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Ecuador: Galapagos, Quito
Galapagos, Ecuador: Inspiration for the Theory of Evolution
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, is a province of Ecuador, lying about 1000 kms. off its coast. The island is considered one of the world's foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing. Its isolated terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835, and his observation of Galapagos' species later inspired his theory of evolution.
Exploring the islands of Galapagos was one of the highlights of my South America trip. I was successful in persuading 18 of my friends to join me on this exciting adventure.
From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we landed in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador late in the evening. For the night we would stay in town and then board the morning flight to Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos is a collection of 18 main islands. San Cristobal Island is home to the highest peak of Galapagos and is the first island in the Galapagos Archipelago that Charles Darwin visited during his voyage on the Beagle. And on this island we landed first. There are two airports on the Galapagos Islands. One at San Cristobal and the other at Baltra.
Once we landed, we were in the able hands of the crew and staff of yacht La Pinta. This boat would be our home for the next 3 nights and 4 days. A bus took us to the pier and from there we were in zodiacs to arrive at La Pinta that was anchored in calmer & deep waters.
La Pinta is a luxury yacht. It holds 48 guests (in 24 cabins). There are various packages to explore the islands. We were on the shortest one. The other options available were 7, 11 and 15 day long. The naturalists on board were experts. Every zodiac had the capacity to take 16 guests, including a naturalist who were more than happy to give a commentary of the area, the wildlife and answer our questions as we cruised around.
I would leave it to the pictures to tell (or rather show) you more about the amazing islands. Briefly, our 4-day program was as follows:
Day 1: After our cabin allocations, lunch and safety briefing we visited the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Centre. We land back at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and drive 40 minutes to the island’s southern shore. At Cerro Colorado, we visit the breeding centre of the highly-endangered giant tortoises in the midst of a fantastic deciduous forest, home to dozens of bird species and the endemic San Cristobal lava lizard.
Day 2: This morning, we land at the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island. The trail that ascends from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline; we can observe frigates, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions. After the walk, some of us had the chance to swim from the beach and snorkel by an islet. Snorkeling equipment were freely available on board La Pinta. In the afternoon following lunch on board, a dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes us to Cerro Brujo's expansive, white coralline beach, great for walking, offering rewarding birdwatching with good views of seabirds and shore birds. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835.
Day 3: Our morning outing at Punta Suarez provides an exciting walk on lava / boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses, boobies, swallow-tail gulls, and the famous “blowhole”. The highlight of course were the red-green-black marine iguanas. Many regard this site as the best in the Islands. In the afternoon, we set down foot on Gardner Bay (Espanola Island). This beautiful, white coral beach is great for a walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. Out here guests had options to snorkel or enjoy a ride in a glass bottom boat. I opted for the latter.
Day 4: Our final day on the islands. After disembarking, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the ‘rearing in captivity’ programme for the giant tortoises. Here we witness the efforts and results of all the field work done in the name of science. We transfer by bus across Santa Cruz Island and a short ferry ride to Baltra airport.
Our flight will take us to Quito.
Galapagos Image Gallery Photo viewer
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