Galapagos Tortoise

galapagos tortoise

The Galapagos Tortoise can weigh over 500 pounds and measure 6 feet from head to tail.


It is a very slow-moving animal, moving only 0.16 miles per hour. The Galapagos giant tortoise has a very large shell made of bone.

Among some Giant Tortoise facts we can mention that its shell can be domed, saddle-backed, or somewhere in between. Domed shells are found on tortoises that live in areas with lush vegetation.

Saddle-back shells allow the Galapagos tortoise to reach vegetation higher off the ground. This shell is more common in areas with less vegetation.

The Galapagos Giant Tortoises, belong to the species Geochelone elephantopus and are vegetarians, they eat mostly prickly pear cactus and fruits, bromeliads, water ferns, leaves, and grasses.

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The Galapagos tortoise has a good sense of smell and smells all of its food before eating it. They have tremendous water storage capacities, enabling them to survive the long arid season. (more than a year without any food or water).

Turtles on the Galapagos Island's Archipelago mature at 20-25 years of age. Compared to most tortoises, the birth rate of tortoises in Galapagos is extremely low.

Most tortoises can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. However, the Galapagos tortoise only lays between 2 and 16 eggs.

These eggs are laid in a hole dug by the mother. Then they are buried for incubation. The mother leaves, and the eggs hatch 4-8 months later.

It takes the baby tortoises one month to dig out of the nest. When the Islands were discovered there were around 14 or 15 species of turtles, all of them endemics of the Galapagos.

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After the arrival of the whalers 3 or 4 races of turtles were extinguished forever. This "hunting of turtles" continued until the beginning of the 20 th century, when they were murdered to get their oil.

Additionally the introduction of domestic animals that fed of the same vegetables and that also consumed their eggs helped to reduce dramatically their number.

As a result today we just find 10,000 to 15,000 turtles on the Galapagos Island, and only the ones in the Islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella have big populations.

Nobody knows exactly how long these tortoises can live, but there is a popular belief that they can reach 100 and inclusive more than 150 years old.

To avoid the extinguish of the giant Galapagos turtles, the biologists from Charles Darwin Research Station began to capture the survivors and put them in captivity and started the breeding for reproductive purposes.

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Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides). Click to order from Amazon

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading!

There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.


Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands. Click to order from Amazon

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers.

Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!


Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in.

Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!


Moon Spotlight Galapagos. Click to order from Amazon

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier.

But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you.

Small, well-priced, and reliable!


Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table.

This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!


More About Galapagos

Galapagos Snakes

Top Galapagos Island Tours

Galapagos Surfing Adventures

Galapagos Testimonials

If you have questions about the Giant Galapagos Tortoise, You can post them on our Galapagos FAQ Page and if you'd like to request more information about our recommended Galapagos Vacation Packages to visit these Islands, You can Contact us here

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