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Galapagos giant tortoises are iconic species of the enchanted islands. With a total of 13 subspecies, they are considered one of the longest-living animals. Once you visit the Galapagos Islands you will be able to witness and be close to these amazing reptiles. 

They are a species that doesn’t go unnoticed, due to their huge size. However, they are also animals that hold many mysteries and characteristics that make them unique. Continue reading this post and learn the most curious facts about the life of the Galapagos giant tortoises. 

Galapagos Giant Tortoise
Galapagos Giant Tortoise


COMMON NAME: Galapagos Tortoise


TYPE: Reptiles

DIET: Herbivore

SIZE: Up to six feetWEIGHT: Up to 573 pounds


1. Long-lived creatures 

Be surprised to know that Giant tortoises have an impressively long lifespan. Their average lifetime is around 100 years or more! The oldest turtle on record lived up to 176 years old. Charles Darwin studied this tortoise during his trip to the Galapagos Islands. 

These reptiles reach maturity at 20 to 25 years of age, and continue to grow until 50 years. One of the reasons for their great longevity is due to their lack of natural predators. In addition, there are abundant food sources in the archipelago. 

2. They can go a year without food or water

One of the most impressive details about Galapagos Giant Tortoises is the fact that they can live an entire year without food. This is due to the tortoises’ very slow metabolism. In other words, it takes a long time to break down and digest stored food. 

 Even more impressive is the turtles’ ability to store water. An average turtle can store gallons of water in its bladder. This allows them to survive for a year without drinking water, keeping them hydrated even during the hottest times on the islands.It should be noted that this characteristic also worked against them. In the last centuries, whalers hunted the turtles and used them as food. Thanks to their ability to survive for a long period of time, they provided the sailors with food.

3. They’re the biggest tortoises in the world

The Galapagos Giant Tortoises truly live up to their name! These tortoises have an extraordinary size, being considered the largest in the world.

Males reach more than 1.5 meters in height and 1.5 meters in width. Their weight is around 500 pounds. On the other hand, females are smaller and weigh around 250 pounds. 

The largest turtle recorded grew to almost 6 feet tall and weighed 8.5 pounds

4. Galapagos Giant Tortoises don’t have teeth

One of the most curious facts about Giant Tortoises is that they have no teeth! To chew, they use the sharp edges of their mouths to bite vegetation. They have strong, bony jaws that allow them to break vines and crush fruits.

Giant Tortoise eating
Giant Tortoise eating

5. The island was named in honor of the Giant Tortoises

In 1535, Spanish sailors arrived to the islands and were surprised to find a large number of tortoises. For this reason they named the islands “Galapago”. This word means “saddle”. They even used to ride on the shells of the tortoises, but due to their conservation this practice is forbidden. 

So the name was kept, being known as the Galapagos Islands.

6. Can sleep up to 16 hours a day!

Giant tortoises love to sleep, they can sleep 16 hours a day! When they are not walking, wallowing in the mud or eating from the green vegetation on high ground, they like to relax and lie down. Turtles usually sleep at night but also take naps during the day. They usually hide their heads in their shells to sleep, or sleep with their heads in the mud or sand.

They can sleep up to 16 hours a day

7. The shell is part of the turtle’s skeleton

Turtles’ large shells are part of their skeleton, so it is impossible to separate them. Turtles are born with their shells, and grow together until they are 20 to 25 years old. Surprisingly, the shell of turtles is not as heavy as it seems, its composition is given by air chambers, likewise to a giant honeycomb. 

Baby Tortoise

8. Visitors Can See Giant Tortoises In The Wild Or At Breeding Centers

If you travel to the Galapagos Islands, don’t worry about seeing the tortoises, for sure you will see more than one and even be up close with them. There are a large number of these reptiles on the islands.

In places like the El Chato Tortoise Reserve in Santa Cruz, a place where you can see the tortoises in their natural state. Or you can also visit the breeding centers of San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. Here the baby turtles are protected from invasive species until they are old enough to survive on their own in the wild. 

These centers are very important places of protection and conservation of turtles. This is a perfect place to see the tiny hatchlings and learn about them.  

In conclusion the Galapagos Giant Tortoises are amazing animals not only for their large size but for all their singular characteristics that make them unique. 

So, if you are ready to get up close with one of these magnificent creatures, contact us to make your dream trip to the Galapagos Islands come true! 

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