Tag Archives: galapagos

Google Street View arrives to the Galapagos! But in a much simpler form…

Those dying for a chance to viscerally experience the towns of the Galapagos through pictures can rejoice now that Google has your fix… but only partially.

The search engine giant has officially graced the shores of the enchanted islands and offered a means to visually experience and acquaint yourselves with the islands via their website, but it’s nowhere near what Google street view has traditionally offered its users in the past. The new addition to the maps of the Galapagos introduces 360-degree “snapshots” of specific parts of the towns and trails only, rather than the seamless click-and-glide-to exploration of the town streets that’s typical of Google Street View. This might be due to the fact that the photographs also go “off the grid” and actually explore other, isolated parts of the islands.

What does manage to be impressive however, is the 360-degree underwater pictures they have of offshore diving sites (Google Subaquatic View?).

So Cool!

galapagos_street_view

The photographic addition is the result of a project between the Charles Darwin Foundation, Google Maps, Catlin Seaview Survey and the Galapagos National Park Services. In addition to being a means to explore the towns, the placement of pictures on the maps is aimed to assist in the scientific investigation of certain areas as well as the management of protected areas in the park itself.

The project itself took place during the month of May of this year, and after being processed by the labs over at Google are now ready for our perusing. Be sure to check them out HERE!

Via Diario EL COMERCIOhttp://www.elcomercio.com/tecnologia/Galapagos-Google-StreetView-GoogleMaps-fotografias-360Grados_0_991700945.html

Galapagos for the Whole Family

Thinking of taking young kids to the Galapagos? Many parents have doubts of taking their kids to a country so adventurous and exotic as Ecuador, and cruising around the Galapagos Islands, but if your kids can handle a few basic requirements, the Galapagos are sure to become your kids’ all time favorite vacation.

How old should children be?

Eric Sheets, owner of Galapagos Expeditions, a tour operator specialized for in Galapagos for families says, “Usually, as soon as children are old enough to appreciate animals, the beach, the ocean, walk for an hour or so in the heat, and stay on a boat, they’re old enough and mature enough to go on a Galapagos cruise. So, depending on your children, kids as young as three can have an amazing experience in the Galapagos.”

If that sounds like a challenge for your little ones, the option of staying in a hotel on the Galapagos and doing land based tours or day trips is even easier on kids than taking a cruise.

The daily routine if you’re on a boat consists of getting up around 6am, having a buffet breakfast, boarding a dingy to an island to go on a morning hike, coming back for lunch on the boat, then doing a second afternoon excursion to an island or sometimes snorkeling. But, you can always skip an excursion if the kids (or parents) get tired.

If your child can snorkel, it opens a whole new world under the sea. So if possible, it’s recommendable to buy snorkel gear ahead of time and practice snorkeling in a pool or the tub first to get used to the mask.  The boats usually provide snorkel gear, but not usually small sizes for small children. The water is normally quite cold and wet suits are used.

An unforgettable family vacation

My own son, who has gone to the Galapagos three times between the age of 3 and 8 claims to have been there four times, the first time being when his mother was seven months pregnant claims, “I remember, I could see the animals through my mama’s belly button, I swear!” If you ask any of my kids which they prefer, Galapagos or Disney World, they unhesitatingly say Galapagos, always.

For more about traveling to the Galapagos with kids, pick up a copy of  VIVA Travel Guides Galapagos book, and eBook, by  Crit Minster, whom is the father of two preschoolers and is married to a guide in the Galapagos

On the Road – Peru: In Mourning

Since yesterday morning when I first heard the news, I have been in mourning — as have thousands around the world.

 

Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands have lost iconic Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise in the world.

 

Lonesome George. Photo by Rachel Tavel

 

Lonesome George (in Spanish, called Solitario Jorge) was found and captured on his native Pinta Island in 1972, whose landscape was devastated by goats introduced by humans. He was taken to the breeding grounds on Santa Cruz Islands, established to recuperate populations of giant tortoises whose populations were sorely diminished by centuries of hunting and destruction of habitat.

 

Solitario Jorge became a symbol of man’s devastation of the environment and the struggle to bring back species on the brink of extinction. For the next four decades, the Parque Nacional Galápagos (PNG), the Charles Darwin Research Station and scores of scientists combed Pinta Island and zoos around the globe looking for a pure-bred mate for George. Indeed, it appeared this Geochelone nigra abingdoni was alone in the world.

 

In 1993, the scientists decided to introduce Wolf Volcano (Isabela Island) females, a species closely related to the Pinta Island tortoise, into his corral, in hopes of preserving at least part of his species’ gene pool. The years rolled on with no results. Finally in 2008, the females laid eggs on several occasions. Unfortunately, the eggs proved to be infertile. Later these females were replaced with ones from Española, which species is even more closely related genetically. They remained with him until the end of his life.

 

Solitario Jorge was found dead in his corral on Sunday morning by Fausto Llerena, who took care of him for over 40 years. PNG scientists believe he died of a heart attack, but will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. His approximate age was 100 years. George’s body will be preserved for future generations of humans to learn about this species and environmental issues involving extinctions.

 

Today, the websites of international newspapers and NGOs are awash with the sad news, commemorations and calls for further conservation work to prevent the extinction of any more species. As Godfrey Merlen so eloquently expresses: “We need to take a certain risk to make every effort to stem the tide of extinction.  Let his name live on, not as a sight to see but as a symbol of our determination.”

 

During the months I spent in Galápagos volunteering with an international NGO, I often stopped by Lonesome George’s corral to pay him a visit. Sitting in the shade of the patio, watching him lumber across the rocks beneath giant opuntia cactus, I would ponder how it must be to be the last of one’s species. Is he cognizant he is the only one left, that of all his kin that were kidnapped and killed, he is the only survivor?

 

Lonesome George was an Everyperson’s pet. In every corner of the planet, people knew him, speculated about his sexual prowess and pondered his species’ future. We all knew it was the end of the road for ­­­­ Geochelone nigra abingdoni. But we hoped against all odds a pure-blood female could be found, that he would have offspring, that the Pinta tortoise would not become extinct. Extinction is forever. And we have seen another Earth species pass to that terminal state — and we have witnessed it with our minds and in that space Lonesome George occupied in our hearts.

 

The Guardian honors Lonesome George’s life with a wonderful slideshow. His life was chronicled in Henry Nicholls’ Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon (Macmillan, 2006).

 

During July, Parque Nacional Galápagos will have a special photographic exhibit of Solitario Jorge in his corral. The PNG requests anyone who would like to submit photos, to send them to: solitario-george@dpng.gob.ec.

 

To learn more about the Galápagos Islands and prepare for your trip there, pick up a copy of V!VA Travel Guides Galápagos, authored by official Galápagos resident Christopher Minster, PhD. It is available in e-book and print formats.

 

 

Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2012 edition of  V!VA Peru. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

THE NEW 7 SEVEN NATURAL WONDERS OF THE WORLD

The Swiss organization, New 7 Wonders (www.new7wonders.com), announced last Saturday the preliminary results of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

 

Of the 28 finalists, two of the winners came from South America, four from Asia and one from Africa.

 

And the winners are (in alphabetical order):

 

A bird-eye's view of the mighty Amazon River.

The Amazon (South America)

Halong Bay (Vietnam)

Iguazú Falls (Argentina, Brazil)

Jeju Island (South Korea)

Komodo (Indonesia)

Puerto Princes Underground River (Philippines)

Table Mountain (South Africa)

 

 

Iguazú Falls, another of the New 7 Natural Wonders.

The online voting was open to the public-at-large and closed last Friday, November 11. The official tally will be released in early 2012, during the inauguration ceremonies.

 

Yván Vásquez Valera, president of Loreto región in Peru, was happy with the results and hopes it will bring more tourism to his area. It will be an economic boon to one of Peru’s poorest regions.

 

The big surprise to many is that Ecuador‘s Galápagos Islands were not among the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

Choose the NEW 7 Natural Wonders of the World

One of the nominees: The Amazon

 

The organization New 7 Wonders is inviting you to choose the NEW 7 Natural Wonders of the World. You must hurry, though—voting ends this Friday, November 11, 2011.

 

Only three days are left to participate in this grand event. By going to New 7 Wonders’ website (www.new7wonders.com), you may choose seven of your favorite natural wonders among the 28 candidates.

 

 

 

Latin America has a strong field of candidates. The largest is the Amazon, which extends from the Guayanas (Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana), Venezuela and Colombia in the North, through Peru and Brazil, to Bolivia in the South. Puerto Rico rings in with El Yunque, a virgin tropical forest national park.

Will one New Wonder be Angel Falls?

Will Iguazú also make the final seven?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two waterfalls cascade down the list: the world’s highest cataract, Angel Falls in Venezuela, and Iguazú Falls, shared by Argentina and Brazil. Of course, nobody should be surprised that Ecuador’s enchanted, other-worldly isles—the Galápagos—also were nominated.

Galápagos is known for its unique nature.

 

Other nominees come from all over the world.  North America has only two representatives: Bay of Fundy (Canada) and the Grand Canyon (USA). On the other side of the Atlantic, Europe has five natural beauties on the list:

  • Black Forest (Germany)
  • Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
  • Amsurian Lake District (Poland)
  • Matterhorn / Cervino (Switzerland, Italy)
  • Vesuvius (Italy)

 

Three Middle Eastern landscapes voters may choose from are: Bu Tinah Island (United Arab Emirates), Dead Sea (Israel, Palestine) and Jeita Grotto (Lebanon). The three African ones are: Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Islands of the Maldives (Maldives) and Table Mountain (South Africa).

 

Asia has the most candidates, with:

  • Halong Bay (Viet Nam)
  • Jeju Island (South Korea)
  • Komodo (Indonesia)
  • Mud Volcanoes (Azerbaijan)
  • PP Underground River (Philippines)
  • Sundarbans (Bangladesh, India)
  • Yushan (Chinese Taipei)

 

Australia and Oceania round out the competition, with three nominations: Great Barrier Reef (Australia, Papua New Guinea), Milford Sound (New Zealand) and Uluru (Australia).

 

The Swiss-based New 7 Wonders organization next campaign is the New 7 Wonders Cities. Which will be the 28 nominees? Will your city be included?

Tsunami Update: Galapagos, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile

Although the tsunami caused by the Japanese earthquake mostly spared Latin America severe damage, it did affect certain locations along Central America and South America’s coasts.

GALAPAGOS

Photo Credit: Flurdy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/flurdy/3990790578/

Waves Pummel the Coast of Galapagos

Although initial reports claimed that there was minimal damage to the islands, they appear to have been one of the hardest-hit areas in Latin America. A tip sent in to Lorraine Caputo reports that many businesses in Puerto Ayora were flooded, including the artisan market, though most have reopened. More distressingly, a number of homes in the Barrio Punta Estrada neighborhood were damaged.  The Ecuadorian government is sending assistance to those impacted by the waves.

COSTA RICA

In Osa harbor, on the southern Pacific coast, several boats were damaged or destroyed by the surging tide.

PERU

At least one person in Peru died as a result of the tsunami. A man trying to watch the tsunamis from the beach resort of San Bartolo, near Lima, fell on the rocks and died. Meanwhile, on the northern coast, a small boat carrying 10 fishermen has been missing since Friday. Finally, the towns of Pisco, Paracas and San Andrés, all devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2007, received rather significant flooding on Friday night as a result of the tsunami waves. Video here.

CHILE

215 houses were damaged in Chile early on Saturday morning, the vast majority of them in the settlement of Puerto Viejo, in the northern region of Atacama.

By George! Galápagos Giant May Finally Become a Father

Lonseome George

After nearly a century of life, Lonesome George, the last Galápagos Giant Tortoise of his species, may soon become a daddy.

Last Saturday guards found a friendly surprise upon opening the nest in George’s corral: five laid eggs, in perfect condition. The eggs were immediately measured, weighed, then carefully transferred to the Giant Tortoise Center for Reproduction and Captive Breeding . Now researchers must play nature’s waiting game, as it will take 120 days (November) to find out if the incubated eggs are fertile.

For years scientists have been struggling to get Lonesome George to procreate, after scientists discovered the near-extinction of his species on the Pinta island of the Galapagos islands and brought him into captivity at the Charles Darwin research station in 1972. However, the endangered reptile’s low libido has severely complicated the survival of his species. In efforts to resurrect the Pinta island tortoise, researchers spiced up the solitary George’s living arrangements by giving him new roommates: two female tortoises (given the mundane monikers No. 107 and No. 106).

Although researchers hoped the ménage à tortoise would be a success, the fickle and disinterested George never budged until 2008, when after 36 years of captivity he finally mated with both females; unfortunately, the eggs turned out to be infertile. The newly laid eggs by Female No. 107 have reignited hope in scientists, and although there are no certainties, they are trying to remain optimistic.

Even if the eggs end up infertile, George has mated twice in two years – quite the fertile feat for the old giant. May the reptile revolution persist!

To learn more about the Lonesome George and the plight of his species, visit the Galapagos Conservatory.

Rachel Anderson is a staff writer/editor for VIVA Travel Guides.

Galapagos Entry Fees Increase…Again

In recurring news that is starting to get a little old, INGALA, the Ecuadorian institution that regulates the Galapagos National Park, has announced that the already steep park entry fee for foreigners will double in 2009. Currently, non-Ecuadorian park visitors must pay $100 per person upon arrival in Galapagos. This money is used for park services such as rangers and control of introduced species. Beginning in 2009, this fee will double to $200. Combined with the new $100 tax on those taking cruise tours (as opposed to land-based ones) and the $10 Transit Control Card, most visitors will pay $310 per person simply for the privilege of setting foot on Galapagos. INGALA figures that 2009, which is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, will see a huge influx of visitors to the islands. Pessimists will note that despite hundreds of thousands of tourists paying park taxes, preventable problems such as introduced animals and illegal shark fishing continue to be as rampant as ever, while optimists can hope that doubling park resources may finally make a dent in these troubles.