Giant Galapagos Turtles

Galapagos Turtles (tortoises) are the Symbol of the Galapagos Islands Archipelago...


Giant Turtles in Galapagos

galapagos turtles

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They live a long life. A giant Galapagos turtle named Harriet died at the age of 170 in the Australia Zoo in Queensland.

Scientists estimated her birth date in 1830 so it was considered as one of the oldest living animals on Earth. The scientific name for this unique animal in Galapagos is: Geochelone elephantopus.

The Galapagos tortoise is one of the most impressive and is the largest of all tortoises in the world. It can reach a size of up to six feet from head to foot.

Galapagos giant turtles are herbivorous they eat mainly grass, flowers, water ferns, leaves, prickly pear cactus and fruits.

They live in the highlands of the Galapagos Islands and during the rainy season the tortoises descend to feed on the grass from the plains. Galapagos turtles can survive for months without food or water.

The word Galapagos means Saddle in Spanish because of the shape of the Turtle's Shell. They can weight up to 500 lbs. More About the Meaning of the Word Galapago

When the Galapagos Islands were discovered in the 15 th century there were close to 300,000 turtles in the Islands.

But pirates and whalers during the 17th, 18th and 19th century hunted them for food and almost exterminated them.

Pinta Island located at the north was home to thousands of Galapagos turtles and it was a popular stop for pirates.

Turtles were a good source of meat for them. These animals could remain alive in a ship for months without food or water. This is why there are only around 18,000 turtles living in Galapagos today.

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There are 11 existing races of turtles, four are extinct. In the Galapagos there's a race named Pinta Island which is represented by only one turtle named Lonesome George, it weights 350 pounds and was found in the 1970s.

Up until now no new tortoises of this race have been born, making this turtle the last of his subspecies.

Galapagos turtles differ not only in size, but in other characters like the shape of its shells and the island to where they belong.

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Different Species of Turtles in the Galapagos Islands:

  • Geochelone chathamensis
  • Geochelone abingdoni (Lonesome George)
  • Geochelone ephippium
  • Geochelone guntheri
  • Geochelone nigrita
  • Geochelone becki
  • Geochelone microphyes
  • Geochelone vandenburghi
  • Geochelone vicina
  • Geochelone darwini
  • Geochelone hoodensis
  • Geochelone elephantopus is Extinct
  • Geochelone phantastica is Extinct

Turtle species in the Galapagos Islands can be divided in domed and saddle-backed turtles.

The Saddle-back shell turtle have a curved shell front to allow their longer neck to reach food higher off the ground.

The Domed turtle inhabit in the highlands were vegetation is near the ground (usually in the highlands). They have shorter necks.

Turtles in Galapagos live an incredible slow and peaceful life.

In the morning they bask in the sun to warm up his body.

The "long day" for the giant turtles ends up in the afternoon at around 5 o'clock.

To keep warm, the turtles sleep surrounded by a dense brush or half submerged in mud.

The Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station are working together to preserve Galapagos turtles and their environment.

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!


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If you have questions regarding the Galapagos Turtles, You can post them on our Galapagos FAQ Page and if you want to request more information about our recommended Galapagos Cruises to explore this Archipelago, You can Contact us here

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