The islands are famous for their very special wildlife. Many of the animals and birds that live here are in danger because there are very few of them and they’re different from anywhere else; they’re endemic. The name galápago means ‘saddle’. That’s because of the way the shells look in some of the giant Galápagos tortoises.

A giant Galápagos tortoise. These giant tortoises can live to be nearly 200 years old and weigh as much as four men.

As well as the tortoises, I met lots of large lizards called iguanas. Iguanas normally find their food on the land but in the Galápagos, special ones live by the sea and have adapted to feed on algae which grow on rocks under the sea. In fact, they are the only iguanas which feed under the sea. And because they are cold-blooded and the sea is cold, they need to spend time warming up on sunny rocks above the waves. They also need to be able to hold their breath for several minutes at a time whilst they dive for their food.

And you know what? The iguanas sneeze a lot, but they haven’t got colds: they’re just getting rid of all the extra salt they took in while they were browsing beneath the waves. They can actually sneeze salt!

Marine iguana sunbathing on a warm rock

Mammals and birds like you and me have warm blood. This means that we can be active even when the temperature outside our bodies is cold. We ‘burn’ some of our food to keep us warm. Reptiles like lizards and tortoises have cold blood which means they don’t need to eat so much food because they don’t need to ‘burn’ energy to keep their bodies warm. But there’s a price they have to pay for this: if the iguanas get too cold in the sea, they could die of cold which is why they sunbathe for hours to warm their bodies. Many reptiles use the warmth of the sun to help them become more active so they can feed. Muscles only work well when they are quite warm so a cold reptile is a slow reptile. Let’s take a look at these reptiles, the tortoises and the iguanas in my first slide show.

When you’ve seen the tortoises and iguanas, we’ll move on to the seabirds – and that includes the rare penguins! Click here to see them.