I know that this post immediately follows the one on boobies. But nothing brings out the inner child better than the sight of giant tortoises having sex.
These incongruously large creatures banging away like reptilian porn stars is something I never hoped I would witness. But there, in full view of an appreciative audience, this middle-aged 80-90-year-old stud kept at it for way beyond the average 10 minutes of the rest of his clan.
And this wasn’t his first attempt. One of our fellow audience members said that another tortoise had taken umbrage at his performance and head-butted our champion shagger until he climbed off. But undeterred, he was back. And half an hour later he was still at it while his mate looked on in admiration. Mind you, he looked knackered when it was over – and the female seemed rather blasé about the whole thing.
The breeding centre is rightly very proud of the tortoises’ sexual exploits. Their logo consists of an illustration of two tortoises, well, breeding. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the one on the drawing was our stud. It is a real success story that has helped lift the risk of these magnificent creatures being wiped off the face of the earth.
Flamingo Lake is also near here, so we took a slight detour to take a look. There are more than just one of these animals in the lake, but with my ongoing computer issues, I’m finding it hard to upload more photos.
We went to the breeding centre with our friends, Craig and Julie on Hullabaloo of Normandy (who we first met in Morocco in 2017). And we had a lot of fun (and food actually.) Isabela isn’t a destination for the gourmand, but the pizza restaurant in town shines above most for its consistent, and large, pizzas.
On Monday, we took a fast boat tour to Los Tuneles, stopping on the way to look at giant rays, sea turtles, Galapagos penguins, and more boobies.
The lava field in Los Tuneles consists of a maze of canals and small tunnels. And the underwater attractions include the giant turtle, the large sea horse, and the occasional shark found basking under rocks. We were lucky enough to spot one of the large sea horses, but it’s so well camouflaged that even I can’t see it on the photograph (so I haven’t uploaded it.) Turtles, however, were in abundance; and I spotted a shark under a rock but came out with a photograph of what looks like a swordfish. I can’t figure that out.
Wall of Tears
Later in the week, we decided to walk over to the Wall of Tears. This wall doesn’t represent the proudest moment in the history of humanity. It served no other purpose than creating hardship for the prisoners building it – until the penal colony closed in 1959. Many died during its construction. Now its use is a dark (in many ways) tourist attraction. The wall is around 7km out of town, so we grabbed a taxi from the dock to shave off a few km and walked the rest – 5km up the gradual incline to the wall.
From the wall we hiked up to an old US radar station, now serving as a platform for us civilians to get a perfect view of the island from on high.
By the time we retraced our steps to the entrance to the park, we were feeling pretty knackered. And my trainers were shedding rubber at an unnerving rate. Fortunately, a taxi had just arrived to drop off some hire bikes (that were sadly missing when we arrived), so we hired him for $5 to take us back to town.
Concha de Perla
One of the top tourist attractions near to the anchorage is Concha de Perla. This protected cove is home to several sea animals, including sharks, marine iguanas, the ubiquitous sea lion, and turtles. So, Maria and I plopped ourselves in the water to take a look.
But here’s a salient lesson for anyone daft enough to do what we did: At high water (when we arrived), the sea ebbs strongly over the reef. As we approached the outer reef, the current became amazingly strong. Even with fins and a lot of determination, we were making no progress through the water.
Fortunately, a cluster of mangrove trees was just to our right, so we swam sideways against the current and used the roots of the trees to haul ourselves away from the reef – narrowly avoiding an abdomen-lacerating scrape across the rocks.
And if that wasn’t enough excitement, just as we freed ourselves from the grip of the current, we saw a large shark sleeping on the seabed – then a small reef shark circling.
As we returned to where we entered the water, I spotted a small group of sea lions whizz by, so I followed them to get some photographs. This one entertained me by blowing bubbles then swam right up to the camera. They might be lumbering blubbery lumps on land, but in the water, they are graceful as Darcy Bussell.
Throughout our week at the anchorage, we saw several kayaks and tourist boats converge on the outer islands just ahead and to the right of Lady Jane. So hopped in the dinghy to take a look. And what we found was penguins. Lots of them.
We had seen a couple of penguins swimming around the anchorage, chasing fish, but didn’t realise their colony was so close. Galapagos penguins are said to be the smallest on the planet. But despite their tiny size, they are incredibly fast. So fast that they look like they have been fired out of a torpedo launcher. It’s a strange thing to see penguins in the tropical heat. And it isn’t possible to see these animals anywhere else but in the Galapagos.
Money money money
We decided to leave Isabela on Saturday 20th April, so I contacted our agents representative to get the paperwork prepared. And on Friday afternoon, we met with Steven to exchange a Zarpe for $20.
Shelling out money is one of the less endearing features of the Galapagos. The tours are too expensive: $95 each to get to Los Tuneles wasn’t great value (and that was the cheapest of the two we went on.) We have paid around $1800 in fees for bringing ourselves and Lady Jane here. And if that wasn’t enough – the bureaucracy is both a pain in the arse and very opaque.
Despite all that, we have loved it here. Where else can you sit at anchor and watch penguins shoot by? Or stroll along a street where the sight of sea lions and marine iguanas seems ordinary after a while? I can’t think of anywhere.
And we have one last place to visit before we head off to Polynesia: Santa Cruz. Besides, with no ATMs on Isabela, we need to get some more cash.