Wild Life!

Fri 18 Jul 2003 19:47
     The pace may be slow but our first week in the Galapagos Islands has gone all to fast.  San Cristobal has revealed  many natural wonders that could keep us occupied for all of our allowed 20 day stay. The wildlife is not only diverse and abundant but so unafraid of human presence that close encounters are common.  Walking in many areas is a matter of avoiding stepping on the animals as oppose to hunting for a distant glimpse of them! 
    The locals and their small settlement felt like home after a couple of days and by the end of the week we had made many new friends (even if we couldn't completely understand each other!)
    Our taxi driver kept stopping to pick up more 'lunch' from the side of the road. Soon the back seat of the Hilux looked like a fruit stand.
                                                                                                                Marine Iguanas look like man eating dragons but live on a diet of seaweed that they dive for. The larger ones can stay submerged for up to an hour and when they finish feeding they spread themselves over the black volcanic rock to warm themselves.
Seals sleep every where including just off the main street and in any unoccupied boats. This leads to many of the local pangas sinking as these heavy weights try to get in and out. We didn't fancy the idea of a seal smelling dingy so we hauled ours up on deck at night. Although a couple of young pups thought that Avalon's decks looked  pretty comfortable and had to be encouraged otherwise!
The Giant Tortoise is the most famous inhabitant of the Galapagos.  We spent a day travelling the bumpy and muddy roads up away from the ocean through three different vegetation zones to their natural habitat on the other side of the island.  Once there we discovered that these slow but wise looking creatures like to eat the fruit off the Manchineel tree. These apples, which are completely toxic to humans, don't affect the tortoises and they plod through the brush looking for the fallen fruit.