Galapagos Islands Stories and Tips

Day 7 - Lonesome George

Lonesome George - Charles Darwin Research Station - Santa Cruz  Photo, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It was nice to finally have a day where I was one dictating the pace and not having to follow any schedules. With the bright morning sun and refreshing breeze blowing through the hotels painless windows, there was no chance of sleeping in. My girlfriend on the other hand could have slept until the sun went down. Seeing an opportunity to earn a few brownie points I sneaked out to surprise her with breakfast in bed. Luckily the only supermarket in town was open.

Arriving at the supermarket and picking up an extortionately priced bag of eggs I somehow managed to slip on the smooth floor and crash head first against one of the freezers, crushing the eggs against my body. Losing my balance again I fell to the floor as if taking a body blow from the great Mike Tyson himself, my hand squashing the eggs even further. There was nothing left but a big gooey mess, most of which was covered my hands and chest. As I looked around I realised not one single person had seen my embarrassment. I was now faced with a predicament, having only enough money to buy one bag of eggs. I could have been honest and paid for the annihilated eggs, or I could quickly lose them in the crisp section and innocently get another bag. I chose the latter, cleaning myself off in the queue, the yellowish yoke sticking my fingers together as I handed over my money to the cashier and escaping into the morning sun. My girlfriend was oblivious to the earlier events a we shared the monstrous five egg omelet between us.

After breakfast, we casually strolled the fifteen minutes along Calle Charles Darwin, passing the busy Pelican Bay, to the Charles Darwin Research Station, most famous for it's rehabilitation of the Galapagos tortoise species and also home to the last known surviving member of the Pinta island tortoise sub species, affectionately known as Lonesome George. So keen are they to find a mate for Big George, there is a reward of $25,000 on the table, for anyone who can miraculously conjure up a female. At seventy years of age, George still has another eighty years left in him. With so much time still to play with, scientists are still optimistic of a future love affair. Cloning is also spoken about, something I thought was only plausible in Jurassic Park.

The Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is full of information on the Galapagos, not to mention detailed lists of how they've helped the future diversity of the islands so far. Playing God has seen CDRS help with the re-population of Galapagos tortoises and land iguanas, not to mention the eradication of introduced domesticated species such as goat, pig, rat, and also the fire ant. The work carried out so far is remarkably impressive but it's not hard to see from a neutral position, that at best they are facing an uphill struggle to continue in their successes and at worst, the battle has already been lost to save the fragile Galapagos ecosystem. Some researchers believe the only way to save the Galapagos is to remove humans altogether. For me, this is the only option to the islands viability and continued healthy life.

Walking past the numerous enclosures housing the baby tortoises who will be released back into the wild in several years and Lonesome George, a sad reminder of what humans can do, you reach two walk-in enclosures containing fully grown tortoises that are too old to be released into the wild. Here you get the chance of standing next to the lumbersome creatures and excellent photographic opportunities, that some tourists took advantage of to the extreme.

I agree that all people have the right to travel, but before coming to a place like the Galapagos the authorities should really take into consideration if monetary income is more important than rich ignorant tourists, who think prize photos are more important than the future ecosystem. At times I felt so sorry for the tortoises as tourists lined pushing the cameras so close into their faces they could see nothing else. The flash, after flash, after flash that followed I'm sure must have led to temporary blindness. Even when moving their heads to try and escape the limelight, the cameras followed every tiny movement. Although such things annoy me, I was mightily impressed by CDRS and their efforts to protect the biodiversity. I doubt any trip to the Galapagos would be complete without a trip here.

A trip to CDRS doesn't last much longer than half a day, even if wanting to read every minute piece of detail and even a visit to the nearby secluded beach overlooking Academy Bay and the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz only adds an hour to the visit at most. With an afternoon to spare it was decided a quick trip to Los Gemelos was in order, two giant sink holes caused million of years ago by undergound lava flows. We should have visited Los Gemelos on the Highlands Tour but thanks to trigger happy fellow tourists, our allotted time came to an end. To see Los Gemelos cost a whooping $20 to hire out a camioneta, plus a few minutes waiting time for the return journey from Puerto Ayora. In retrospect it was money well spent, not really amazing, but interesting all the same. Each one is said to have identical dimensions, but from my quick observation this seems a small white lie.

Making our way back to the camioneta a small mouse skipped across the path. In such wild places I normally wouldn't batter an eye lid, but as this is the world famous Galapagos Islands, a place where mice aren't suppose to exist, I've a feeling this is bad news. It's okay shooting goats with snipers across a volcanic lunar landscape, but to hunt mice through the dense highland tropical vegetation is a completely different matter.

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