Saturday, December 5, 2009

Welcome to Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands

Measuring the Earth
... Did you know ...
In 1936, on the 200th anniversary of the French Academy of Sciences two expeditions to Ecuador to determine the true shape of the earth the Ecuadorian government built a stone pyramid on the equator in honor of the explorers who risked their lives - and sanity - for science.

600 miles off the western coast of Ecuador lies a group of islands so isolated that many of its creatures cannot be found anywhere else on earth.

The Galapagos Islands - The Adventure of a Lifetime

The Galapagos Islands are a rarefied, exotic destination few have had the privilege of seeing.  The islands of the Galapagos archipelago rose from the sea from erupting volcanoes, and have never been connected to the mainland - they are truly a world apart.
There are 19 islands and 42 islets and this region is still considered one of the most volcanically active places in the world.  The archipelago stretches 174 miles and sits on a 'hot spot' in the earth's crust, where hot volcanic magma is always in motion.
The islands are believed to have formed from east to west; the oldest is between 3 and 4 million years old.

The Climate
... Did you know ...
The archipelago's subtropical climate is almost completely determined by sea currents, whose varying temperatures bring seasons that differ only in cloud cover and the amount and type of precipitation.  Smack  on the equator, the islands enjoy 12 hours of sunlight throughout the year
The Seasons
... Did you know ...
The hot or rainy season (late November - June) arrives when the Panama Current warms the nearby waters to 26 degrees C.
The dry season (June - November) arrives with the colder (20 degrees C) waters from the Peru Current

Flora and Fauna
... Did you know ...
Life in the Galapagos is a study in extremes
Parched, rocky islands spread under the equatorial sun are surprisingly rich in life
In contrast, the fragility of the Galapagos ecosystem shows itself in a low level of diversity - there aren't as many different species as one would expect

This is my favorite photo

Sea Lions and Fur Seals
... Did you know ...
Sea Lions of the Galapagos Islands gather in colonies on the sands and rocks
They feed primarily on sardines and can dive as deep as 100 meters
Sea lions feed during the day and spend hours sleeping on the beach
Life span is up to 20 years
... Did you know ...
Fur Seals are smaller than sea lions and are distinguised by their pointed noses and big, round eyes
Unlike sea lions, they feed at night (mostly on squid and small fish)
Visitors often mistake fur seals for seals
Seals do not appear anywhere in the Galapagos

Relaxing on the beach and enjoying the warm sun

Baby Boobies
... Did you know ...
We took this picture without a zoom lens!

Darwin's Finche
... Did you know ...
The Galapagos' 13 species of finches, made famous by Charles Darwin's work, all look more or less alike
The difference Darwin quickly noticed was the beak

Nesting on eggs

Not to worry ... you just step over these guys!

Celebrity Xpedition
... Did you know ...
Life on board starts before 7am with breakfast
There are three levels of tours you can pick from per island
Morning tours take between 2 and 3 hours
Lunch is served at the hottest part of the day while sailing to another island
Dinner is the most important meal of the day (when you need that martini most)
A day in the equatorial sun takes a lot out of you

We visited two different islands per day
... Did you know ...
That walking on wet lava rocks can be slippery
That it's best to be on a ship with a doctor and hosptial

A relaxing tour on the zodiac
... Did you know ...
The Galapagos are every bit as spectular beneth the water's surface as above it
A staggering diversity of life inhabits a wide range of marine habitats, from mangrove estuaries to lava-rocky tide pools

Blue-footed Boobie
... Did you know ...
With no fear of humans photo's can be taken very close

The Xpedition  took us to two islands per day
Most visits were made by zodiac's which meant a 'wet landing'

Sally Lightfoot Crab
... Did you know ...
They are named for their ability to skip across water for short distances
The crabs' brilliant reds and yellows stand out perfectly against dark volcanic rocks

The Greater Flamingos
... Did you know ...
Flamingos are actually white but turn pink from the carotene pigments in the shrimp they eat

Galapagos Sea Lion
... Did you know ...
The Galapagos sea lion is a smaller cousin of the California sea lion
Some 50,000 sea lions sprawl over beaches and rocks throughout the islands

Lava Lizard
... Did you know ...
Seven species of the ubiquitour lava lizard scurry over sand and rock on almost every island