Tuesday 6 October 2015

Eco-Tourism and Ethical/Responsible Travel – An Essential Combination

What is it about traveling that brings out the best in some and the worst in others? I'm not entirely sure but I've observed that the happiest, most relaxed of my guests (whether at the hotel or on a cruise ship) are those who come with the desire to immerse themselves in the experience. In most cases, these are the very same guests who have done research about our surroundings and our culture so that they are not surprised and they understand our basic customs and even our economies, just as we (the hosts if you will) have studied theirs. The result is mutual respect and the willingness and ability to learn from one another, enhancing everyone's time and experience. This, combined with a commitment to the environment and conservation, is central to the concept known as "ethical travel."

Anais Nin is credited with saying, “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” Responsible travelers not only seek, but touch, others in a conscious and special way. They leave behind a special footprint, not one that harms or impacts the environment, but one that leaves a lasting and positive impression on those around them.
Thursday 10 September 2015

Frequently Asked Questions: What Should I Pack for my Galapagos Trip?

Packing for Galapagos can be something of an art form depending upon how long you are staying and some of your personal preferences. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you get started:

Know how your day is likely to be arranged on a typical Galapagos cruise. Your day will generally be:
  - breakfast
   -a land-based activity, usually a hike but sometimes in Santa Cruz or        San Cristobal
   - lunch
   - snorkeling
   - another hike
   - a briefing and dinner

Thursday 3 September 2015

Frequently Asked Questions: How Much Should I Tip on a Galapagos Cruise Ship

This is the first of a series of blog posts in which I will focus on frequently asked questions about travel to Galapagos. Of all the questions I get, the most common is, "Should I tip on the cruise ship and, if so, how much?"

It might appear that, as a guide, I have a conflict of interests. So, when directly asked "How much?" by a cruise ship guest, I typically say something to the effect, "We always appreciate a tip and the amount is up to you." 

The truth is that the crew and guides on cruise ships usually do get tipped and rely on tips to supplement their income. Galapagos is a very expensive place to live; many things cost three times more than on the mainland. But, cruise ship salaries of guides and crew do not reflect that economic reality. This might be something to keep in mind when tipping.

Monday 24 August 2015

Galapagos and Beyond: Tortoise Population Recovery is a World-wide Effort

Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise
Our giant land-based endemic Galapagos Tortoises are a “must see” feature for most Galapagos visitors. Giant tortoises and the Galapagos Islands are, in many ways, synonymous, particularly when you consider that our islands are named in their honor. When the first explorers came to these islands and saw the hundreds of thousands of saddle back giant tortoises, they named the islands to reflect their discovery as the word “galapagos” means saddle in Spanish.

Tagus Cove Graffiti Reminds Us of Plundering Pirates

Of course, history now tells us that the same people who first came here and became so enamored, later destroyed the very tortoise population that intrigued them from the beginning. Pirates and other seafarers took tortoises by the hundreds, and even thousands, and threw them into the holds of their ships to eat, use for oil, and take home for trading. Many of the tortoises died on their journey, only to be thrown back into the sea.  Mankind also was a further catalyst for the reduction and extinction of the giant tortoise population when we introduced non-endemic species such as goats and rats to the islands. These predators soon attacked and ate the hatching tortoises.
Tuesday 2 June 2015

Search Dogs Essential to Galapagos Efforts to Keep Out Harmful Invasive Species

African Snail from Freerepublic.com
Once Galapagos was pure and unspoiled. And, it remains the most protected and environmentally conscious area in the world thanks to strict rules and regulations. But, that does not mean that we are isolated. Far from it. From the earliest landings by pirates until today with the influx of tourists, species that are not in sync with the ecosystem and natural environment have been a problem. We are forever being threatened by species that are neither endemic nor natural to Galapagos. So, the Galapagos National Park and Marine Services, the Charles Darwin Research Center and myriads of other organizations and academic institutions are working hard to assure our environment remains stable and free from dangerous outside forces.

I love reporting to you about the wonderful conservation work being done throughout the Galapagos Islands to secure this beautiful paradise and keep it from harm. Rats have been conquered by human intervention, as have goats and feral cats. When it comes to insects that threaten certain plants, researchers take exceptional steps to find exactly the right antidote while safeguarding surrounding foliage. Penguins are helped with nesting; baby mangrove finches are protected from invideous insect eggs. It seems that even the giant tortoises are helping with preservation by absorbing certain invasive plants into their diet and thus preventing them from spreading. 

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Volcan Wolf Erupts on Isabela Island

Volcan Wolf is erupting right now on Isabela Island for the first time since 1982. It's a spectacular sight to see. 

No human population will be harmed by the eruption. Importantly, the Galapagos National Park Service is reporting that our endemic pink iguana population is not currently at risk. It has been reported that the lava is flowing down the volcano's southern face but that the iguanas inhabit the other side of the volcano. The lava appears to be flowing into the sea, and there is no prediction as yet regarding any effect on marine life near the base of the volcano.

Visit the Galapagos Eco-Lodge facebook page for updates and our blog for more information about Volcan Wolf and our unique pink iguanas.http://blog.galapagosecolodge.net/2013/02/no-two-galapagos-iguanas-same.html; http://blog.galapagosecolodge.net/2012/10/isabela-island-visitor-sites-part-iii.html

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Sea Lions Too are Mama's Boys!

"Mama's boy" is at term usually used to describe a human male's exceedingly close relationship with his mother.  But, when you really think about it, I guess it should come as no surprise that human sons are not the only species that attach to their moms. That is exactly what the latest research about Galapagos Island sea lions, as reported in the journal Animal Behavior, has confirmed. Like many other species, such as Galapagos Blue Footed Boobies, the male sea lion doesn't venture far from his mom.

Male baby sea lions stay close to and rely on their moms for a much longer period than their female peers. Long after the little boys grow big enough to be capable of hunting and fishing, they still laze around dependently on their moms far after their sisters have ventured out on their own and learned to forage. It seems that the males have it made from a physical and (from what we as humans would refer to as a psychological) point of view.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

David Attenboro's Galapagos Adventure

I know from personal experience that there can never be too many photographs of the magnificent and diverse menagerie that inhabits the Galapagos Islands.  Here in Galapagos you will see an abundance of animals, birds and marine life. Not only that, it's almost impossible to take a bad photograph of the bounty that lives throughout Galapagos on the land and in the sea. And within that array, one baby sea lion after another presents a unique photo opportunity. Every so often, extraordinary photos are taken and shared with all of us, making our Galapagos vision even more exciting, inviting and memorable.
Tuesday 10 March 2015

More on Lonesome George - A Musical Tribute

Never do we get enough of our iconic Lonesome George. And this musical tribute is a great honor. Thanks Skunk Bear for remembering George in such a beautiful way.

And here is Lonesome George in New York City as he is now. He's ready to come home.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Baby Tortoises Hatched on Pinzon Island

Pinzon Saddleback
What a wonderful success for conservation efforts in the Galapagos! Scientists and conservationists are reporting that the saddleback tortoises on Pinzon Island have been saved.

I've talked before about unwanted introduced species in Galapagos and efforts to eradicate them. One of the most invasive of these species were rats. They've been around for centuries really. Most likely, they were brought here on pirate ships. The ships layed anchor, the rats left the boat and swam to shore and there, they lived and dined like kings, particularly on the youngest of our species. Tortoises hatchlings, sadly, made a delicious meal and, as the babies died, so did the species. This was true in many places, particularly on Pinzon Island.
Tuesday 6 January 2015

Rocas Bainbridge - Galapagos Island's Secret

Nationall Geographic Image of Galapagos's Blue Lagoon
Not many people get to visit the unique and beautiful spot we call the Blue Lagoon off the coast of Isle Santiago in the Galapagos Islands. The Blue Lagoon is just one of the sites in the remote chain of small islands called Rocas Bainbridge. This is actually an amalgam of seven volcanic cones reaching out from the ocean.
Friday 2 January 2015

Technology: Will the Galapagos Islands Ever Catch Up?

Old Fashioned Communication System
Oh yes - technology. Will the Galapagos Islands ever catch up? For me, this is an incredibly loaded question. Sure, I'd certainly like to have more consistent internet, telephone and wifi service. I'm glad that Google maps is continuing to map our islands. I like the idea that drones can perform research and go to places that people can't and that by using drones above the terrain, humans can avoid disturbing the ground cover and animals. Still, I have to admit feeling a bit of nostalgia for the "olden days"when, like the sea lions and iguanas, I was left undisturbed with my thoughts and nature. Technology means change to the Galapagos Islands, the most prized real estate in the world for maintaining and preserving natural history.