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A lie in – much appreciated after being awake from 4am to 5am dealing with the new flora of bacteria that are now living in my intestines.  Best just to say that we have had a dodgy introduction!

Unfortunately the local primary school were having their English exam today so couldn’t take us to the tortoise breeding centre.  We did call into their school on our way though to say hello.  The 6 year old students and their teacher were very welcoming, singing us songs and making us feel at home.  The girls had brought some Welsh cuddly toys and the Amys had brought books and colouring pens, which were appreciated.

We then walked along the road and came across the most amazing road sign I have ever seen:

Sure enough there were marine iguanas waiting to cross the road!  Amazingly they have had time to evolve some road sense.  I’m not saying that they looked left and right before crossing or that there was an older one with a lollipop to help the young ones cross!  But when a vehicle did come along they ran away from the road or sped up if already crossing.  I had just switched off the video camera when a dog ran past on the road.  Luckily I managed to get it back on again as they raced back towards the bushes for cover.  Its got to be one of my favourite bits of video footage of the whole trip.  Unfortunately introduced animals are the main predators of marine iguanas, but at least this shows that the native fauna are evolving to be scared of them.

We then walked along a raised platform through the undergrowth and inland lagoons, seeing more marine iguanas, a nest of yellow paper wasps (Charlotte’s favourite), beautiful passion flowers and fruits as well as some Galapagos mocking birds – the species that first gave Charles Darwin the idea that species could change when he noticed that they were different from the mainland mocking birds that he had seen. Karen has worked on extracting the DNA from some of Darwin’s original mocking bird specimens at the Natural History Museum with a view to helping their reintroduction onto Floreana where they are no longer found – possibly due to a major fire on the island. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Charles Darwin Research Station is only a 15 minute walk from our hotel.  On the way there we walked past the shed where the fresh fish are prepared for sale to local hotels and restaurants. The men working there had numerous helpers.

The pelicans in particular seemed to have no concept of the size of their beaks compared to the size of the pieces of fish, and would try to eat pieces that were several times larger than their heads.  It reminded me of the rhyme that my grandfather taught me: “Oh what a bird is the pelican, his beak can hold more than his belly can”. One of the pelicans was allowed to break the no feeding rule as it had a broken beak and was unable to feed itself in the ocean. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday – We visited Tomas de Berlanga School , a private school nestling amongst vegetation with pupils ranging from 3 to 16 years old. Not quite what we might imagine a private school to be like in Britain. This school consisted of a few simple single storey buildings with open sides, roughly painted walls, simple wooden furniture, connected by larva ash paths weaving through the dense plant growth. There was a playground with brightly painted wooden swings and slides and a dusty football area. The younger children rushed around in their t-shirts and jeans with beaming smiles. The purpose of this school is to educate the children to be effective communicators in Spanish and English, to be critical thinkers and to have a passion about their environment.

Our 4 girls had the opportunity to interact with many of the teenage pupils. I was able to have a long conservation with the science teacher. She had little in the way of practical equipment and no laboratory but was so keen to encourage a problem solving approach with her pupils. A small group were preparing a project about the brain for a science fair and we attempted some of their brain teasers. I was very pleased to be able to take apart the two intertwined nails before the girls!

Galapagos and Welsh students chatting

Galapagos and Welsh students chatting

Galapagos mocking bird in the school grounds

Galapagos mocking bird in the school grounds

School bags

School bags

The Galapagos mocking bird and finches cracking nuts provided some of the background noise. We ate our packed lunch in the open air school snack bar watching the chickens chase away a cat, presumably waiting for food scraps. Read the rest of this entry »

Bienvenidos i Galapagos!

Just getting ready to go out out for dinner after our third day on Santa Cruz island. It keeps on getting better and better.

Monday, after landing, we visited the first tortoise reserve of the trip in the highlands. I was surprised at how quickly the plants and trees change from bare to a blanket of leaves within a few centremeters. As soon as we hopped off the van we saw our first tortoise: a beast of a fella just quietly munching on some leaves on the roadside. At this point, we didn’t realise how many more there would be.

The thing that amazes/amazed me most about tortoises is the noises they make. Everytime they move they make a huffing and sighing noise, even for a few little steps. Also, the noise of their shells scraping the ground sounds like a boulder being pushed in a cave. Everything is such an effort for them. To be fair to them, I’d be out of breath if I had that much weight to carry.

It’s difficult to comprehend how big they actually are until you’re standing next to one.

It gave us a great chance to practice our toroise faces though!

Yesterday we went to Floreana Island which involved a two hour speed boat journey there and back. I did learn that a life jacket makes a very comfortable cushion for a nautical nap. As soon as we got off the boat we saw sea lions, iguanas, lizards, blue-footed boobies, Sally lightfoot crabs, everything! (Cue much excitement and many squeals from the group). It was everything I’d read about.

Before we could run out our camera batteries, we were taken on a tour o the highlands. To get there, we had a roughly twenty minute journey in a van that can only be described as “bone shaking”. It was especially fun when we sat at the back on the way back down! The views were spectacular and we had an opportunity to walk amongst more tortoises at the tortoise reserve. We were lucky enough to see two males fighting, mainly using their necks as weapons. A couple of the tortoises were very curious in us, Charlotte and Mr.Alford in particular, often following us as we walked around.

After a delicious lunch of fish, rice and veg (with coffee cake and cream for dessert-my favourite!) we wandered round the pier and were able to take lots and lots of photos of wildlife that was SO close to us! Sea lions lazing on the rocks, iguanas giving us sceptical looks as we got nearer, crabs scuttling away as soon as they saw us. None of the animals were particularly bothered by us being there, as long as they got to lay in the shade.

Today we went to the Tomas de Berlanga school. It was so fasicnating to speak to the local children and compare how they learn and what they study. The only study a few core subjects such as physics, biology, english, music, maths and art. The pupils were horrified when I explained our exam system to them. Their english was very good and the little kids were so cute and funny, running in between us, giving high-fives and giving us gifts of a leaf and raw pasta (pasta paintings are clearly on the curriculum all across the world).

It showed me how formal our education system actually is. The relationships between teachers and pupils is very relaxed and personal, calling each other by first names, often hugging each other and generally being tactile with one another. We wouldn’t dream of being like that with our teachers! It probably helps that the average class size is about ten pupils. I know that most of the students I spoke to had Facebook so, if you’re reading this pupils of Tomas de Berlanga school, maybe we could stay in contact?

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What a day, landing on the Islands was an emotional experience.  I think lots of us had a lump in our throats as it finally sank in that we were really here.  I almost felt like kissing the ground when we landed!  The islands looked beautiful from the plane, jutting out from the turquoise sea.  Whilst waiting to get into the arrivals shed / lounge we saw our first finch and lizards.  On the bus to the ferry we saw frigate birds patrolling overhead.  The fauna is so impressive. Read the rest of this entry »

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