Postcard from The Galapagos…

Hikers admire the view from the Caldera Rim of the Chico Volcano, Sierra Negra, Isabela Island January 2009. Juan Carlos Munoz / NPL

If you roam Isabela, the largest of Ecuador’s fabled Galápagos Islands, you can still soak up the volcanic vistas and eccentric fauna that captivated Charles Darwin and helped inspire his theory of evolution. Near the Puerto Villamil harbor, blue-footed boobies nest. Cat-size marine iguanas ply the Pacific waters and brackish lagoons while endangered Galápagos penguins — the only penguins that live on the equator — waddle among the black lava rocks. “If there’s any hope left for the Galápagos,” says Ermanno Zecchettin, an Italian hotelier who arrived on Isabela 18 years ago, “it’s here.”

But even Isabela may not escape the degradation that the rest of the Galápagos archipelago, perhaps the world’s most treasured natural site, has witnessed in recent decades. Two elegant tourist hotels just went up in Puerto Villamil, and while the owners deny it, the Ecuadoran government says each was built in violation of environmental codes. One, the Isabela Spa, poured concrete into a protected flamingo nesting site. The other sits atop a crossing for marine iguanas — and has the chutzpah to call itself Iguana Crossing. Meanwhile, invasive plants like blackberry bushes, carried in from the South American mainland 600 miles (1,000 km) to the east, are strangling fragile native vegetation.

The Galápagos, the 19 islands that opened Darwin’s eyes to natural selection in the 19th century, face a survival-of-the-fittest test in the 21st. Rampant growth (the population has doubled since 2000, to about 30,000 people) and unbridled tourism (the annual number of visitors has leapt tenfold since 1980, to almost 175,000 in 2008) have battered the biological outpost so badly that the U.N. in 2007 placed it on the list of endangered World Heritage sites. The U.N. is set to decide in July whether to lift that designation, but “pressures on the ecosystem are increasing,” says Gabriel López, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz Island. “And despite important government efforts, they are becoming much more difficult to manage. The growth trends are worrying.”

The Galápagos have been menaced since before Darwin’s day, and as a result, in 1968, Ecuador put 97% of the islands’ territory off-limits to settlers and tourists. But the recent explosion in the numbers of humans and invasive species on the remaining 3% is doing widespread damage. Fishermen have nearly wiped out Galápagos sea cucumbers (a delicacy in Asia), and the larvae of a newly arrived fly, Philornis downsi, prey on the hatchlings of the famous Darwin’s finches. On the Darwin Foundation campus, says López, those birds are suffering “100% mortality.”

The big question is whether the left-wing government of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is up to saving the Galápagos. The U.N. has noted some progress. Illegal migration to the archipelago has been curbed. Pinzón Island has been restored enough to allow the reintroduction of giant tortoises this month. Recycling and other green campaigns have begun on the islands, and ships leaving Guayaquil, Ecuador, for the Galápagos must now be disinfected. But Patrimony Minister María Fernanda Espinosa concedes that the administration still needs to get ahead of the curve on issues like illegal hotel construction. “There will be zero tolerance,” she pledges. “There’s a [limit] to how far the Galápagos economy can keep growing, and it’s obvious there won’t be enough for everyone.”

But is her message reaching as far as Puerto Villamil? Through his harborside office window, Mayor Bolívar Tupiza, a Correa ally, can see azure ocean waters; inside, the walls are covered with idyllic paintings of Galápagos wildlife. “Isabela should remain pristine,” Tupiza insists. “We have a great deal of conscience about this.” But just outside, a tourism operator angrily complains to one municipal official about another, whom she accuses of undercutting her business and threatening to assault her. If Ecuador isn’t careful, the Galápagos could keep evolving in ways that are anything but pristine.

Advertisements
Posted in Environment Conservation, Tourism Ecotourism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Galapagos Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K Running Events

GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR — 06/01/10 — “The Come To Galapagos Marathon, La Marathon San Cristobal” (previously named The Flying Tortoise Marathon and Running Events) will be held on San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador August First, 2010 this year.”The Come To Galapagos” Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K are international sporting events dedicated to the protection of these islands, the education of visitors and the development of ecologically sustainable economies here in the Galapagos.

Supported by the local government, police, the National Army, The Charles Darwin Foundation, The Galapagos National Park, Ingala and various private companies, the Marathon and running events are integral parts in our efforts to develop sustainable, independent, truly eco responsible economic practices that unify the various government institutions and the community. For environmental reasons the maximum number of runners will be limited to 250.

Although a “boutique” event, it is managed and promoted in a first class manner, garners worldwide attention and insures publicity for sponsors, the future of the event and provides an annual direct economic boost to the community while maintaining ecologically sound practices (runners leave only footprints).

Come To Galapagos CIA. LTDA, Ecuador, and Come To Galapagos LLC, United States, (www.cometogalapagos.com) have been leaders in developing sustainable economic practices in the Galapagos since 2004. Working with local fisherman, farmers, hotels, restaurants and other services, Come To Galapagos LLC and Come To Galapagos CIA. LTDA provides community based vacations for international visitors that are unsurpassed both in the experience of the Galapagos and education of the visitors concerning the reality of the Galapagos today.

For the three races, Marathon, Half Marathon and a 10K there are aid stations every two kilometers and Extreme Sporting Events EMT’s monitoring the runners and courses.

We have done everything possible to design a course primarily with the health of the runners in mind and secondly that is an interesting and scenic route.

Come to the Galapagos, run and help the future of these islands.

More information is available at:
www.cometogalapagos.com/Flying_Turtle_Marathon.asp
In Spanish www.cometogalapagosmarathon.com

Source…

Posted in Positive News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Noroviruses Identified as Common Cause of Travelers’ Diarrhea

Important reading for all Hoteliers and Travelers alike. RH

Check details on my other blog 0°00’00” Latitude South

Posted in Health, Tourism Ecotourism | Tagged | Leave a comment

Giant endangered tortoises released on Pinta Island, Galapagos

Giant Tortoise Geochelone

Quito – Officials of the Galápagos National Park announced the release of 39 giant tortoises on Pinta Island in the Ecuadorian Galápagos archipelago where the animals had disappeared since 1972.

According to the agency, the relocation of these endangered reptiles, known as Geochelone nigra, is part of “a long-term management plan, which will allow the restoration of the ecosystem integrity and the re-establishment of ecological processes characteristic of this island.”

Continue reading

Posted in Positive News | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Birding Ecuador & Galapagos : Great Blog by Derek…

Birding Ecuador by Derek

Source…Birding Ecuador : A great Blog for all the Birders out there…Worth a click…Enjoy RH

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UNESCO Touts Galapagos Environmental Progress, Warns of Risks…

Galapagos

QUITO – The UNESCO mission that has been monitoring Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago spoke of progress in the islands’ conservation and improved living conditions for its population, but also warned of possible risks from tourism and the current change of government there.

In a press release in Quito, Mark Patrick, representative of the World Heritage Center of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said that the mission was being carried out at the request of the Ecuadorian government to evaluate the islands’ development.

The mission also analyzed the conservation efforts underway and the national and international investments being made “to improve not only the environment, but also the standard of living” of the settlers.

Continue reading

Posted in RED FLAG !!! | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ecuador Limits a 2-Legged Species to Protect Galápagos

Published: October 4, 2009 Go To Source…nytimes.com

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times  Migrants from the mainland have put pressure on the wildlife of the Galápagos.

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times Migrants from the mainland have put pressure on the wildlife of the Galápagos.

PUERTO AYORA, Galápagos Islands — The mounds of reeking garbage on the edge of this settlement 600 miles off Ecuador’s Pacific coast are proof that one species is thriving on the fragile archipelago whose unique wildlife inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution: man.

The New York Times  The booming human population of the archipelago, which doubled to about 30,000 in the last decade, has unnerved environmentalists.

The New York Times The booming human population of the archipelago, which doubled to about 30,000 in the last decade, has unnerved environmentalists.

Tiny gray finches, descendants of birds that were crucial to his thesis, flutter around the dump, which serves a growing town of Ecuadoreans who have moved here to work in the islands’ thriving tourism industry.

The burgeoning human population of the Galápagos, which doubled to about 30,000 in the last decade, has unnerved environmentalists. They point to evidence that the growth is already harming the ecosystem that allowed the islands’ more famous inhabitants — among them giant tortoises and boobies with brightly colored webbed feet — to evolve in isolation before mainlanders started colonizing the islands more than a century ago.

The growth has become enough of a threat to the environment that even the government, which still welcomes growth in the tourism industry, has expelled more than 1,000 poor Ecuadoreans in the past year from a province that they feel is rightfully theirs, and it is in the process of expelling many more.

By limiting the population, officials hope to preserve the natural wonders that bolster one of Ecuador’s most profitable sectors: tourism. But the measures are feeding a backlash among unskilled migrants who say they are being punished while the country continues to enjoy the many millions of dollars tourists bring to Ecuador, one of South America’s poorest nations.

“We are being told that a tortoise for a rich foreigner to photograph is worth more than an Ecuadorean citizen,” said María Mariana de Reina Bustos, 54, a migrant from Ambato in Ecuador’s central Andean valley, whose 22-year-old daughter, Olga, was recently rounded up by the police near the slum of La Cascada and put on a plane to the mainland.

Continue reading

Posted in RED FLAG !!! | Tagged | Leave a comment

Galapagos – Kicker Rock & More…

Sunrise on Kicker Rock from the boat, on our last morning on the Galapagos archipelago. We kayaked and snorkeled around the cliffs (saw some sharks, too), and of course, all I could think of was how many great rock climbing routes were waiting to be explored...

Sunrise on Kicker Rock from the boat, on our last morning on the Galapagos archipelago. We kayaked and snorkeled around the cliffs (saw some sharks, too), and of course, all I could think of was how many great rock climbing routes were waiting to be explored...

A bit messier than fork and knife, but also more efficient...

A bit messier than fork and knife, but also more efficient...

More Great Pictures…Go To Source…aperturefirst.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Third Phase of the K9 Project in the Galapagos Completed

The construction of the dog kennel on Isabela Island has been completed and the guides and dogs have been transported to the island. The dogs will commence their inspection on Isabela, which has the highest level of poaching in the Galapagos, in an effort to reduce crime there.

Construction on Isabela on the day it was completed

Construction on Isabela on the day it was completed

Construction had been delayed due to lack of funds for months and would still be on hold if it weren’t for the incredible efforts of Sea Shepherd volunteers from Fremantle, Australia.

Construction had been delayed due to lack of funds for months and would still be on hold if it weren’t for the incredible efforts of Sea Shepherd volunteers from Fremantle, Australia.

For months they have been organizing extra fundraising events specifically aimed to raise the money for the construction.

he Fremantle group from left to right: Leith, Craig, Paul, Louis, Shaun, Jasmin plus Brandy the Dog

he Fremantle group from left to right: Leith, Craig, Paul, Louis, Shaun, Jasmin plus Brandy the Dog

The Fremantle group from left to right: Brita, Michael, and Jess

The Fremantle group from left to right: Brita, Michael, and Jess

Read More…Go To Source…worldzootoday.com

Posted in Positive News | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to Protect the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are astounding, unique, fascinating and relatively untouched by humans. As a marine reserve and a national park, the Galapagos have many restrictions in place to safeguard the islands – so if you plan a visit, keep in mind the rules and laws of the islands.
The Galapagos Islands are astounding, unique, fascinating and relatively untouched by humans. As a marine reserve and a national park, the Galapagos have many restrictions in place to safeguard the islands – so if you plan a visit, keep in mind the rules and laws of the islands.

The Galapagos Islands are astounding, unique, fascinating and relatively untouched by humans. As a marine reserve and a national park, the Galapagos have many restrictions in place to safeguard the islands – so if you plan a visit, keep in mind the rules and laws of the islands.

Before you Visit

Luggage – Do not plan on bringing a lot of luggage with you to the Galapagos. Most flights do not accept more than 44 pounds (20 kilos) of baggage.

Passports – Galapagos requires that travelers carry their passport to the islands and the passport number must be furnished one month prior to arrival.

Entrance Fee – A $100 per person fee must be paid upon arrival at the Galapagos airport. This rate is can sometimes change.

On the Island

Once on the Galapagos Islands, the serene calmness and beauty of the islands becomes apparent. While the islands’ species are not immune from the effects of humans, the Galapagos give a true glimpse of nature at its purist. Much credit for this can be given to the Ecuadorian Government that passed the first laws to protect the islands animals, plants, and insects over 75 years ago. Today, many laws and rules are in place to preserve the island’s splendor.

Take Pictures, Not Souvenirs
– As tempting as it is to bring part of the island home with you, it is best to settle for photos. Island ecology experts stress that you should not buy or take home souvenirs such as turtle shells, sea lion teeth and black coral. While the trade of some objects is not strictly illegal, it can be very disruptive to the islands ecological conditions.

No Touching Animals
– Sure they are cute, cuddly and the sea lions seem to call to you, but it is not a good idea to touch the animals. Sea lion pups are sometimes abandoned if they have the scent of a human on them.

Don’t Leave the Trails
– This is for your safety as much as it is for the protection of the Islands. Visitors must stay on trails that are marked with black and white posts. Wondering off the trail can, for instance, result in the destruction of marine iguana nests, which are buried beneath the sand.

No Traveling On Your Own – Visitors to the National Park are required to be accompanied by a qualified guide. Traveling on your own is forbidden.

No Littering – All disposals must be removed from the islands as it can harm or kill some species. Plastic bags have been known to suffocate sea turtles.

Following these easy rules will ensure that the Galapagos Islands are preserved and protected.

Posted in RED FLAG !!! | Tagged | Leave a comment