Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & Chocolate

Photo Friday: Puerto Ayora, Ecuador

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For some people, a dream trip is heading to the GE Olympics later this month. For me, it was my inaugural visit to a place thought to be the origin of many species—most specifically, the Galapagos tortoise.

Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & ChocolateYou can’t help but laugh when you see these guys. Like the sloth, they’re just a bit silly-looking—albeit, a little scarier, particularly if you’re trying to steal their food!

Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & ChocolateAs soon as our Enrichment Voyages crew arrived in Puerto Ayora, the main town on the island of Santa Cruz, it was off to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we took a guided tour of the facilities.

Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & ChocolateThere we saw many of the giant tortoises in protected habitats—they went as far as to give us the full “experience” and engage in a bit of adult fun while we wandered through the center. (Awkward.)

Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & ChocolateI couldn’t believe how big these guys were—particularly their feet, which looked like an elephant’s—and how far their necks extended from out beneath their shells.

Galapagos Islands tortoise | Camels & ChocolateTortoises aside, there were a few iguanas who lived in habitats all by their lonesome.

Galapagos Islands iguana | Camels & ChocolateAfter an hour or so of wandering around, we made our way back to the center of town by foot, a pleasant and scenic 15-minute walk.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWe made friends with some of the locals along the way. It’s truly bizarre to be in a place where giant iguanas roam around town freely like it’s no big thing.

Galapagos Islands iguana | Camels & ChocolateDowntown Puerto Ayora was pretty bustling for being on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, while we were there, so was the Ecuadorian vice president; he was giving a speech in the town square, so there were crowds of thousands of people just beyond the quaint dock. Definitely not what I expected to see in the Galapagos Islands!

Puerto Aroya, Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateHeading on your own dream trip to London for the Olympics? Be sure and keep the Olympic Park map handy as you explore the sprawling city.

COMMENTS
  • July 13, 2012

    I’d rather see the island than the Olympics. Those things are amazing.

    • July 13, 2012

      I’m more of a nature girl myself.

  • July 13, 2012

    Although I absolutely love to watch the Olympics on TV, having lived in Athens in 2004, I can say with 100% certainty that they are one huge hassle live and in person. I’d definitely take the Galapagos Islands!

    • July 13, 2012

      I know what you mean–Atlanta is just two hours from where I grew up (I’m actually there now), and they held some of the events from the 1996 Olympics in Chattanooga, and we didn’t go. I’m not big on crowds, but I still would LOVE to see an event or two at some Olympics!

  • July 13, 2012
    ris

    Wow these guys look almost pre-historic. Craziness!

    • July 13, 2012

      Probably because they are! One of the species we saw had originated more than 1 million years ago. Can you even imagine?!

  • July 13, 2012

    I remember when I lived in Panama that iguanas just roamed around freely – in our yard, in the street. One of my sister’s earliest memories is running around in the front yard and stepping on one. The photos of the tortoise are really good!

    • July 13, 2012

      That’s one of my favorite things about South/Central America–you never know what you’ll find outside your door…

  • July 13, 2012

    Love these shots, love the Galapagos!

  • July 13, 2012

    Well both the Olympics and the Galapagos are on my list of things that I want to experience at some time but if I had to choose then I’d definitely go with the Galapagos first. Love your photos – the tortoise shots are amazing! Iguanas always freak me out a bit – but they aren’t aggressive, are they?

    • July 14, 2012

      They’re very passive. We actually stumbled upon, literally, thousands of them sunbathing on rocks the last morning there, and we scrambled through the throngs of them, and they barely moved! Crazy.

  • July 13, 2012

    I’d love to be able to see a tortoise like that up close. They do seem massive. But the iguanas freak me out a little. I’m always afraid to get close to them … afraid they’ll attack. Weird, I know. Glad you had a great time and thanks for leaving out any R-rated tortoise images 😉

    • July 13, 2012

      500 pounds! So yes, I think “massive” is an accurate description. And you don’t know how much I wanted to add the video of “tortoise porn”…but I try to keep this space SFW =)

  • July 14, 2012

    I would love to get that close to turtles! Great pix!

    • July 16, 2012

      We got even closer the next day… =)

  • July 15, 2012

    Despite all my time in South America I have never been to the Galapagos, now I have to go!

    • July 16, 2012

      It’s definitely not an easy place to reach–nor is it cheap–which I guess only enhances its allure, right?

  • July 15, 2012

    I bet these tortoise are more than 50 years old… or more. yeah they look pretty scary, nevertheless, fascinating creatures.

    • July 16, 2012

      Oh yes, they are! The one who I am going to feature today was actually 100+ years old…and he shared your name =)

  • July 16, 2012

    Oh my goodness! What a tour. I love that you caught the tortoises engage in some, ahem, adult activities.

  • July 16, 2012

    We loved hanging out in Puerto Ayora before heading out on our week long cruise. I can’t imagine thousands of people in that square, crazy…

    • July 16, 2012

      It was bizarre. It was our first night in town, and we didn’t expect Puerto Ayora to be an actual town, let alone have enough people to fill the entire square and spill over into the dock. Now, if only I had brushed up on my Spanish pre-trip, then I would have known what they were actually talking about!

  • July 16, 2012

    I must go to the Galapagos. I met so many people who were going when I was studying Spanish in Quito. The trip seemed so expensive at the time, but it is totally worth it.

    • July 16, 2012

      You’re right: It is expensive, which is why I had never been before and only got to go because my employer covered the cost. But I think it is definitely worth the money, and should you ever go, you need to do a boat tour of the islands instead of a land-based trip. You just see so much more from a boat than we were able to do based on Santa Cruz Island.

  • July 16, 2012

    Great photos! I love the Galapagos, it’s hands down the best diving I’ve ever done and I loved the tortoises so much that we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station 3 times, although I never did get a good photo of Lonesome George, but I’m glad I got to see him while he was still alive.

    • July 16, 2012

      I only got his butt (debuting on the blog later this afternoon)! He was an elusive little sucker. RIP George.

  • July 16, 2012

    I keep telling myself we will save enough to be able to go. When we finally made it down to Ecuador we realized we wouldn’t be able to make it work if we wanted to make it down to Buenos Aires.

    I’ll be back.

    • July 16, 2012

      If there’s anything I have learned over the past decade of traveling, it’s that you can’t do everything at once. And there will always be another opportunity down the line. There are so many places I had yet to explore that I have had to pass up awesome assignments to visit and it absolutely killed me, and then I’d find myself in that same place twice in one year for, say, Semester at Sea or some other project I was working on.

  • July 16, 2012

    The Galapagos seems like one of those places that you have to really commit to for a vacation. We figure one of these days we’ll plan a big trip down there and do it right…. but until then, we’ve got your photos. 😉

    • July 16, 2012

      Even heading there from mainland Ecuador–just 600 miles away, mind you–for three days was a huge challenge. I would only go back if I could do it for 10 days or more and by boat, but I’m definitely grateful I had the chance to see a brief glimpse of it (and for free, at that!). Enrichment Voyages offered a seven-day tour by boat that about 20 of the passengers went on; I think that would be the ideal way to tour the Galapagos Islands.

  • July 16, 2012

    Wonderful pictures of the turtles 🙂

  • July 17, 2012

    I once saw an iguana in the wilderness of some island in the Caribbean and I FREAKED OUT. He was really far away from where we were, sitting on some rocks next to a stream or something, but I could not stop looking at him because he seemed, at that moment, the coolest little dude in all the lands. They’re such funky looking creatures and it’s so cool so see them wild, just doing their silly iguana thing.

    • July 17, 2012

      Bonaire maybe? I went there two years ago, and there were massive iguanas the size of these Galapagos suckers lurking beneath every tree. I think Aruba has them, too.

  • July 22, 2012

    There is a chance I might be going there in September, though I’ve been told it’s probably the worst month of the year…

  • July 27, 2012

    I have goosebumps…what a dream trip…wow!!!!

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