Blog

Nov15

The Galapagos Isn’t Just Any Island Vacation

The Galapagos Islands are an exotic tropical destination.  Situated in the gorgeous blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The volcanically formed islands offer beautiful sun-kissed beaches with black, red, or white sand. You can enjoy the tropical breeze while you take in the vibrant sunset. The Galapagos has all the makings of a tropical paradise. Do visitors come to the equatorial Galapagos Islands for vacation just for the tropical climate like other tropical island destinations around the world? NO! Visitors come to the Galapagos Islands for an experience that you can’t find anywhere else. Why do people come to the Galapagos Islands for a holiday? 

In the Galapagos Archipelago, you do find all the makings of a tropical paradise and so much more. A visit to the Galapagos Islands is an unparalleled expedition into the wonders of this unique wild nature preserve.  You can explore the exotic flora and fauna of the Galapagos Island where you can find hundreds of native and endemic species.  A walk in the highlands can result in encountering some of the rarest birds in the world.  You will discover not all penguins live in the coldest parts of the southern hemisphere.  The Galapagos Islands are home to the world’s most northern penguins.  Visitors have the opportunity to observe the lumbering Galapagos Giant Tortoises in their native environment. These are just a few of the animal species you can encounter.

Discovering the distinct landscapes in the Galapagos Islands that offer breathtaking views is both a treat for the eye and the soul. The volcanic geology of the Galapagos is spectacular. The distinctive Pinnacle Rock is a signature landmark found in the Galapagos Islands on Bartolomé Island.  The lava tunnels found throughout the Galapagos are fun to explore and add a challenge to any hiking expedition. 

The Galapagos Marine Reserve hosts a bevy of marine life. Making the Galapagos Islands a great location for experienced divers and for snorkelers alike. Underwater Galapagos provides a wide range of marine life. You may spot tiny seahorses, brilliant starfish, or Hammerhead Sharks. Galapagos is the place for shark lovers, the Galapagos is host to one of the highest concentration of sharks in the world. The underwater experience is as spectacular as the wildlife on land.

All of this amazing unique wildlife can be found in Galapagos and that is why Galapagos is not just another tropical island destination.  Ninety-seven percent of the land in the Galapagos Islands is a protected national park and 51,000 sq. mi of the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands is a marine reserve.  The local community in partnership with the government, scientists, and conservationists are working to protect flora and fauna of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galapagos, for the world. 

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands.  She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Boutique Suites Hotel serving guests in the Galapagos Islands.

Sep17
Recovery of the Floreana tortoise
Scientific Reports
ISSN 2045-2322 (online)

The Miracle of Science Rediscovered Floreana Galápagos Giant Tortoise

One of the most well-known residents of Galapagos Islands is the Giant tortoises for which the archipelago is named. What many people may not know is there have been 12 to15 or more different populations of Giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. Some of the species of Galapagos tortoises have gone extinct due to human activity.  Whalers and pirates would hunt them to take the tortoises onboard their ships to keep for fresh meat and they were also hunted for oil.  One of those species thought to be lost is the endemic Floreana tortoise.

Due to the freshwater found on Floreana Island and the establishment of “Post Office Bay”, Floreana was a common stop for whalers.  It is thought this is the reason the Floreana tortoise was heavily hunted. At one time the island was set afire by accident by a crew member of one of the ships.  These incidents played havoc on the wildlife of Floreana.

Through excessive genetic research of tortoises in remote areas in Galapagos, the scientists has identified tortoise populations with a high level of DNA of the thought to be extinct Floreana tortoise. (WOW) You see, the same whalers and pirates also carried tortoise to other islands and would offload them onto other islands in the Galapagos.  This half hazard process of carrying tortoises from island to island has preserved some of the tortoise species thought to be lost. 

The Galapagos National Park now has a great plan for the restoration of the Floreana Tortoise and repatriate the much needed giant herbivore back to Floreana Island to contribute to balancing the ecosystem on the island. This is a key factor in the island restoration program on Floreana.  The Galapagos national park is creating a breeding program for the Floreana tortoise to bring it back from extinction.

As a result of the Yale University researchers’ findings, four breeding groups of tortoises were established in March of 2017. Each breeding group is composed of three females and two males. The anticipated results of this program are in approximately five years, offspring from these breeding groups will begin to be released on Floreana Island. The absent Floreana tortoise will return to their native island.

Make your plans today to come to Galapagos and experience the flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. 

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands.  She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Apartment Hotel serving guests in Galapagos.

Sep08

The volcano on the Ferdinanda island of Galapagos ejected ash and gas 4000 meters in the air. via Twitter
Volcanic eruption on Fernandina, Galapagos Islands via twitter

That Volcano is Going to Blow!

The Galapagos Islands are volcanically formed and there are active volcanos on some of the islands.  The La Cumbre volcano erupted on the island of Fernandina in Galapagos this week, Sept 4, 2017. It has been 8 years since La Cumber last erupted. Once again the Galapagos showcased the amazement of the forces of nature.   

Not only does the Galapagos Islands offer up-close encounters with wildlife, but it is also a great adventure for geology buffs.  As a visitor, you can visit active volcanos. Another favorite activity is hiking down into sinkholes.  You can observe different types of lava rocks and formations. Experience how subtle changes in the geology of the Galapagos Islands have contributed to the creation of micro-climates.  See the results of hot lava pouring into the sea. Exploring lava tunnels is another visitor favorite.  The amazing iconic Pinnacle Rock on Bartholomew Island is also an amazing geological site to see.

These volcanic islands, formed from fire in the sea continue to offer intriguing sites of nature for the adventure traveler.  If you are a geology enthusiast, the Galapagos Islands are a great choice for you to explore and experience your passion.  You can design a custom trip to feature interesting geological encounters.

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands.  She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Apartment Hotel serving guests in Galapagos.

Sep05
Galapagos Marine Iguanas
Galapagos Marine Iguanas basking in the sun.

Lookout, don’t step on the Marine Iguana!

That’s right, strolling along the streets, and on the beaches in the Galapagos Islands, you need to watch where you step when the Marine Iguanas are sunbathing or cooling down in the shade. The Galapagos Islands are the only place on earth where you will find Marine Iguanas. The Galapagos Marine Iguana is a reptile and they regulate their body temperature basking in the equatorial sun and resting in the shade. As you walk down Charles Darwin Ave on the black lava sidewalk look where you are walking, because you are in the Marine Iguana territory. You will also find the Galapagos Marine Iguana wondering on the beaches and swimming in the bays.

The unique Marine Iguanas feed on algae that grow in the ocean.  These sea-going creatures not only feed in the shallows along the rocks, but they also dive in the depths and feed.  They can hold their breath for more than 30 minutes.  In addition, they can also drink salt water and have the ability to excrete salt.  You may see them “spiting salt”.  The process of spiting salt gives the Marine Iguana a white haze on their heads. 

The Marine Iguanas are black, but the large breeding males become very colorful.  The males put on their best to impress. During mating season they show brilliant reds and greens

The Marine Iguanas share a common ancestor with the Galapagos Land Iguana that most likely floated to the Galapagos Islands.  The Galapagos Marine Iguana has been in the Galapagos Islands for over 8 million years.

The Galapagos Islands are home to eleven different subspecies of Marine Iguanas. In 2017, the first comprehensive taxonomic review of the species in more than 50 years resulted in new findings.  Based on morphological and genetic evidence, there is now recognition of five new subspecies. Come and experience these unique creatures.

A. c. cristatus Bell, 1825 (albermarlensis and ater are a junior synonyms) – Isabela and Fernandina Islands

A. c. godzilla Miralles et al., 2017 – northeastern part of San Cristóbal Island

A. c. hassi Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1962 – Santa Cruz Island and smaller adjacent islands such as Baltra

A. c. hayampi Miralles et al., 2017 – Marchena Island

A. c. jeffreysi Miralles et al., 2017 – Wolf, Darwin and Roca Redonda islands

A. c. mertensi Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1962 – southwestern part of San Cristóbal Island

A. c. nanus Garman, 1892 – Genovesa Island

A. c. sielmanni Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1962 – Pinta Island

A. c. trillmichi Miralles et al., 2017 – Santa Fé Island

A. c. venustissimus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1956 – Española (including adjacent tiny Gardener Island) and Floreana Islands

  1. c. wikelskii Miralles et al., 2017 – Santiago Island and smaller nearby islands such as Rábida

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands.  She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Apartment Hotel serving guests in Galapagos.

Aug21
Bartolome Pinnacle rock Galapagos
Add amazing experiences to your family’s holiday vacation.

If you are looking for a great adventure holiday vacation for your family the Galapagos Islands are a perfect choice. Family holiday travel is better than toys. As I told my son, it is more important in life to collect experiences rather than things. Vacations with family allow you and your children the opportunity to explore the world and collect experiences. The Galapagos Islands is a wonderful location to do just that.

The Galapagos is a great place to introduce your family to wildlife. While visiting the Galapagos Islands there are opportunities to interact with the endemic wildlife found nowhere else on earth as well as native species. The unique flora and fauna offer a special natural experience. As a land-based visitor, you can have close encounters with the Galapagos giant tortoise. View the northernmost penguin in the world. When you see the Galapagos marine iguana and land iguana you will think you have traveled to the land of the lost. The Galapagos Islands can inspire new bird watchers where you can observe some of the rarest birdlife in the world.  The Galapagos dove is a resident on Santa Cruz Island. You can also watch Blue-footed boobies fish in the bay and the Galapagos night heron walk the streets of Puerto Ayora.  Galapagos is home to 12 species of Darwin finches. The endemic Scalesia forest in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island is host to both birds and plant life.

The Galapagos is a wondrous place to snorkel and scuba dive.  Waters surrounding the Galapagos are teeming with life. The curious Galapagos sea lion is fun to encounter while in the water and to share the beach with while they nap. If you are interested in sharks, the Galapagos marine reserve has the highest concentration of sharks in the world. You can observe serval different species while visiting. There are many colorful tropical fish to discover in the Pacific waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands. 

The volcanically formed the Galapagos Islands have many opportunities to explore unusual geological formations.  Enjoy the breathtaking view of the Pinnacle rock on Bartolome Island. Explore lava tunnels and sinkholes.  The younger islands have active volcanos.

While experiencing the amazing flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands, your family can also enjoy the local culture of the friendly island community in the Galapagos Islands. There are several great restaurants on Santa Cruz where your family can try local cuisine and enjoy local products such as fresh produce, grass-fed beef, artisan caught seafood, and organic coffee.  The Galapagos Islands offers many memorable experiences for your family to collect. We are looking forward to your visit. 

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands.  She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Apartment Hotel serving guests in Galapagos.

Aug20
Galapagos natives enjoying the beach.

The Galapagos Islands wildlife is the primary reason our guests come to Galapagos. Visitors have the opportunity to observe and interact with the unique wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago. The Galapagos Islands were one of the last places discovered by man on earth.  The wildlife of Galapagos had lived in an environment free of humans until 1535.

Charles Darwin did not discover the Galapagos Islands. There has been speculation that earlier mariners such as the Incas or Polynesians may have visited the Galapagos. There is no record of humans visiting or inhabiting Galapagos until Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the bishop of Panama, sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants after the conquest of the Incas. As his ship was sailing to Peru, the winds died and strong currents carried his ship to the Galapagos archipelago. On March 10, 1535, they came upon the Galapagos Islands. He wrote an account of the adventure and discovery and sent it to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and King of Spain. This is the first recorded visit of the Galapagos by man. 

Due to the isolation of the Galapagos Islands, the wildlife, for the most part, have not developed a fear of humans that you normally see in wildlife when you go on wildlife expeditions. Animals in Galapagos show curiosity or do not pay much attention to the new human creators in their home environment. To preserve this unique wildlife interaction, the Galapagos National Park has rules to preserve the animals’ carefree attitude toward humans that both visitors and locals alike observe.

The Galapagos Islands are home to a large number of endemic species that are found nowhere else on earth. Approximately 80% of the land birds you will see, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, and more than 30% of the plants are endemic. More than 20% of the marine species in Galapagos are also endemic. You will not experience these Galapagos animals and plants anywhere else on earth. Some of the favorite animals to see are the Galapagos giant tortoise, marine iguana, and the Galapagos penguin. The Galapagos is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere that you will find penguins. If you are looking for a special wildlife expedition experience the Galapagos Islands are an excellent choice for your adventure.

Donna Daugherty is a long time permanent resident of the Galapagos Islands. She has worked as a consultant for the Charles Darwin Foundation and is a founding member of Ambiente Independiente. She is an entrepreneur owning and developing businesses for over 20 years. The owner of Torre Mar Galapagos Apartment Hotel serving guests in Galapagos.

Aug15

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

El Chato Tortoise Reserve Tortoise

Here, you can admire the endangered Galapagos tortoises, the largest species of tortoise in the world! – Observe these exotic Galapagos animals as they are, in the wild, where you can get up close and personal. The giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands are famous for their impressive size (some weigh over 500 pounds) and their long life spans (averaging more than 100 years).

Located south of Santa Rosa is El Chato Tortoise Reserve, where you can observe these giant tortoises in the wild. When these virtually catatonic, prehistoric-looking beasts extend their accordion-like necks to feed, it’s an impressive sight. The reserve is also a good place to look for short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, Galápagos rails, and paint-billed crakes. These last two are difficult to see in the long grass. The reserve is part of the national park and a guide is required.

While visiting, including a visit to the famous Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. The work at Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park, which includes breeding giant tortoises, is immensely important, and if you have ample time, by all means, pay a visit.

While visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station you observe the tortoises and iguanas in enclosures. Those with limited time should forgo the station in favor of one of the beautiful farms adjoining the national park in the tortoises’ migration path. There we observed numerous tortoises lumbering through the grass and wallowing contentedly in muddy pools. They will cross in and out of the adjacent national reserve unimpeded. Here, you can admire the endangered Galapagos tortoises, the largest species of tortoise in the world!  Observe these exotic Galapagos animals as they are, in the wild, where you can get up close and personal.
The Galapagos tortoise definitely leaves an impression, with its prehistoric looks and odd, extendable neck!
The experience at El Chato Tortoise Reserve is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.

Jun05

What do you do in Galapagos on Sunday? Sundays are a day to relax and enjoy a family. Many people will go to the beach or take some time to enjoy the beauty of the highlands. The highlands are a wonderful place to go hiking or bird watching. There is a good chance you might cross paths with a Galapagos Tortoise. Lunch in the highlands is a must. The many of the open air restaurants in the highlands are only open on Sunday.

Biking to the highlands of Santa Cruz Is. is part of the local tradition, and of course after a long bike ride stop in Bellavista for a Sunday Free range chicken soup or chicken stew.