The most iconic of the Galapagos wildlife, the Giant Tortoise is unmistakable and probably one of the best known of the archipelago's native species. Capturing a photograph of a Galapagos Tortoise in the wild is often the highlight of one of our cruises for many of our guests, and makes a truly iconic image to remind you of an amazing adventure.
There are actually 15 subspecies of Galapagos Giant Tortoise, and they can mainly be found on the lusher highlands of islands such as Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Española. However if you visit Galapagos during the warm wet season you can find them taking advantage of the conditions at lower elevations. There are currenty around 30,000 individual giant tortoises living in the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Tortoise has one of the longest lifespans of any wild animal, with the average tortoise on the archipelago reaching 100 years old. One of the top questions our Galapatours guides are asked is “where did the tortoises come from?”. It’s actually thought that all the subspecies are descendants of either one pregnant female or a single breeding pair who ended up in the ocean and were taken to the Galapagos by strong ocean currents. Tortoises are naturally buoyant, and they can survive for several months without food or water, which means they could survive a long sea journey at the mercy of the winds, waves and currents. The tortoises were then able to evolve into their large size thanks to their isolation and lack of natural predators. These gentle giants found the perfect place to exist by accident!
At Galapatours we make sure that your cruise has the very best bilingual naturalist guides who will bring the lifecycle of these amazing creatures to life for you. If you visit during the warm wet season, they will do their best to find males challenging each other over females for the breeding season. The males test who is most dominant by seeing which can stretch their heads up the highest. These gentle giants will make memories of a lifetime from your Galapagos Island trip.
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Giant Tortoise
- The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is one of the longest-lived wild species - over 100 years on average!
- Male tortoises can weigh over 500lb/230kg
- When they are threatened, the tortoises pull their heads inside the shell, exhaling with a "hiss" sound
- There are thought to only be 15,000 pairs Galapagos Tortoises in the wild