A Bird Watching Cruise to the Galapagos

•September 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Galapagos Islands are more than just a glorious paradise; they are also a prime location for bird watchers who visit from all over the world. With more than fifty-eight species of birds, you can have the vacation of a lifetime and spot many rare species. Look out the window or tour the uninhabited islands; either way, you will see your winged friends in all their glory.

The Galapagos Islands are a nature lover’s dream, with species of birds, reptiles, and other wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Twenty-eight of the bird species inhabiting the Islands are endemic, or native, and can only be found here. The remaining thirty are migratory birds that come to escape the Northern Hemisphere’s winters. Bird watchers can spot the large cactus finch, the mangrove finch, the flightless cormorant, the Galapagos penguin, the waved albatross, the red-billed tropicbird, the dark-billed cuckoo, and much much more.

To experience the magnitude of the offerings of the Galapagos Islands, galapagos cruise bird watchers should take the time to visit two top spots: Isla Espanola and Isla Genovesa. Isla Espanola is the oldest island in the chain and features a dazzling array of endemic wildlife. Between the months of March and December, you should be able to spot the incredible waved albatross. Other birds include the Galapagos Dove, the Hood Mockingbird, the Large-Billed Flycatcher, the Galapagos Hawk, the Swallow-Talked Gull, and other beautiful species. As a bonus, during these months, you can also see Green Sea Turtles mating on the shore or visit the sea lion colony.

Isla Genovesa is a very small island with no real tourist attractions – unless you’re a bird watcher. Then the attractions are endless. You should be able to spot colonies of Red-Footed Boobies, Frigatebirds, Red-Billed Tropicbirds, Masked Boobies, Storm Petrels, and Swallow-Tailed Gulls. You may also spot the Galapagos Dove and short-eared owls. Isla Genovesa is one of the best sites for bird watching in the world.

Because much of their home is uninhabited by humans, the birds of the Galapagos Islands do not have much fear of humans. Therefore, you can tread lightly and walk among them. This is a rare treat for bird lovers and one that you will remember forever. Bring your binoculars and camera, but remember to take time to just stop and watch these winged marvels.

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Galapagos Island Video

•April 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Great Video I found on YouTube about the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Islands SCUBA Diving

•March 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Galapagos Islands are known for many things. The same natural wonders that made the Galapagos such an interesting place to study by pioneers like Darwin have also made it an interesting place to vacation. Outdoor enthusiasts from all corners of the world who are traveling on a variety of different budgets make the trek to these islands every year. Whether they find interest in the unique bird populations on land or the one-of-a-kind underwater environment, these travelers share in common a true interest in adventure travel.

Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Diving in the Galapagos Islands

For underwater adventurists, the Galapagos Islands provide a unique experience. Thriving reefs, marine life and some of the best underwater visibility (often 100 feet or more) on the planet help to give the Galapagos Islands a reputation as one of the seven underwater wonders of the world. This is partially due to the fact that around 70,000 square kilometers of Galapagos marine areas are considered to be protected and the islands are far enough out of the way to make the destruction of this environment less likely.

What you can expect from a Galapagos diving Trip
To begin with, the Galapagos Islands offer something for divers of all skill levels. That being said, the water conditions of many dive areas are much more appropriate for intermediate and advanced divers. For any diver, the Galapagos is sure to deliver a life changing experience.

Currents – Due to strong currents, most dives done in the Galapagos are drift dives. Throughout different seasons, the Humboldt and Panama currents affect dive conditions. Divers not experienced in drift diving may want to steer clear of the dives offered in current-heavy areas.

Water Depth – While there are plenty of dives which take place shallower water, many of the most impressive dive experiences are to be had at deeper depths around 70-100 feet and beyond.

Temperature – Thermoclines play a big role in diving in the Galapagos. Surface temperatures reach between 18 and 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. These temperatures can fluctuate as much as 5 degrees Celsius as you descend.

Marine Life – Expect to see abundant marine life on any dive in Galapagos. As this area has been protected from hunting for quite some time, various marine specie populations have grown tremendously. Sharks, rays, sea lions, whales, reef fish and much more are not uncommon sites. In fact, rare whale sharks are seen fairly regularly in some dive zones.

Safety
Traveling with an experience dive company is important. It’s also important to make your level of dive experience clear to your dive guides. Many dive charters do provide on-board safety equipment so you should ask about that as well. Lastly, since 2001, a hyperbaric chamber has been available in the Galapagos in case of emergencies.

Whether you trek to the Galapagos on a live aboard dive charter or enjoy a luxury cruise through the islands, take at least a couple days to explore everything the Galapagos have to offer, under the surface. A dive opportunity like you’ll find in the Galapagos would be a shame to miss and an experience to remember.

Discovering the Galapagos Penguins

•February 28, 2009 • 2 Comments
galapagos-penguins

Galapagos Penguins

Not surprisingly, the term “Galapagos fauna” may conjure a slew of archetypal images: gargantuan tortoises, exotic sea creatures and of course, Darwin’s beloved finches. But what about the island’s more elusive populations like, say, the Galapagos penguins? What might appear a paradox is, in fact, a veritable reality. Despite the archipelago’s location atop the equator, in the Northern Hemisphere, there, in its tropical perimeters, exists a myriad of Galapagos penguins.

The Galapagos penguins are in fact the only penguins in the northern hemisphere, as this species traditionally inhabits cooler regions of the southern hemisphere. Their presence on the islands is attributed to the South American Humboldt penguin, from which the endemic species apparently evolved. According to the Charles Darwin Research Station, penguins have adapted to the Galapagos’ tropical land temperature, employing sundry tactics to prevent their frames from overheating. They shade their feet, ventilate the hollows under their wings, and swim in the cool waters of the Cromwell Current.

The Cromwell Current plays an integral role in the survival of the Galapagos penguins, as it provides the region’s most frigid current—an opportune place for penguins to dwell. Resting approximately 100 meters beneath the Pacific Ocean’s surface, this submarine current offers penguins a gentle enclave in which to swim and catch fish throughout the day. When evening approaches and the heat is tempered by nightfall, Galapagos penguins return to the land to sleep and nest.

Unfortunately, these adorable 4-5 pound, 53-cm creatures have recently been listed as endangered on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN, which has been evaluating the conservation status of species for over 40 years, first designated the species as endangered in 2000. Devastated by El Nino storms as well illegal fishing, oil spills, and several other threats, it is anticipated by IUCN that population trends may continue to decrease.

Despite these challenges, the Galapagos penguins remain a fascinating anomaly. Their presence along the equator continues to amuse and bemuse scientists and tourists alike.

Galapagos Travel Recommendations

•February 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Traveling the Galapagos is something of a delicacy, enjoyed in small waves of tourists, preserving the wildlife and the Islands’ distinct authenticity. Each island is equipped with an official landing point, allowing only a limited number of visitors onto its shores. As one of the fortunate few to grace its virginal craggy beaches, you are presented the opportunity of experiencing what is the setting for countless National Geographic specials and photo-documentaries.

Excluding all of the miraculous animals guaranteed to cross your path, those exclusive and indigenous to the Galapagos, one of the most popular attractions to visit is the Charles Darwin Foundation, a reserve for some of the Islands’ endangered species of flora, fauna, and animalia. The center is free to guests and serves as the most assured path to experiencing all of the amazing elements of the Galapagos’ fame.

The seas that consume the islands are teeming with life; strand and beautiful, always rich in color, these waters are the reason why snorkeling and diving are two of the region’s revered commodities. Championed by Rodale’s ‘Scuba Diving Magazine’, and ranked as the best diving in the world for a number of years, this unscathed and flourishing ocean is just another outlet for discovering the Galapagos.

Other recommended activities for a visit to the Islands include:
• Take a Galapagos tour for all of the sights and exotic experiences that are paired with the expert service and gorgeous accommodations of a guided adventure.
• Snorkeling
• Climbing Bartolome Hill for the iconic Galapagos view.
• See the FrigateBird on Seymour
• Visit Isabela or Floreana Island for unique species like the Galapagos Penguin and Galapagos Flamingo.

What to do While Visiting the Galapagos Islands

•February 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After discovering, cataloging and, unfortunately, devouring the near mythical giant tortoises of the Galapagos, Charles Darwin published ‘The Origin of Species’, and extensive expose into the then-unknown Island cluster. The book featured a myriad of birds and mammals that existed in no other regions of the world; animals that had perpetually evolved due to the lack of natural predators—or so the theory goes.

While there exists a guide of the Galapagos, what Darwin never got around to publishing was a guide to the Galapagos. Which is why it should come as no surprise that the Islands’ most notorious attraction is the namesake of the revolutionary scientist himself, The Charles Darwin Research Station.

Visitors to this free reserve can experience the quirk and trepid motions of the baby tortoises, land iguanas and, the star of the exhibit, Lonesome George, the infamous giant Galapagos tortoise and soon-to-be dad.

galapagos-cruise-ship

Cruisin' through the Galapagos

However, the best way to legally experience the most and best of the Galapagos is to board a boat. Several styles of charters and Galapagos cruises exist, and all run the gamut of prestige—from budget to ritzy. While some are merely spectator affairs, the luxury Galapagos cruises will almost undoubtedly allow you to de-board and visit the Islands’ national park. There you will experience species of animals unafraid, friendly to visitors. So much so that you will need to maintain a watchful step.

For those visiting for the first time, it is advised that you check, first, with the boat incase there are any particular physical requirements or limitations. And, as always, remain diligent to the area’s natural inhabitants, as they are merely a flicker of flame in a rainstorm.

World’s Oldest Tortoise to Reproduce

•February 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Seemingly everything is larger in the Galapagos, and it was that perception that had oringially drawn Charles Darwin to its verdant shores for studies in evolution. The animals are bigger, the plants are bigger, but what isn’t following that upward slope are the species numbers.

worlds-oldest-tortoise1Meet Lonesome George, a pitch-perfect example of this trend, Estimated to be somewhere in his 70s, and the last remaining giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands. He was discovered in 1979 and thought to be, among other things, uninterested or unknowing in the field of reproduction—until now.

Following a 36-year drought of infertility, three eggs were recently uncovered that can be traced back to the loins of George and a female Galapagos tortoise that has accompanied him since 1993. The eggs were quickly rescued, intact, and are being cared for by an artificial incubator on the island.

Will the giant Galapagos tortoise carry on into following centuries? Will it take these tortoises another 36 years to spawn a few more embryos? The world will know in four months, the length of time it will take to learn if the eggs can be salvaged and, in hope, hatched as a new branch to George’s lineage.

The Galapagos tortoise is essentially the world’s larges and oldest tortoise-phenotype; indigenous to the nine islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. Not only can the adults weigh in excess of 660 lbs., they can also reach 4 feet in length and have a life expectancy of 150 to 200 years.