Ecuador

Travel Journal (9/10/2018): Sea Turtles and Tortoises

Days like today are exactly what we had in mind when we booked our trip to the Galápagos Islands. Swimming with some of the islands’ most iconic animals was an absolute joy and an experience that none of us will soon forget. Same can be said of visiting the Giant Tortoises the Galápagos Islands are known for. Seeing these gentle giants is an experience that will stick with us forever.

The day started off with breakfast at around 7:00am, then it was time to pack and get ready for another snorkeling adventure later that day. We would be visiting the Tintores Islet, which is named after the white tip sharks (known as “Tintoreras”) that come to rest in the clear and calm waters of the islet.

One our way to the islet, we saw a bunch of amazing wildlife. We got to see some pelicans, blue footed boobies, plenty of adolescent sea lions playing in the water, crabs scurrying around the lava rock shoreline, and we got to see our first Galapagos Penguins. We were so excited to see the penguins because they are critically endangered and very difficult to spot. Not only did we see one resting on the shoreline, but we also got to see one swimming in the water. It is absolutely amazing to see how fast and agile they are in the water.

When we arrived at the islet, our guide took us on shore so that we could see all of the baby Marine Iguanas that call it home. They tend to stick around the volcanic rocks like the ones found on the islet until they are around 3 years of age. Until then, they are very susceptible to predators such as the Galapagos Hawk, snakes, and other predators.

Once they reach 3 years of age, they are generally safe from any predators. The only exception being the females during the time they are laying eggs, as digging the hole to lay the eggs can be quite exhausting. Because they exhaust themselves, they are susceptible to predators during this time.

Not only did we get to see plenty of baby Marine Iguanas on the islet, but we also saw plenty of juvenile sea lions swimming and playing, and even a mother sea lion feeding her baby. It was an absolutely amazing experience to see all of this first-hand.

After exploring the islet for around an hour, we headed back to the boat to grab our snorkeling gear (including our wet suits) and then got into the water around the islet to do some snorkeling. This time, the snorkeling didn’t disappoint!

Almost immediately, we began to see the sea life in the water that we came to see. We got to see between 10-12 giant sea turtles swimming, feeding, and resting on the bottom. We also had sea lions approach us and swim amongst us, looking to play with us. Later on in the adventure, we got to see a huge puffer fish (known to be one of this world’s most venomous animals) as well as a giant ray that was feeding at the bottom. It was absolutely incredible to be amongst these animals and watching them in their natural habitat.

After spending a few hours snorkeling around the islet, we headed back to our hotel to grab some lunch and recharge our batteries. There aren’t nearly as many restaurants and shops on Isabella Island as there are on Santa Cruz Island, but there are some great options to choose from that I will be including in my Galápagos Islands visitor guide in the coming months.

When lunch was complete, our tour guide from yesterday, Pablo, picked us up for a trip to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center so that we could see the Giant Tortoises and learn how the conservation effort is assisting these amazing creatures. You think you have a general understanding of how big the Giant Tortoises are until you see them in person, then you realize you had no idea just how big they are. We just so happened to visit on one of the feeding days, so we got to see them feeding as well. That was a pretty amazing experience.

That is it for today. Tomorrow we have a later start at around 11am and will be doing some more snorkeling and touring the lava tunnels around the island. Should be a lot of fun!

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