Thursday, 30 April 2015

Galápagos Day 14 (morning) - Tortoise Reserve, San Cristóbal

This morning we arrived at the pretty town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galápagos province, located on Isla San Cristóbal.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

It turned out that last evening was not to be our last sea lion encounter. As we were docking we noticed several sea lions lounging around the dock.

Galápagos Sea Lion, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen
Apparently they have all but taken over the port - boats anchored in the harbour have barbed wire and netting over them to try and prevent sea lion incursion and a swimming pool and slide built near the harbourside has been closed because it was taken over by sea lions.

Having negotiated the sea lion greeting parties, we took a short bus ride inland to visit the San Cristóbal Tortoise breeding centre and reserve.  Within metres of walking through the front gate we were met by a tortoise right beside the trail

San Cristóbal Tortoise, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 20mm, ISO 800, f/8, 1/125

and then another blocking our way.

San Cristóbal Tortoise, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/250

We waited for it to move on then continued up the path to the breeding centre where there is a range of enclosures housing juvenile tortoises of various ages. The first year tortoises are vulnerable to predation from birds so are in covered cages.

San Cristóbal Tortoise (juvenile: <1 year old),
Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/100

The older ones are in open, fenced enclosures, separated according to age.

Juvenile (2-3 years old) tortoise enclosure, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

While looking like miniature versions of adults, the resemblance stops there. Unlike their ponderous, lumbering parents these youngsters are highly active, (relatively) nimble and social...in short, seriously cute!

San Cristóbal Tortoise, (juvenile: 1-2 years old) Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/320
San Cristóbal Tortoise (juvenile: 1-2 years old), Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/400
San Cristóbal Tortoise (juvenile: 2-3 years old) Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/500
San Cristóbal Tortoise (juvenile: 3-5 years old), Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 180mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/500

A San Cristóbal Mockingbird was hanging around the breeding centre, calling loudly. Eventually it came down and stood on the rock wall just beside me. There are four species of mockingbirds on the Galápagos. Española, Floreana and San Cristobal have unique species, while all the other islands share the Galápagos Mockingbird. It was the mockingbirds, not the finches (as is popularly believed), that inspired Charles Darwin's thoughts on speciation and geographic isolation during his time on the Galápagos. We saw plenty of the Galápagos Mockingbird on other islands but missed them on Floreana and Española so I was very pleased to see at least the San Cristóbal species here.

San Cristóbal Mockingbird, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/200

We continued along the loop trail through the reserve and came across more mockingbirds

San Cristóbal Mockingbird, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/160
San Cristóbal Mockingbird,
Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/160
Photographing Mockingbirds, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

and an occupied mud hole.

San Cristóbal Tortoise, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/100

A Yellow Warbler flitted about in the trees near the mud hole.

Yellow Warbler, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/80
Yellow Warbler, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/200

As we were gathering to depart, three large adult tortoises were feeding next to the path (obviously the centre puts food here regularly...) so there was one last photo frenzy,

Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 13mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600
Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

which I was quick to join

San Cristóbal Tortoise, Tortoise Reserve and Breeding Centre, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 20mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/320

and, for the first time on this trip, I switched to video to capture not just the action but the sound of this giant crunching through its food.



We were then back in the bus to return to town for a short shopping spree.

Shopping, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

then on to Kicker Rock for snorkelling and Cerro Brujo for a last walk on a sandy beach.

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