Santa Cruz: Darwin’s Turtles

We hopped on a flight to the Galapagos Islands and took a boat to Santa Cruz, where the Darwin Research Center was located. Started in 1964, it hosts conservation projects aimed at protecting wildlife species throughout the islands, particularly their long-living friends the tortoise. The grounds of the research center were lush and beautiful, the weather temperate and calm. The Galapagos take their environment and its protection VERY seriously. Like if you litter, they will kill you. So don’t litter (you probably already knew that).

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Grounds of the research center

The main attraction at the center were the tortises. With the lifespan of a tortoise averaging over a hundred years, these wrinkly old badasses make you feel like a spring chicken. While they might move at a glacial pace, I saw several snort through their nose in a menacing manner, and the guide warned us not to get to close so as not to disturb their peace (and leave with all of our fingers and toes).

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The one on the left is yelling “get the hell of my lawn!”

We also saw the turtles at the other end of the spectrum. These turtle tweens are numbered and kept a close eye on as they slowly make their way to adulthood.The baby reptiles were so fucking cute as they scuttled about, I contemplated smuggling one home in my duffle bag. Until I remembered that they’re endangered, and it’s illegal, and I can’t even keep a cactus alive, so I just adored them from afar.

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dWe tried our damndest to get a peek at “Lonesome George” – the oldest and last known of the Pinta Island Tortoise. Scientists at the research center had been trying for ages to George to boogie down with another turtle, but he never took a liking to any of his female companions. A year later, I found out that George had died, taking the history of his species with him.

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The sands of the Galapagos were post-card perfect, with the cool, clear blue water lapping the sand rhythmically and sending us into a semi-trance. We laid there for hours and hours, and I thought about how long the ancient turtles had been around for. They’d been around for two world wars, a depression, a moon landing, the internet, countless presidents and popes, multiple generations of people. I thought about how this turtle had outlived my grandparents, and it might outlive me. I felt the pull of a philosophical depression setting in, the short burst of my own lifespan and the idea that my time on earth is temporary start to seep in. So instead, I hopped up, went to the beach bar and drank a corona.

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