Day 9: Tortoises, snorkeling and body surfing!
Trip to the Tortoise Breeding Center and an afternoon of body surfing!
Typically in New England after a rainy night, people are able to go about their normal routine during the day. However, on Isabela Island, this is not always the case. Last night we experienced a heavy rain, which flooded the main dirt road leading to IOI. Due to this, we all took special detours, having to weave through outdoor restaurants and alleys, to get to IOI.
Once we finally arrived to IOI, we all headed to the tortoise breeding center of Isabela. Before our arrival, we stopped to admire the flamingos in a nearby brackish pond. We observed how the joint in each of their legs is structured like a wrist joint, rather than a knee joint. We also saw them submerging their heads in the water, hoping to find some delicious shrimp!
Once at the tortoise breeding center, we were able to see over a hundred tortoises of all sizes up close, being sure to respect our guides wishes of no flash photography. We saw large and intermediate sized tortoises, as well as baby tortoises. In particular, one group of tortoises had been rescued from a brush fire that occurred in 1985. We were so close to these tortoises that we were able to see the intricate burn marks on their shells.
In the informational room at the breeding center, we learned many fun facts! For instance, we learned that giant tortoises make their nests in dry zones. They seek out dry areas that have enough earth for digging nests and the right temperature for their eggs to be incubated (a tortoise nest usually contains 6 to 14 eggs).
We further learned that tortoises hatch from their eggs in about 160 days. Interestingly, the newborns must scrape away from the hardened earth of their nest for approximately 30 days before they can finally reach the surface. While in their nest, newborns do not eat or drink, surviving solely on their own body’s food reserves. A great example of survival of the fittest!
Most notably, this breeding center has saved the lives of countless tortoises. First off, they corral the soft shell newborns to protect them from being eaten by predators, such as rats, pigs, or dogs. Likewise, they artificially incubate the eggs to ensure successful reproduction. Once hatched, the newborns are placed in a box for one month without food or water to simulate natural conditions.
After visiting the nature center, we went on a beautiful nature walk back to IOI. We saw frigates hunting for their morning breakfast, marine iguanas relaxing on the bridge, and fiddler crabs scurrying alongside the path.
After lunchtime, we tried to end our day with an afternoon snorkel, but unfortunately, there was no visibility in the water. Instead of snorkeling, we ended up going for a swim at the beach, and most of us attempted (and failed) to body surf.
It was definitely a much needed break for us all! Stay tuned for our next blog post! More fun adventures are to come!