. The lava flow is continuous for a long period of time, a hard crust develops on the top which thickens to form a roof above the still flowing lava. Once the lava flow has ceased it leaves a long cave like tunnel.

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NO LAVA ANYMORE JUST A COOL DAMP CAVE

The cave was very damp and a few times people lost their footing. I was pretty careful placing my feet, I didn’t want to go down in the mud and neither did I want to drop my camera.

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WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR FEET

Although we hiked through and kept our eyes peeled sadly the Galapagos Owl didn’t show himself. Although we did see scat and pellets of birds that had stayed there in the past. I was sad to miss seeing the owl.

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DIDN’T SEE THE GALAPAGOS OWL

I was also really hoping to find the Vermillion Flycatcher, the Dark-billed Cuckoo and the Woodpecker Finch which are all birds that are usually only found in the highlands, but all three were just as elusive as the Galapagos Owl. Even though these birds were missed we got to see so many fabulous things on this trip that in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter. I just now have a perfect excuse to come back again.

Taking the trial back to the bus was sad, I adored every moment of this trip but now we were going back to the boat for the sail back to the airport.

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THE LAST TORTOISE SEEN ON THE WAY BACK TO THE BUS

1 comment:

paul peggy zeus said...

So cool to have seen these Tortoises in the wild. I sure miss their exhibit in the San Diego Zoo. I can still remember riding them at that zoo when I was about 4 years old.

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