Isla Isabela – Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and Lagoons

June 9, 2010 § 3 Comments

During your stay in Isabela you’ll most likely be staying in the town of Puerto Villamil and want to see some of the local sites.  Isabela has much to offer beyond a visit to the Sierra Negra Volcano.  Right in town and just outside of town their are a series of lagoons which are the home to Flamingos and other birds.  Puerto Villamil is the bet place to view migratory birds in the Galapagos Islands.

Marine Iguanas on the Boardwalk

marine iguanas on the board walk to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center

One of my favorite excursions begins with a a stroll down the packed sand streets of Villamil, as you reach the end of town and the new hotel you’ll arrive at a wooden boardwalk wildlife trail marked by marine iguanas lying in the sun.

Following the pathway you’ll pass by a series of salt-water lagoons bordered by mangroves.   You’ll see where the seawater flowed into the area at high tide and mixed with fresh water flowing down the island from rainfall to create murky colored pools.  The walk offers a glimpse into small private world of the lagoon. Seeing a variety of animals like pink flamingos sweeping their heads back and forth motion with their bills in the water as they search for their favorite food – brine shrimp.  Ducks can be seen swimming along with the ducklings in tow.

The trail was created to fascinating nature walk while conserving the natural environment.  It was built completely by hand no heavy machinery entered the area.  A detailed study was conducted to make sure that no mangroves were killed in the construction rather only branches were trimmed when it was determined it would not impact the plant or the wildlife.

Isabela Flamingos

Isabela Flamingo Lagoon on the Way to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center

As you near the end of the almost 1 mile trail the scenery will again change as you pass through a dry forest and finally reach the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.  Isabela is the only island with several species of tortoises all on one island.  The distance between the volcanoes and the different environments allowed for five different species of tortoise to evolve.  Here at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center you can see examples of the different tortoises up close.

The Cerro Azul tortoises have a dome shaped shell characteristic of those tortoises that lived in areas with lush vegetation close to the ground.  These are some of the largest of the Galapagos tortoises with the shortest limbs as their food supply was within easy reach.   Conversely the tortoises for Sierra Negra are an example of the extreme saddle back shell known they have a very flattened “table top” like shell and longer limbs and necks.  Traits developed to the dry environment of Sierra Negra and the need to reach the cactus pads of the opuntia cactus their primary food source.

Isabela Tortoises

Cerro Azul and Sierra Negra Tortoises at the Isabela Tortoise Breeding Center

At the breeding center it is possible to see tortoises in the various stages of development from eggs to small hatchlings, to juveniles to sub adults.  The tortoises remain at the breeding center until they are big enough to survive on their own. When they are reintroduced to the wild.

Come back for tomorrow for more on Isabela… Isabela Cocha de Perla and Tintorares

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