Ecuador – Galápagos Islands Cruise – August 2001
Without question the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are among the most fascinating travel destinations that the world has to offer. It is nearly impossible not to focus on all that you can discover and learn while on the trip, so the difficulty in describing this travel experience is in not making it seem like a dry educational program. We promise not to let science get in the way of our sense of wonder, or an appreciation of the remarkable natural beauty, or the simple enjoyment of communing with a cast of amazing creatures – all of whom seem totally unconcerned by the presence of human visitors.
The Galapagos are volcanic islands situated at a point where three different tectonic plates rub up against each other about 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador. The islands are slowly drifting to the east, so that as an island moves away from the area with the most volcanic action, new islands are formed to the west of the earlier island. The process is not as tidy as this description, but these are the basic mechanics which created the island chain. The result is that there are several different land masses within a relatively small area which are at dramatically different stages of development – from bare lava rock to lush equatorial jungle.
Our Galapagos Islands vacation cruise began and ended on Isla San Cristobal (formerly Chatham Island), one of the oldest islands and home of Galapagos Province capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The four day cruise was structured so that our first stop was at a small rocky hill, estimated to be no more than a few hundred hundred thousand years old, at the tip of Isla Bartolome. The final stop was at Isla Santa Cruz (formerly Indefatigable Island), believed to be 3-5 million years old. The effect was as close to time travel as anything you can imagine (without warping any dimensions).
The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a very pleasant destination in its own right, and is a secondary hub to Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz as a center for tourism. Tours in the Galapagos are regulated by the Ecuadoran government regarding the number of boats, and the qualifications of captains and guides. Although we had a pre-booked cruise arranged, the more spontaneous traveler could easily set up base in Puerto Moreno or Puerto Ayora, confer with the locals, and arrange their own custom trip(s) to the other islands with a high degree of confidence.
Not surprisingly, the close proximity of the different Galapagos Islands means that many of the same types of plants and animals are found on several of the islands. On the other hand, the radically different environmental conditions on the individual islands led to the adaptations – the location specific differences in the same species from place to place – that helped to crystallize Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution and natural selection.
Page 2 – Galapagos Giant Tortoise
Page 3 – Galapagos Environments
Page 4 – Galapagos Islands Wildlife
Page 5 – More Galapagos Wildlife
Page 6 – A Glimpse of Ecuador