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GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

The Archipelago of Galapagos Islands which is located in the middle of nowhere, in the Pacific Ocean, happened to be the result of land coming from the centre of the world down to the ocean and became so called biodiversity Hotspot. After this process has been going through millions of years, the real situation happened there. Because the Ocean is moving same as our planet does, so this Earth rotation is known as “The Coriolis Effect”. Due to this effect the Galapagos Islands are suffering such important variation of the temperature and anything close to the equator , North of it,  in the Pacific Ocean is covering the North pole, because of the North and Central America. That’s why the north of Galapagos Islands is warmer, once the South has nothing to block the South pole we have a direct connection with the water from the South in contact with the equator. And that brings the water to the Galapagos Islands , in other words the equatorial line works as a boundary which is creating this isolated situation.

On top of this, when we use the word “isolation” is really impressive because Galapagos is 600 miles of the West coast of Ecuador and continent. Because of that, it is welcoming different ocean currents with life. How amazing is that ! The water can be flowing and it’s really taking nutrients, but it needs a land to smash and to create that impact effect and to provoke the upwelling’s. And this is very important, no wonder every time you go to a rock or every time you go to the sunk ship, you will find there marine life thanks to the growth of algae where the fish legs it’s eggs. So there is a plenty of food for the chain. Yes we can call it “the chain” and because of that the Galapagos Islands which usually in the beginning of their existence were  “naked”, isolated and without a life, suddenly within some laps of time have created a reach and unbelievable ecosystem.

On top of that, we have the same principle outside the water – in the highlands and that one was new called “lava” or “flowing lava “where the Hotspot was creating the volcano, the tectonic plate of Nazca was moving towards the continent and by this time when it was moving to the continent,  very young volcanos became older and started to face the erosion. Because of that they started crying , molding  and destroying soil by producing this effect – thanks to the water and the rain- to have vegetation growing. And because of the vegetation growing than finally we can have the famous: rain . The rain which blocks the evaporation of the wind. And that’s important, because the rain in Galapagos comes between December until the end of April or even May giving than a warmer time – thanks to  mentioned Earth Rotation. And on the other side, we also have the South part which happens to be the famous opposite which has the colder water arriving (due to Humboldt cold ocean current from the South) known as  “garúa” season or also called “the cold mist season”. Besides the Humboldt current, there are 2 other ocean currents interfering with Galapagos Islands: Cromwell cold current coming from West to the East and Panama warm current coming from the North to the South (causing the rain)


NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND

North Seymour Island (In Spanish Seymour Norte) – It is believed that North Seymour was once one piece of land in contact with Baltra and Santa Cruz. When we say “one piece of land” it means that basically “the uplifting”, which is the event taking place after when lava  tunnels are melting with the high temperature of the soil and this is going to push up above the sea some part of this land that is quite hot but is cooling very quickly. Normally this will come with , which is known as “cemented ash”. Out of this, within thousands of years , with the impact of the ocean we start watching the coastline breaking apart, allowing an appearance of these fantastic channels. These channels are extremely reach and important for the fishes, as they are looking for more oxygen and where the current goes, normally you will see lots of fish swimming against the current. In other words they can get more oxygen. These large currents which are really making the Galapagos islands so unique, are creating a lots of “new” waters with reach new oxygen, with lots of plankton that can be food for the food chain. This in general is what makes Galapagos Islands so reach. Nevertheless, the seabirds which happens to be in terms of revolution , are really adapted to be able to drink sea water. When they are able to drink sea water, in terms of evolution it means the arrival of glands. Glands are basically a kind of filter, and this filter works as an important part of osmotic reaction which in fact is taking those to release the salt from the body, outside the glance. In other words, we remember when mammals they create tears that means (like human beings when we  cry we lose potassium) with animals when they release salt, they don’t lose potassium. And that is what makes for them a very unique adaptation as they are able to drink a salt water. After that, in the different technics , in order to fish, it makes them to be able to succeed, as well as they need to have a great piece of land in order to nest and to reproduce. Every one of these sea bird species happens to find their place and the way they reproduce having no competition with another species of seabirds.

Galapagos with its particular isolation is creating a great boundary  when we have these birds arriving into unique situation where in  fact, they can be able to reproduce. And this happens to be the same story for the last 90 to 160 million years in the Galapagos Islands. We know that in terms of evolution, probably this is not so much time , compared to other locations but we don’t have to forget that on the Galapagos Islands we have this “isolation” and the weather , something quite critical. And quite critical can be considered also when we talk about animals not adapted to release the salt. And that includes not only the sea birds but also the famous Galapagos Marine iguanas with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations.

Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhyncus cristatus)- they look fierce , but are actually gentle herbivore, surviving exclusively on underwater algae and seaweed. Their short, blunt snouts and small, razor- sharp teeth help them scrape the algae off rocks, and their laterally flattened tails let them move crocodile-like through the water. Their claws are long and sharp for clinging to rocks on shore or underwater in heavy currents. They have dark grey colouring to better absorb sunlight after their forays into the frigid Galápagos waters. And they also as mentioned already even have special glands that clean their blood of extra salt, which they ingest while feeding. According to the Scientists that and-dwelling iguanas from South America must have drifted out to sea millions of years ago on logs or other debris, eventually landing on the Galápagos. From that specie emerged marine iguanas, which spread to nearly all the islands of the archipelago. Each islands hosts marine iguanas of unique size, shape and colour.

So on this North Seymour island after going for dry landing you are going to be able to see Blue Footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii) , Frigate birds (Fregata magnificens) and you are going to be amazed by watching all these birds especially the Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechial) which happens to be another life form living on the coast line, cleaning from some parasites the iguanas and the Sea lions. They are very beautifully in their yellow colour feathers thanks to transfer of the pigment from their food (yellow caterpillars). Pretty interesting this “camouflage” with the keratin (like collagen) which is in fact the skin  that’s is protecting the bird feather while flying (as there can be different sorts of the feather skin). So anyhow, we have these creatures living together also Galápagos Marine Iguanas and here on the Seymour islands something pretty interesting happens with the Marine Iguanas as this is not a big Islands and the cliffs are really small. So the iguanas had a little trouble finding food here as they only eat marine algae. But the real matter is that this creature is not made to eat something else and not everywhere a good cold temperature can be found on the islands for algae’s. However the solution on this particular location was in the form of the following plant: the Sea Purselane. This plant in different locations has also a different name but its known and appealing for its different kind of succulents. And Marine Iguanas are able to use these as their food as well in the case there is no more marine algae’s availability. So this is a creating an amazing situation here.

North Seymour Islands is flat enough for making a nice living for one of the creature called Galápagos snake (Pseudalsophis spp) which is living among the islands Santa Cruz, North Seymour and Baltra. It’s a very similar dry environment, in the lowlands, for these 3 islands also concerning similar rainy period- so we can called Seymour and Baltra a satellite islands to the Santa Cruz. Because of that, this is the reason why the birds live there especially a Frigate birds which is the real and true “pirate” of the air. This bird like to steal the food from every other possibly bird in the area.   Frigate bird cannot get wet because of the salty water otherwise he would damage its own feather , so he needs absolutely a fresh water and is finding it same way as the food.  That’s why they have this fantastic nickname: The Pirates of the air !


ISABELA ISLAND

One of the most amazing places in the Archipelago of Galapagos and especially for family trips is- unquestionably – the Isabela Island. The largest Island of Galapagos which straddles the equator, combines very attractive activities such as swimming, snorkelling or hiking on lava areas –with a possibility to enjoy a coast line views together with birds watching. This unique and reach local wildlife  which is attracted to this particular Island, has to do with amazing upwelling’s that are taking place here. An upwelling means that it’s a process where the countering of 2 ocean currents or even more is happening and brings to the surface of the ocean an amazing amount of plankton. Plankton as a nutrient which constitutes a beginning of the marine food chain for all of the fish species being themselves also the food for different birds. That’s why we can admire on this location so many different wildlife animals including among others the amazing Galapagos Penguins, Flamingos, Blue Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies but also called “princes of Galapagos” very friendly Sea lions. Thanks to the mentioned upwelling’s,  we have additionally very unique opportunity to go snorkelling with Sea turtles or even with sharks. Of course, please be aware of the fact  that you will be not in a kind of ZOO but in the natural protected wildlife, so not every creature animal could be seen from a close distance, but for sure a lucky close eye contact moments will happen. Isabela Island is our number one destination, that we thought to make a unique tour for 5 full days. And this we are going to detail here below day by day:

DAY 1

Arrival by airplane from Baltra to Puerto Villamil where you will get located in a very comfortable and peaceful location, additionally very closed to the ocean. You will  be really astonished by the serenity of this particular place. Than your first tour activity called “Dry Landing” experience, which means you will use your socks and hiking shoes without worry about getting them wet. Not only that aspect is important, as you will enjoy walking visit of Las Tintoreras (the Islet) where the sufficient traction will be needed for your stability on the lava’s irregular surfaces. The name “Tintorera” is also typically referred to the Whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus) which you will have occasion to see here this day. On top of that , you will be able and it’s really exceptional during the day to see it while sleeping on the bottom of the water in a large numbers, like a family. Continuing your further walk, you will be also amazed by one of the unique places in the world, where you will be able to see  baby marine iguanas. These endemic animals you cannot see many on the Islands , because of the presence of its main  predators  which are: the local Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) and Galapagos snake (Pseudalsophis spp) That’s’ why iguanas are extremely shy and hiding all of the time. But the famous adults marine Iguanas can be seen in a very large numbers thanks to the abounded quantity of marine algae on the Archipelago.

Las Tintoreras and the whole Archipelago are not only a home to a large endemic species, but it also explains very interesting geological history of this place, as  its uplifted and above big lava tunnels or more tiny ones so called Lava tubes. Besides that, we can also see another particular geological effect in the form of rock white pigmentation. All of this is very beautiful and impressive.

You will also see another important member of this local combination of wildlife- Baby Sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) ,which are absolutely astonishing. These creature are so friendly, that they will let you approach them as close as possible, of course always in the presence of their Mama’s. This exclusive time will offer you fantastic opportunity to use your photographical skills and immortalize really exceptional and unique moments. The moments on this coastal area very rich in marine production of life. After couple of hours of hiking, there will be a nice chance to go snorkelling and you will be ready for a deserved lunch. As it will be on the nice beach area while having a lunch, you can continue swimming or relaxing here, however it is recommended to stay together all the time under the supervision of our naturalist guide of the group.

In the afternoon – you are going again for next but not too long  walk, from your hotel and then you are going to explore beautiful pinky waters which happens to be nothing else but the salty or salinity concentration , which is fantastic combination of sea water with the sun. Together with all typical for this place microscopic algae’s and shrimps, which form the principle food for these amazing birds called the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) This excursion will take place in the area named Los Humedales (the Wetlands) where another activity will be waiting for you: the visit of the breeding Giant Tortoise conservation Centre. The creation of this Galapagos Turtle Sanctuary  was a solution for the reproduction barriers in the past because of the treat of the animals such as goats, donkeys or rats. For many years the question mark was how to preserve this fantastic animal ?   But finally by managing the accurate temperature levels (with the use of solar energy) during the time of incubation of the turtles, successful baby male and female division was possible in order to reproduce them in captivity. Dealing with an animal that is prehistoric must be very special as the way they live is very slow and their life is based on vegetation (pretty low metabolism) and Island conditions (big spaces to walk). It is very touchy  and interesting to see a face of a baby turtle and how interaction takes place with the people trying to save them. At the same time a volunteering program, that we as a company run here in Isabela is volunteering. If there as a person wiling to volunteer here, there is a fee for us, we take care of you and your timing but definitely we don’t give any responsibility to the National Park. They are basically very kind to the organization as our company and glad that we would have voluntaries people to take care of the turtles. For any further information, please contact us. Learning about the conservation makes a better world and you are welcomed to join us in our team in order to do it !

After this you will be free to walk back to the hotel or to enjoy a beautiful sunsets that happen to be here or also to enjoy nice organic sandy beach (magnificent place to take off your shoes) and walk back to the hotel along this beach.

Back in the hotel you will be briefed in details by your guide about what is going to happen next day. But not only that, you could talk also about a particular subject depending on the interests of your group. Going into interesting details about the geology, sea currents, sea birds, natural history or anything in particular about this place will increase your curiosity and  your explorer’s enthusiasm for the rest of your stay on the Island. You will finish the first day with a welcoming dinner as you will need to elevate your  energy levels for the upcoming second day on Isabela Island , Puerto Villamil – the land of a dream.

 DAY 2

At about 8:00 in the morning you will start your first activities of the day spending most of the time in contact with underwater marine and coastal wildlife, another amazing experience will be waiting for you. As a mean of transport we will use a boat departing from Puerto Villamil arriving to the bay for snorkelling and afterwards bird watching. It’s very important and strongly advised to be well prepared for it in advance, in terms of your own snorkelling equipment but please don’t forget to bring also a good binoculars with you. We will explore the bay which is very special thanks to its different Islets characterized by the erosion of the rocks (it’s when the Ocean is progressively “eating” the rocks thus the coastline). This is probably the most suitable location, in general, to see various seabirds, as its their strategic  take off area towards the ocean in a search of food like plankton or sardines. Also these islets are a very functional location for nesting purposes. That’s why it will be one of the most important moments of the trip for the people passionate about the ornithology thanks to the presence of the magnificent Frigate birds (Fregata magnificens) , the Nazca boobies (Sula granti) , Swallow-tailed gulls ( Creagrus furcatus) or other coastal birds including penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus). During your snorkelling adventure you will experience the presence of the large size fishes such as Manta Rays (Manta birostris)Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari) but also some species of sharks like Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) or famous Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis). In the afternoon you will have 2 choices: either you can go again snorkelling for about 1 hour, in the area with baby marine iguanas or penguins and some territorial fishes like Damsel fish. Or you can chose for free and very pleasant walk on the beach. Back in the hotel you will be again briefed about what is going to happen the next day.

DAY 3

Well equipped with your hiking shoes , early in the morning , you will go by bus to the highlands of the Isabela Island, where you are going to visit a majestic and recently active volcano called Sierra Negra. This volcano holds the second largest caldera of our planet. It’s a big chamber which has as a unique behaviour of volcanos, a large and steamy lava tunnels. Which is working in the different sections of the caldera and this is when you have the caldera growing in different parts of the rim or also called in different parts of the border. The caldera diameter is big enough to have there a large colony of giant tortoises. When being there and looking at caldera, we feel a sensation of respect to the nature, it’s so majestic, it’s a guarantee of  interesting and mysterious  geologic experience. It’s   beautiful to look at this unique volcano in the world, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, here on Galapagos Islands. Isabela Island together with volcano Sierra Negra  has in total  5 volcanos, all of them are enormous and above 1000 m of attitude. The group  will continue hiking uphill with a guide at a moderate tempo as it could be very tough , especially in the rainy season (starting from December) with the possibility of the muddy ground. In the highlands the group will approach the height of about 3500 feet or 1066 m above mean sea level, so this hike will offer you a possibility to see the endemic vegetation with its different layers, thus with different zones of climates. Which is really interesting because depending on the amount of water, it gives also the possibility to have some bird life,  than we can observe here among others a Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis)

We return by bus to the town where the lunch will be waiting for the group. After the lunch you are going to have 3 activity options: First is 6 km distance biking to look for a baby giant tortoises, with difficult terrain so rather for those who would like to have additional physical exercise. Second option would be to stay and relax on the beach and third: snorkelling

DAY 4

The last full day in Isabela when the group will start a journey by boat enjoying the coast life. In this exploration you will observe a beautiful and massive presence of Galapagos Pacific green Sea turtle  (C.mydas) together with sharks, rays and also possibly if lucky moments occur, you could spot the Killer whales (Orcinus orca) . So we do know for sure , that you are going to have a great time after arrival to this nice area. The boat will be anchored near rocky area called Lava tunnel where people will land and with short walk distance they will be able to see blue footed Boobies. Very impressive and unique moments of watching them hunting from the air into the sea for sardines (for females) and for anchovies (for males). This food is giving  such nice and characteristic to this specie , blue foot colour (for female) and turquoise (for males) This colour helps also the females to protect the boobies babies from the snakes and for the males is helping in reproduction of the specie.

You will go back by boat to the town having your lunch before afternoon. In the afternoon, you will have a beautiful chance for snorkelling in “Concha de perla” . After walking about 35 minutes you will discover a beautiful little bay with shallow friendly waters, with no waves and the possibility to explore the baby marine iguanas.

DAY 5

Last day is the day of your take-off from Isabela to Baltra airport, early in the morning.