Giant Tortoises

Aldabra Tortoises

With all of the shows and attractions, a day at Reptile Gardens can be pretty busy.  Take some time to slow down and come encounter our gentle giants, the Aldabra Tortoises. Meet Tank, Orville, and Samson - Reptile Gardens'  most popular animal residents. Get up close and personal.  Don’t forget to take lots of pictures (the camera loves them, and they’ve recently become Instagram stars).


Tortoise Fun Facts

  1. Giant tortoise eggs are about the size of a tennis ball and are buried in moist sand or loose soil. At hatching, the babies are about 3 inches long.
  2. It takes a giant tortoise about 20 years to reach breeding size.
  3. Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises are strict vegetarians, feeding on various grasses and cacti. They are fond of fruits and most vegetables.
  4. The tortoise likely would not beat the hare, but when strongly motivated these big fellows can hike right along. They have been known to travel 3 or 4 miles in a day on rugged terrain.
  5. They are also very powerful and can plow over small trees, people, and many types of fences.
  6. Their armor makes the larger specimens nearly invulnerable to attack by any of the creatures found in their homeland. If threatened, they quickly draw their heads in with a loud hiss and bring their plated front legs together. The tail is tucked in as additional defense.
  7. They lack teeth, but their jaws are lined with horny sharp ridges, which come together like a pair of pinking shears. Some types of turtles and tortoises will bite defensively, but these gentle creatures almost never will. However, if a person should misjudge while offering them food, a large tortoise could easily remove a finger.
  8. Male tortoises are generally much larger than females of the same species.
  9. Turtle soup is made from Sea Turtles. No matter how much "turtle soup" could be made from one of our tortoises, most people would probably not care much for it since it doesn't taste very good.
  10. Because these are tortoises, they do not need to be in water. In fact, they don't even need to drink water for great lengths of times – Most of the water they need is found in their food.



Visit for Hours & Location

With an average lifespan much longer than a human's, potentially even 150 years, we’ve had many visitors ask us why giant tortoises live so long. Reptile Garden's Public Relations Director, John Brockelsby, has a theory about the longevity of tortoises, "These gentle giants are strict vegetarians, there is no fat or cholesterol in their diets. They move incredibly slowly, and have no stress in their lives...they are completely docile, peaceful creatures. We figure if humans followed these guidelines, we would probably see a dramatic increase in our own life spans."


Image of a toddler girl standing next to a tortoise who is almost as tall as her!

Image of a young boy kneeling next to Methuselah and feeling his shell.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

There are two types of Giant Tortoises found in the world – Aldabra and Galapagos. Aldabra tortoises come from the Seychelles Islands located in the Indian Ocean east of Africa; Galapagos tortoises inhabit the Galapagos Islands off the western coast of South America. Both types of giant tortoises are rare and are protected on their native islands and every effort is being made to increase their numbers to a safe level.


Our beloved giant tortoise, Methuselah, who passed away on July 9, 2011, was South Dakota's oldest resident. He was born in 1881 in the Galapagos Islands, and weighed in at 600 pounds.  Since coming to his new home at Reptile Gardens in 1954, Methuselah celebrated his birthday each year by feasting on his favorite food, watermelon.  In his honor, we’ve created a playground and have a replica bronze statue of Methuselah. Check out Methuselah’s Playground and take some time to relax and play like our tortoise friends know how to do so well.

Our giant, gentle Aldabra Tortoises love attention and they love to make new friends.  Be sure you stop by and say “Hi” when you visit  Reptile Gardens.  They’re sure to become friends with you, and they’re great at posing for the camera!



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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch Funtier Town

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing, go on a 3D safari, or test your aim at the shooting gallery! Our very own old west ghost town has numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

At the end of every snake show, you will get the opportunity to pet a python and chat with our knowledgeable show presenters. Don't forget your camera!