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Planning and Packing for your Galapagos Adventure

Planning and Packing for your Galapagos Adventure

​​​​​​​Taking the time to plan and pack properly will help you to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Read on for tips from people who’ve been before…
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Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Teeming with orchids, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans and butterflies, a few days in a Mindo cloud forest lodge is a wonderful addition to any Galapagos itinerary. The Mindo cloud forest is two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Quito, on the outer slopes of the western Andes. It's located at a very pleasant altitude of around 4,200ft (compared to 9,200ft in Quito). The drive there is really scenic, along winding roads with great forest views. The cloud forest itself is an enchanting world of tumbling waterfalls, crystalline rivers, endemic orchids, colorful hummingbirds and thick, verdant forests packed full of wildlife. The lodges Mashpi Lodge is a 5-star establishment with gorgeous rooms, fine dining and professional service. That being said, it’s also a very eco-friendly lodge and is located in an extremely pristine section of forest which is home to a staggering 500 species of birds. Check out this video of their incredible ‘Dragon Fly’ cable car through the canopy. Run by Tom …
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Things to do in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Things to do in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Most first-time visitors to the wildlife wonder that is the Galapagos are surprised that it's got a bona fide town, with shops and restaurants and schools. Read on to find out more about Puerto Ayora's main attractions. Catch a pelican in the act at the fish market There's a real buzz at the market when the fishing boats come in at the end of the day. Watch as the fishermen unload their catch, the locals pick out their dinner, and the sea lions and pelicans try to steal scraps. After hours the market transforms itself into an open air plate. For a modest fee you can enjoy a seafood feast at a shared table with local patrons. Photo credit: John Haxby Hobnob with the iguanas at Tortuga Bay This vast, white sandy beach is reached via a 20 minute walk from Puerto Ayora. It's open from 6am to 6pm Access is controlled by the Galapagos Park Service. The bay actually incorporates several distinct beaches. There's a surfing beach (beware the currents), a swimming beach (watch out for the …
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What to do on your Guayaquil stopover

What to do on your Guayaquil stopover

Many Galapagos itineraries include a stopover in Guayaquil, the so-called Pearl of the Pacific. Follow these tips to make the most out of your time in Ecuador's largest city.  Visit the Parque de las Iguanas Although it's officially called Parque Seminario, this small plaza is known as the Iguana Park to locals and tourists alike. And with good reason. While most parks around the world have to make do with pigeons, ducks or squirrels, this place is a little different. A large breeding population of land iguanas has called the park home for as long as anyone can remember. The iguanas sit on benches, eat bread and fruit from the hands of visitors and occasionally even rest on the park's benches. South America is a continent full of surprises, but even seasoned lovers of LatAm will find this a pretty surreal experience... Photo credit Windell Oskay Take a stroll on the Malecón 2000 The Malecón 2000 is the pedestrianized section of the Malecón Simón Bolívar – the road which skirts the …
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Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Charles Darwin based his Theory Of Evolution on the terrestrial observations he made in the Galapagos. This gorgeous underwater film details what he would have seen if he'd been able to witness the islands' underwater wonders. The film features incredible footage of hammerhead sharks, marine iguanas and countless birds, fish and other sea creatures, so watch and enjoy... If you're the bookish type why not read about Darwin's finches, the unlikely poster girls (and boys!) of the Theory of Evolution. If you want to see this watery wonderland for yourself you'll be glad to know that our Galapagos island hopping itinerary includes two different snorkeling excursions. If you're a seasoned SCUBA pro check out this article to find out more about the Best SCUBA sites in South America...including a few in the Galaps, of course. Full credit to filmmaker Dustin Adamson for allowing us to post Darwin's Dream on our blog.
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5 must-sees in Quito’s gorgeous Old Town

5 must-sees in Quito’s gorgeous Old Town

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is so much more than a Galapagos stopover. The city’s historic center was the first place on the planet to be conferred with UNESCO World Heritage status and it’s the biggest and best-preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture anywhere in the Americas. Quito’s Old Town is so jampacked with incredible experiences, that it can be hard to choose which ones to visit. We’ve done the legwork for you and handpicked 5 of the very best. Plaza Grande Although it’s formally known as Plaza de la Independencia, locals refer to Quito’s main plaza as Plaza Grande. The plaza is flanked by some of the city’s most historical and imposing buildings including the cathedral, the Palacio de Carondolet (the president’s palace and seat of government) and the Palacio Arzobispal. The heart of the Old Town (Photo Diego Delso) Although the cathedral isn’t the most ornate church in town, it does have an excellent collection of art from the Escuela Quiteña or Quito School. …
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Galapagos highlight: Charles Darwin Research Station

Galapagos highlight: Charles Darwin Research Station

See Galapagos giant tortoises in all stages of development – from tiny babies to adult behemoths. Plus a breeding program for land iguanas and other informative exhibits. The Charles Darwin Foundation is an international non-profit which has been working with the Ecuadorian government since 1959 to provide scientific knowledge and assistance to help conserve the Galapagos’ unique ecosystems. In addition to the invaluable scientific work there is a small visitors’ centre at their HQ near Puerto Ayora. Great things happen in this building. (Photo: Les Williams) You will encounter adult Galapagos giant tortoises at several points on your Galapagos adventure, but the Charles Darwin Research Station affords you the opportunity of seeing them at all stages of growth from unhatched eggs to full-grown adults. It is quite incredible to see the young hatchlings which weigh as little as 1.8 ounces and measure only 2.4 inches. Remember: the hatchery is about far more than pleasing tourists: …
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Weird wildlife of the Galapagos: the Marine Iguana

Weird wildlife of the Galapagos: the Marine Iguana

If you’re planning (or dreaming of) a Galapagos vacation, you’re almost certainly interested in the myriad endemic species which call the archipelago home. There’s no denying that the Galapagos tortoises are the islands’ most famous representatives, but the marine iguana comes a close second. Every visitor to the Galapagos Islands is guaranteed to see hundreds if not thousands of them, and if you know nothing about them you may well, like Darwin before you, view them as “large, disgusting, clumsy lizards”. This would be a pity, however, as they are fascinating creatures which are unique in many ways. Read on to find out more… What sets them apart? In the system of biological classification they have a genus all to themselves and are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They aren’t just only seagoing iguanas in the world, they are in fact the only seagoing lizard of any type. They can hold their breath under water for up to 30 minutes. During times of famine (El Niño years), marine …
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The incredible mating dance of the blue-footed booby

The incredible mating dance of the blue-footed booby

The blue-footed booby is an absolutely unforgettable bird, and it's common throughout the Galapagos Islands. No-one knows why their feet are so blue, although the most common theory is that it's something to do with their diet. Be that as it may, there's no doubting that the shade of blue plays a role in their mating rituals: the bluer the better! This excerpt from the Galapagos Conservation Trust explains their truly unique dance in more detail: "During the mating season (June to August), the booby performs an elaborate mating dance unmatched by other seabird species, which starts when the male gives the female a small stone or stick.  He then tips his beak, tail, and wing tips to the sky and whistles.  They slowly march around each other and display their bright blue feet for hours. " Now that you've read about it, it's time to see it for yourself...accompanied by an extremely appropriate soundtrack by Cake - a band that is almost as quirky as the boobies themselves. Almost.  
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Ignore the Galapagos mockingbirds at your peril

Ignore the Galapagos mockingbirds at your peril

Your dreams of a once-in-a-lifetime Galapagos vacation are probably jam-packed with tortoises, iguanas, boobies, turtles, penguins and whales, so it’s highly unlikely that you will have given the Galapagos mockingbirds much thought. But that will all change when you actually visit the islands. You see, the Española Mockingbird is so brazen and plucky that it point blank refuses to be ignored, so much so that it regularly lands on tourists at Punta Suarez. But it’s not all bark and no bite: there are actually very valid scientific reasons to pay attention to the Española Mockingbird and its cousins the Galapagos, San Cristóbal and Floreana Mockingbirds. Punta Suarez (Picture: Doriana del Sarto) Darwin and the mockingbirds The so-called ‘Darwin’s finches’ and the emblematic Galapagos tortoises may get most of the evolutionary attention, but the four endemic species of mockingbird actually played a far greater role in Darwin arriving at his theory of evolution than all those other …
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Wildlife checklist: The Galapagos Tortoise

Wildlife checklist: The Galapagos Tortoise

If you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos, you’re almost certainly a nature lover and you’re also probably interested in Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. If this is the case you’ll definitely want a bit of background on the animals you’ll encounter on your once-in-a-lifetime Galapagos adventure…and where better to start than the iconic Galapagos Tortoise. Not only are the islands named after them (the old Spanish word galápago referred either to their saddle-shaped shells or just to the tortoises themselves, depending on who you believe) but, perhaps more importantly, the variations between the populations on different islands were responsible for planting the seed of evolution in Darwin’s mind. Picture: Tim Snell What are they doing there? Believe it or not the tortoises actually swam the 1000 km (or perhaps were carried by the strong Humboldt current – they are very weak swimmers) from mainland South America. Although they look like the giant tortoises found on …
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Evolution 101: Darwin’s finches

Evolution 101: Darwin’s finches

You couldn’t really pick a less likely pinup if you tried, but Darwin’s finches are undeniably the face of evolution. Six inches high, and drab in the extreme, they don’t make quite as good a first impression as – say – a blue-footed booby or a giant tortoise. But, for a change, this poster boy isn’t all about looks... Small ground finch Why all the fuss? Darwin’s finches are textbook examples of genetic mutation. All 13 species descended from a single ancestor which came to the islands from mainland South America, each developing unique characteristics which make them ideally suited to eating very specific foods. The biggest differences between the species lie in their beaks. The three ‘tree finches’ and the warbler finch have needle-like beaks which are great for skewering insects. The four ‘ground finches’ have blunt, short beaks for crushing seeds. The vegetarian finch and the two ‘cactus finches’ have long beaks which have evolved specifically for tearing at the flesh …
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