Friday 24 August 2012

Penquins on the Equator

Galapagos Penguins
One of the most fascinating marine creatures on the archipelago is the Galapagos Penguin. Aren’t penguins those cold-weather tuxedoed outdoorsmen who shield each other from the cold by forming tight groupings so only those on the outside of the circle are hit by the violent elements in Antarctica? Aren’t they the animals that get trapped below the ice?  Don't they waver on the edges of ice flows waiting for the moment to jump into the frigid water to search for food? Yes, some penguins are – but not all.

Penguins SwimmingOur islands are blessed to be the indigenous home of the Galapagos Penguin.  This is the only species of penguin that lives above the Equator. They are able to do so because of the cool water temperatures that result from the Cromwell Currents. There are “warm water” Humboldt penguins along the coasts of continental Ecuador, Chile and Peru, but they do not go north of the Equator.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Genovesa (Tower) Island Visitor Sites

Genovesa Island - Darwin Bay, Galapagos
Genovesa Island - Darwin Bay
Photograph from Galapagos National Park Service

Male Galapagos Frigate Bird displaying his red chest to a female

Galapagos Frigate Bird Chick
Frigate Bird Chic
The remote and isolated island of Genovesa is located on the north-east edge of the Galapagos archipelago. The fact of its remoteness contributes to its remaining among the most pristine of the islands, as well as one of the most coveted. Small, horseshoe shaped and precious in its unique blend of harsh volcanic terrain and natural beauty, it boasts a vast amount of birdlife; literally thousands of birds frequent this remote refuge and rely on it as their nesting site. While birdlife abounds, the island has no native land animals and no reptiles other than a small subspecies of marine iguana. Sea lions do lounge on the beaches. The pelagic birdlife that rely on Genovesa as a nesting site includes Frigatebirds, Red-Footed Boobies, Swallow-Tailed Gulls and Petrels by the thousands.
Monday 13 August 2012

Floreana Island

Sorting the Mail at the Post Office on Floreana Island with Harry Jimenez, owner of Galapagos Eco Lodge
Sorting the Mail at the Post Office on Floreana Island

Post Office Bay and Floreana Post Office

Evidence of Previous Visitors to the Post Office at Floreana Island
Evidence of Previous Visitors to the Post Office
Floreana, one of the oldest of the Galapagos Islands, and first settled in 1832, is named after Juan Jose Flores, the first president of Ecuador. Now, it is best known for the post office located at Post Office Bay, a brown sand beach inhabited by the ever-present Galapagos sea lions lounging in the sun. For nearly 2 ½ centuries – since 1793 – this unique Galapagos Island post office has been operating in the same fashion. Bring your mail and drop it off, addressed to go anywhere in the world. (On a cruise, your guide will likely provide you with brightly-colored post cards of indigenous animals for this purpose). Then, it’s your job to take a look through the mail that has been left by earlier visitors. If you come across a letter you are able to hand-deliver or mail to someone from your home town, you become the personal mail carrier. Hopefully, someone else will soon come along to carry your mail to your friend or family in the same way.  It’s as easy as that.
Thursday 9 August 2012

Fernandina Island - Espinosa Point and Mangle Point

map of Fernandina on the Left; Isabela on the Right
Fernandina on the Left; Isabela on the Right
Photograph From WikiCommons

Fernandina's Core Erupting in 2009, Galapagos
Fernandina's Core Erupting in 2009 from Nasa Image
The youngest of the Galapagos Islands, at just about 1,000,000 years old, Fernandina remains on the hot spot that created all of the islands. It is considered to be an active shield volcano with a large caldera, although the caldera collapsed in 1968. Fernandina is the westernmost and third largest of the Galapagos Islands. It most recently erupted in 2005 and 2009. The Island's landscape is dominated by La Cumbre Volcano.  The volcano's lava fields stretch all the way from the top of the volcano to the sea itself.

The Galapagos Conservancy and National Park are determined to keep Fernandina as pristine and untouched by humans and other non-endemic creatures as possible. So, although the Island is literally teeming with bird and marine life, there is only one approved visitation spot on the Island. But, it is really something special.

Bartolome Island - Pinnacle Rock and Beautiful Beaches

Bartolome Island; Pinnacle Rock
Bartolome Island; Pinnacle Rock
Photographed by AquaSurround
Bartholome Island has no human population, but is the home to one of the most recognized and photographed sites in all of the Galapagos Islands: Pinnacle Rock. The Island itself is located in Sullivan Bay to the east of Santiago Island. Because it offers such a spectacular view, most Galapagos travelers will find themselves enjoying the splendors of this island.

Steps on Bartolome with Galapagos Hawk Above
Steps on Bartolome with Galapagos Hawk Above
Photograph by AquaSurround
The Galapagos Conservancy has built a 600 meter wooden pathway with more than 300 steps to ensure that visitors are guided to the best spots with as little impact on the surrounding endemic vegetation, animal and birdlife as possible. Look carefully at the rock and lava formations on your way up the climb as you will see very interesting volcanic formations of spatter and tuff cones and lava flows.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Galapagos Islands - An Overview and Visitor Site Information

Where are the Galapagos Islands? What are The Visitor Highlights?

Galapagos Islands map
Galapagos Islands Map From Wiki
The Galapagos Islands are spread out over a small piece of the Pacific Ocean and are remote from any other land mass. They are part of the country of Ecuador, but have many of their own laws and regulations, mostly focused on conservation and preservation of the land, sea and wildlife. When you come here, you have decisions to make about where to go, how strenuous your trip should be and how long to stay.

This post is meant to help you with these and many more questions. Here, I provide you with an overview of visitation to each of the Galapagos Islands, with some of their natural history and geography, along with the visitor site highlights of each Island. In addition, as I continue to blog about the Galapagos Islands, I will add links to detailed information about each site. As always, if you have questions, or you want more detail about anything mentioned in this article, please email me at

The video below, by Alex Hantke of Aquasurround is one of the most beautiful you will ever see of the magnificent wild life, bird life and marine life you can expect to see when you visit the Galapagos Islands. It is a perfect introduction. Click here to see more of Alex's videos.

The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles off of the Pacific Coast of continental Ecuador. Though counted in different ways, they consist generally of 15 primary islands, 3-4 smaller islands and more than 100 rocks and islets.