July 15, 2024


Up Close And Personal

In a previous guest article, international adventure traveler Karen Helland wrote about her visit to a Giant Tortoise  breeding center in The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.  Today she’s sharing another Giant Tortoise experience – Up Close and Personal with Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos.



G Overview 2

Traveling in the Galapagos offers the visitor an outstanding opportunity to view a wide variety of very interesting animals in their natural habitat.  But you would be well advised to bring some good binoculars and also some long lenses for your camera. The standard view ing procedure is to give the animals their space and view from a distance. It ‘s a policy that makes sense.  It helps the Galapagos Islands maintain their special, pristine qualities.


t r sign


Primicias Ranch is one rare  location which offers a controlled exception to the “view from a distance” policy. The Ranch is on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Archipelago.  My visit there gave me a chance to get some close up “face time” with several of the famous Giant Toroises of The Galapagos.

t r close up

The opportunity to be up close and personal with one of these Giant Galapagos Tortoises is really rather special.  But it’s not something to be undertaken without a word of caution.  Yes, these guys are rather slow and ponderous as they navigate their way along the ground.  But they are really big – I mean REALLY big.  They can grow to a weight of 660 pounds! And take a look at the jaws / beaks on these giants.  They are big and powerful.  It’s important to stay away from the head. So approach with caution and always approach from behind. You definitely don’t want to be caught in the jaws of a tortoise – medical care is not that close!

boots rPrior to paying a close up visit to the tortoises everyone had  had to put on boots.  Not exactly a fashion statement.  European sizes are used (41, 42, etc.).It takes a bit of trial and error for the U.S. traveler to find a workable pair.




t r guide & shellI told you that these tortoises are big.  Check out the size of the shell.  This photo shows our guide inside a real shell. This particular shell weighed in at 80 pounds.


t r karen & shellSo of course I had to try it.  I mean, how often are you going to be in the Galapagos and have a chance to try on a tortoise shell for size?  Not really too comfortable I must say. (Note the guide is helping out by holding some of the weight of the shell)





After pretending to be a tortoise we then headed out to the wetlands area to see the real thing.

t r wetlands


G Tortoise 2

t r karen & turtleHere’s a shot of yours truly with a really big tortoise.  These guys can eat up to eighty pounds of food a day and can go up to 18 days without water.






Tortoises inhabit numerous areas in the Galapagos.   We  saw some as we drove along the road on Isabela Island.  They were smaller, about 25 years old. But regardless of where you encounter them, at a breeding program,  at a ranch enclosure, in the wild,  or just along the road way, they are magnificent to see.  I sincerely hope that these animals  continue to thrive and increase their population in the Galapagos. If you get a chance to visit them, just remember to approach from the back with caution.

Be Kind To Our Creatures ……………. And Enjoy The Adventure!

Dr.B, The Photo Trekker


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