National Geographic : 1995 Mar
GIANT TORTOISES PARKED everywhere in the cool shadows of scrub trees. Aldabra has the world's largest and only wild population some 150,000-of this species, which reaches 110 pounds on aver age. A related species on the Galapagos Islands represents earth's other surviving wild giant tortoise population. We arrived on Alda bra at mating time. In a ponderous face-to-face encounter, one pair seemed to share a tenderness as old as prehistory. By evening the grove sounded with bellows of reptilian rapture. The atoll's immense lagoon is lined with mangrove trees, which make a sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and fish. Swim ming with dive master Betty Almogy, who had joined us, I entered into the shadowy half-light where the exposed mangrove roots stud ded the bottom. To explore these ghostly chambers, we had to keep to the schedule of the tides, in on the flood, out on the ebb. At slack water between the cleansing flows, I found a school of black surgeonfish skittering through shallows just beyond the man groves, feeding on algae.