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P>New!,Rat kill in Galapagos Islands targets 180 million!! November 15, 2012

New!,Sad News!! One of the Rarest Creatures in the World Is Now Dead June 24, 2012

New!,'Extinct' Galapagos Tortoise Reappears Live Science 09 January 2012

New!,Travelwise: Have the Galapagos been saved? Travel with Lonely Planet, 03 February 2011

New!,Almost extinct Galapagos tortoise mates at 90, July 7, 2009

New!,World celebrates Darwin's 200th anniversary , Thu Feb 12, 2009

New!,New Galapagos iguana species discovered January 6, 2009

New!,Lonesome George, the World’s Rarest Tortoise, Isn’t Ready to Be a Dad, November 13th, 2008

G7 beached pilot whales die on Galapagos

GStingray kills famed 'Crocodile Hunter'

GHarriet,176-year-old giant tortoise, dies

G2005 Galápagos Year of the Shark Campaign

GThursday February 12, 2004 Reuters - Atheists, Humanists Push Campaign for 'Darwin Day'

GTips for Picture Taking when you go to the Galapagos

GFinally My Costa Rica Eclipse Pictures at last

GMy Costa Rica Eclipse Oddessy Account - December 14th, 2001 [I shall keep my readers posted with new pictures as soon as available]

G Finally Success in photographing Costa Rica's annular eclipse last December 14th, 2001 [I shall keep my readers posted with new pictures as soon as available]

G The Latest forthcoming Annular Eclipse over Costa Rica next December 14th, 2001

G July 11, 2001 (ENS) Galapagos Marine Reserve Recommended as a World Heritage Site

G June 19, 2001 (ENS) Ecuadorian Court Backs Shark Protectors

G Thursday January 25 Reuters - Swells Hamper Effort to Clean Galapagos Oil Spill

G Wednesday January 24 Reuters - Crew of Leaky Galapagos Boat Charged

G Reuters - Boat Leaks Oil in Ecuador's Pristine Galapagos

GAll About the Galapagos Islands Latest Inhabitant

GLatest 1998 Galapagos Field Study Syllabus

GVolcanic Eruption on Isabela Island

GThe Special Law for the Galapagos

G See my Galapagos Diary for a more detailed account of my journey

G World Wildlife Fund's W.W.F Galapagos Page

G Carles Darwin Research Station

G Enjoy Duane Birkey's Exquisite Photography of Ecuador

G View the February 26, 1998 Total Eclipse from the Galapagos and Panama.

G A Trip to Nicaragua (under construction)

G Isla Tigre Primate Research Center


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Darwin's Eden

A Journey through the Galapagos.

PART II

THE JOURNEY

Monday: Guayaquil Ecuador, San Cristobal Island

Our journey began on February 3rd 1997, after arriving to Guayaquil the night before. We flew into San Cristobal Airport where, long lines after long lines, we were picked up by Mr. Miguel Pazmiño, our naturalist guide for the next week. We made it to Port Baquerizo Moreno (named for the first governor of the Galapagos) and our yacht Dorado. That evening we sampled the first taste of the Galapagos with a visit to Loberia Beach. There we got to see a lonely sea lion. Someone "urfed" and this placid 600 lb. bull immediately took after us. Fortunately we were faster, but we had learned our lesson. I could only hear my guide saying "you see I told you so, do not bother the sea lions".

Tuesday: Española or Hood Island, Gardiner's Beach

Sea Lions with Marine Iguanas

Sea lions mingle with colorful marine iguanas, Española Island (Oscar Sogandares)

On Tuesday we set out to Española Island (Hood). The only spot on this earth where the waved albatross (wingspan 2.5 mts.) nests. Unfortunately they had already parted. Although we did spot one solitary unhatched egg, left behind by their parents. But we did see blue footed boobies or "piqueros" (as well as the "masked" ones), the colorful red and green marine iguana (only here do they assume these startling colors, during the mating season), swallow-tail gulls (with their peculiar red-rimmed eyes) and of course our friendly sea lions (although we did not see the land tortoises here). All of these with the spectacular "blowhole" (see main page ) in the backdrop.

We finished off the day with a cool swim off the boat to Gardiner's Beach. Where we swam with the sea lions, although we got to see reef sharks and rays right below us. Our guide jokingly said that these only feed on "palms" and "plants", although we knew that sharks weren't exactly vegetarian. But due to the superabundance of fish, even the sharks were "friendly" and seemed always to be in a "lethargic" mode. But right before dusk, just after levying anchor, one of those rare occurrences, no less than 30 dolphins were playfully escorting our craft on our port side.

Wednesday: Santa Cruz Island, Charles Darwin Research Station, The Highlands

On Wednesday we were off to Santa Cruz (or Indefatigable) Island and Puerto Ayora visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station. There we saw Lonely George, the last of his kind (subspecies from Pinta Island). He is always accompanied by 2 females from Wolf Volcano (very similar subspecies), his hormonal level continously monitored in an effort to breed him. We also visited the Van Straalen Center with the complete Natural History of the Galapagos.

After a pleasant stroll through Port Ayora's main avenue, where we purchased T-shirts and sent off post cards back home, we visited a Lava-Tunnel, which was created by soft basaltic lava flowing through an already solidified basaltic lava core. The core is all that remains. Not everyone was fond of caves, but for those who were it reminded them of Utah, Arizona or New Mexico. Later that day we toured a farm in the highlands, where we were greeted by a lively vermillion flycatcher, who proudly posed for us, and saw even more tortoises in their cool moist pond setting. Afterwards we were treated to refreshments. We ended the day with a visit to the native "scalesia" cloud forest and the spectacular Twin "Pit" Craters (or "Los Gemelos").

Thursday: Rabida Beach and Bartolome Island

Dr Petersen photographs Galapagos Penguin

Dr Petersen photographs our stealthful Galapagos penguin, Pinnacle Rock (Oscar Sogandares)

Thursday was the peak of our tour starting with a visit to Rabida Beach. From here we could also make out the 60 mile long blue contour of Isabela, awaiting us on another tour. At Rabida, it was really red sand as in a Martian landscape, plus marine iguanas and more sea lions. We were hoping to see flamingos. But they just weren’t around today. But after watching the industrious Darwin's finches, one imperviously feeding on cactus flowers at almost an arm length, and the rare Galapagos dove, we did get to see the huge Galapagos Hawk.

After we levied anchor we were navigating off the barren lava fields interspersed with spatter cones in this vast “moonscape” of James Island, its rugged coastline smashed by the emerald green surf. Probably the most scenic part of our cruise. We could really hear the cameras clicking now. We were past “Sombrero Chino” Island when a “lava gull” landed on our boat. Just as someone said: “one of the most rarest birds in the world and its landed right on our boat”. Although, while on deck, two more gulls alighted on our hand rails. Everyone was taking pictures now.

Slowly our craft steered around a rocky bend and Bartolome Island with Pinnacle Rock swept into full view. I caught Pinnacle Rock from every angle, this slightly inclined jutting “tower of Pisa” of the natural world, framed by the masts of visiting boats and catamarans. Then we were off to a strenuous climb to the top of Bartholome. The symmetrical rows of tiquilia nesciotica and the hardy lava cactus were all the plants that grew on this water deprived volcanic slope. At the top we were buffeted by the cool breezes from the sea. I had to make sure my newly acquired Panama hat would not suddenly blow off the summit, into the vast azure ocean below us . Then it was a visit to the green turtle’s colony and finally a refreshing swim off this “natural” volcanic "tuft" projection (Pinnacle Rock). Where we mingled with our stealthful penguin hosts in their cool , wet, rocky habitat.

Friday: Baltra, the Seymour Islands and Ithabaca Channel

Frigate Bird with Courtship Red Pouch

Our "prized specimen", North Seymour Island, Galapagos (Oscar Sogandares)

On Friday we were refueling off Baltra Island, previous US Military outpost during W.W.II. Then we were off to North Seymour Island to watch the great frigate bird colony and a chance for a good picture of the males with their inflated red pouches, our “prized specimen”. Later we observed the breeding activities of the green turtle in the turquoise green marshes of Black Turtle Cove. Afterwards we landed on the beach and hiked toward a lagoon, where finally we got to see the lone flamingo of our journey. It was well worth it.

After a spectacular equatorial sunset, we slowly entered Ithabaca channel between Baltra and Santa Cruz (Indefatigable). From here we could see the docks which are served by the interinsular ferry service between the isles. On this precise moment we also watched a plane taking off toward the continent. Soon it was evening and dinnertime, as we anchored in this calm mooring. I noticed a lot of insect a target=ctivity including one huge red and green Galapagos locust (shistocerca melenocera). Perhaps another “stray” traveler from afar, maybe caught up long ago in a sandstorm from Africa?

Saturday: The Plaza Islands and Sta. Fe or Barrington Island

Land Iguana Plaza Island

So tame is our land iguana photographers poke their "macro lenses" at them. Plaza Islands. (Oscar Sogandares)

Saturday caught us off to the Plaza Islands and Santa Fe or Barrington. The Plaza Islands are actually inclined planes above the water, product of intense uplifting, in contrast to the other islands, volcanic in origin. Ending in an abrupt 100 mts. drop into the ocean, prolific breeding spots for countless sea bird species, including the rare red billed tropic bird with its two prong tail, so exquisite it is considered the “quetzal of the seas”. The islands are also home to our friendly land iguana. So tame that photographers literally poke their macro-lenses up their puzzled gaze. Where they feed off cactus pads, while surrounded by the flashy red sesuvium vegetation like red carpets, which distinguish the island.

That afternoon caught us at a sheltered cove at Barrington’s Island (Santa Fe). The very same cove where pirates centuries ago “found that tranquillity which they fiercely denied to every civilized harbor” (H.Melville). This natural harbour offered us a chance to snorkel in its cool turpentine waters, with sea lions, sea turtles, and manta rays. We watched how the sea lions dealt with the surf as underwater torpedoes. We caught a glimpse of the rare “moorish idol” (seen only occasionally off the Indian Ocean), flanked by huge schools of parrot fish, busily feeding on the abundant red algae off the rocks, the elegant blue dotted damsel fish and the graceful angelfish. But most incredible were the eagle rays, as if monarchs, followed by their royal entourages of symbiotic fishes, while flapping along the sandy bottom.

Later that day we saw the island’s own land iguana subspecies, too busy feeding on its juicy prickly pear cactus pad, it hardly paid notice of us. We also saw a mockingbird manufacturing a makeshift nest from a fallen cactus pad, a truly resourceful bird. In Santa Fe as well as the Plazas we observed brain coral skeletons well inside the islands, evidence of much recent uplifting. As we waited for the boat we posed with our young sea lion pups. That evening we left the sheltered cove, leaving behind the familiar “urfs” of our sea lion friends, which we’ve gotten so fond and used to by now.

Sunday: Point Pitt, San Cristobal Island, Kicker’s Rock

On Sunday we were back to San Cristobal Island (Chatham), at its easternmost (Point Pitt). The main attraction were the red footed boobies, which only nest on branches, and our only chance to view them. Although blue footed boobies were also nesting on the ground, distinguished by their unmistakable whistling sound. Dramatic Island geology was also evident like an open book, countless layers of successive eruptions, visible in the exposed strata. On the way back a rare Galapagos snake was seen hiding under a rock, where they feed on lava lizards. But just as we were going down, I heard alarming shrieks from the boobie nest and thought something was terribly wrong. Actually it was the red footed boobie mating ritual, initiated with a loud shrill by the male.

We resumed cruising and spotted some spatter cones on the isle. Finally, out in the open ocean, we came upon the gigantic Kickers Rock or “El Leon Dormido” (Sleeping Lion). But before navigating its massive walls, we witnessed something fresh out of the pages of Melville. Below the rocky ramparts we watched diverse pelagic seashore birds: boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, petrels, plunging by the hundreds, into the vast blue ocean, into migrating schools of fish, taking part in the frantic feeding frenzy. We had arrived to a place called Creation.

G See my Galapagos Diary for a more detailed account of my journey


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