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Ecuador
   GALAPAGOS ...
Inroduction
The Islands
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ecuador
 
 PLACES TO VISIT
Fernandina Island [Narborough]
Fernandina is the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, and it is also the most active volcanically, with frequent eruptions. It is one of the least contaminated islands in terms of introduced species. You can visit Punta Espinoza, where there are marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, sea lions, penguins, and Galapagos hawks on the relatively young lava landscapes.

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North Seymour Island
This is an uplifted island, which is quite flat. There is a trail to follow which takes you through Palo Santo forest, past colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate bird colonies and beaches with marine iguanas and sea lions.

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Santa Cruz [Indefatigable]
This is the most populated of the islands. Puerto Ayora is the main town, with all the amenities you would expect to service the large number of tourists passing through and the resident population. The Charles Darwin Research Centre is within walking distance of the town, and definitely worth a visit. Here you can see the giant land tortoises, or Galapagos, which once roamed the islands. In the 1800s their populations were severely reduced as whalers would capture them and keep them on board as a fresh meat supply.

Also from Puerto Ayora you can walk the 3km to Turtle bay, just southwest of town. A trip to the interior of the island is fascinating, to see the twin craters Los Gemelos in the highland Scalesia forest. This lush forest is found above the dry zone on Santa Cruz, and receives most of its moisture from the garua, a mist often present in the highlands particularly during July and December.

About 10km from Puerto Ayora there are several lava tubes you can go inside. These are characteristic of volcanic scenery, and are formed by the cooling of the outer layer of flowing lava leaving the molten lava inside still flowing leaving a space behind it and creating a tunnel. The other place you can visit on the island is the Tortoise Reserve near Santa Rosa.

The Charles Darwin Research Station [CDRS] is the operative branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, an international, non-governmental, scientific, non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Galapagos Islands since 1959.

As part of a formal agreement with the Government of Ecuador, CDRS conducts and facilitates research in Galapagos to supply information and technical assistance to the Galapagos National Park Service and other branches of the government. CDRS also provides environmental education to island communities and schools and to the visitors that come to Galapagos each year. Ecuadorian university students receive hands-on training in science, education, and conservation at CDRS through volunteer and scholarship programs.

The principal focus of Charles Darwin Research Station is scientific research. Research by staff scientists and consultants is directed mainly toward the conservation and management of Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Marine Resources Reserve. Visiting scientists from all over the world come to Galapagos to perform research on a wide variety of topics, such as evolutionary biology, geology, eco-tourism, climatology, and population genetics.

CDRS promotes research tables and cooperative research agreements with both national and international scientific research institutions. The information generated by this research is provided to decision makers of the Government of Ecuador, published in refereed scientific journals and internal reports, and interpreted for visitors and environmental education programs in the Islands.

The major physical plant of CDRS is located on Santa Cruz Island, and is reached by air from the airport on Baltra Island, north of Santa Cruz. The Station facilities include a Library, Museum, Herbarium, Marine Laboratory, Darkroom, Computer Center, Research Boat “Beagle”, and Forestry Nursery. There is accommodation for visiting researchers, students, and staff; office and laboratory buildings; and a public area which constitutes an official Visitor Site of Galapagos National Park, where visitors can view young and adult giant tortoises in the Breeding and Rearing Center. CDRS also has representatives on San Cristobal and Isabela Islands, who offer support to researchers and perform environmental education.

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Espanola [Hood]
This is the oldest of the islands, and it has eroded away to such an extent that it is quite small and flat, with no visible volcanic crater. There are two places to visit on the island, Gardner bay on the east and Punta Suarez on the western side.

Gardner bay has a long white sandy beach which is a nesting area for marine turtles, and is also used by sea lions. Snorkelling is good, you may see turtles and sharks.

Near Punta Suarez is the only colony and nesting site of the waved albatross on the Galapagos. Approximately 12,000 pairs come to the island to breed between late March and December.

In addition there are many other interesting species of wildlife to be spotted here including an endemic marine iguana, Hood mockingbirds, lava lizards, cactus finch, blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, oyster catchers.

Beyond the waved albatross colony there is a spectacular blowhole at its best in heavy swell, when it spouts water 20m into the air.

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Floreana [Charles]
There are three areas to visit on Floreana Island, Post Office Bay, Devil's Crown and Punta Cormorant.

Post Office bay is the site of the original Post Office barrel placed by British Whalers to send letters home in 1793. The barrel today isn’t the same one but you can still leave letters here in the hope that another passing tourist will pick them up and take them to their destination.

Punta Cormorant has two contrasting beaches. You land at a dark coloured beach with olivine crystals, and then walk, past a salt lagoon where you may spot wading birds including flamingos, pintails and stilts, to a fine golden sandy beach where is a nesting site for green sea turtles. You may also see sting rays in the water.

It isn’t permitted to go in the water here. Just offshore from Punta Cormorant lies the Devil’s Crown. It is a collection of rocks, a half-submerged crater. The snorkelling around here is excellent with plenty of fish and the chance to play with young sea lions. The rocks themselves are a popular roosting site for boobies, pelicans, and frigates. red-billed tropic birds can also be seen and sometimes nest in crevices in the rocks.

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Isabela [Albemarle]
This is the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago, nearly 5,000km2, and 112km from end to end. It is one of the youngest islands and consists of a series of five volcanoes connected by their lava flows. The highest of all Galapagos peaks is found here, it is Volcan Wolf [1,707m].

The latest eruption in the Galapagos was on Isabela Island when Cerro Azul Volcano began erupting. This was the first eruption in the Galapagos for twenty years.

Isabela is one of the most dramatic of all the islands, with some superb volcanic scenery. There are several interesting sites to visit on Isabela including Alcedo Volcano, Elizabeth Bay, Tagus Cove and Urvina Bay. There are five distinct subspecies of the Galapagos tortoise on Isabela.

The Volcano Alcedo is one of five shield volcanoes on the island. It is a four to six hour strenuous trek to get to the rim of the crater. The views inside and outside the crater are outstanding. There are steaming fumaroles and Galapagos giant tortoises of the Alcedo subspecies. It’s a good idea to spend a night in this area if you have time, and there are several placesto camp, at the beach, on the way up and around the crater.

Elizabeth Bay is a good place for seeing marine turtles, flightless cormorants and rays. Tagus Cove was popular with pirates and whalers, and some of the names of the many ships that visited the cove are painted on the cliffs. On land you can see a salt water lagoon and the lava fields of Darwin Volcano, while along the cliffs from the sea you may find the elusive Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormorant, and other sea birds.

Urvina Bay, on the west side of the island is the remains of a coral reef uplifted from the sea in 1954. The area is good for seabirds, especially flightless cormorants and brown pelicans. You can also find an endemic marine iguana, rays, and marine turtles.

The crater of Sierra Negra Volcano at the southern end of Isabela measures 10km across. It is possible to visit this area and also the area just to the north known as Volcan Chico. This comprises a groups of craters where you can see fumaroles.

On the southeast of the island is Puerto Villamil, a small fishing village with about 500 inhabitants. A road with good views of the southern Galapagos Islands goes from here towards Sierra Negra. Near Puerto Villamil there are lagoons and mangrove forests with flamingoes and other wading birds.

There is also an Experimental Station near the port of Villamil, where the Galapagos National Park are doing experiments to aid reproduction of the subspecies of Geochelone elephantopus gunteri [tortoise].

Las Tintoreras, just a few minutes by boat from the Puerto Villamil, is a good place to observe the White tipped shark.

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