lunes, 24 de diciembre de 2012

Galapagos Travel Information

Galapagos Islands Travel Guide 

Listed below, are the 13 main islands (with a land area larger than 1 km2) of the archipelago (with their English names) shown alphabetically:
Baltra Island – Also known as South Seymour, Baltra is a small flat island located near the centre of the Galapagos. It was created by geological uplift. The island is very arid, and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear cacti and palo santo trees.

Until 1986, Baltra Airport was the only airport serving the Galapagos. Now, there are two airports which receive flights from the continent; the other is located on San Cristóbal Island. Private planes flying to Galapagos must fly to Baltra, as it is the only airport with facilities for planes overnight. 

On arriving in Baltra, all visitors are immediately transported by bus to one of two docks. The first dock is located in a small bay, where the boats cruising Galapagos await passengers. The second is a ferry dock, which connects Baltra to the island of Santa Cruz.
During the 1940s, scientists decided to move 70 of Baltra's land iguanas to the neighbouring North Seymour Island as part of an experiment. This move had unexpected results during the military occupation of Baltra in World War II; the native iguanas became extinct on the island. During the 1980s, iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station as part of a breeding and repopulation project, and in the 1990s, land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra. As of 1997, scientists counted 97 iguanas living on Baltra; 13 of which were born on the islands.

In 2007 and 2008, the Baltra airport was remodelled to include additional restaurants, shops and an improved visitor area.

Bartolome Island – Bartolome Island is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands group. It is one of the "younger" islands in the Galapagos archipelago. This island, and neighbouring Sulivan Bay on Santiago Island, are named after lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle. Today Sulivan Bay is often misspelled Sullivan Bay. This island is one of the few that is home to the Galapagos penguin which is the only wild penguin species to live on the equator. The green turtle is another animal that resides on the island.

Darwin Island – This island is named after Charles Darwin. It has an area of 1.1 square km (0.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 168 m (551 ft). Here, fur seals, frigates, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, and red-footed and Nazca boobies can be seen.

Española Island – Its name was given in honor of Spain. It also is known as Hood, after Viscount Samuel Hood. It has an area of 60 square km (23 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 206 meters (676 feet).

Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years, and the southernmost in the group. Due to its remote location, Española has a large number of endemic species. It has its own species of lava lizard, mockingbird, and tortoise Española's marine iguanas exhibit a distinctive red coloration change between the breeding season. Española is the only place where the waved albatross nests. Some of the birds have attempted to breed on Genovesa (Tower) Island, but unsuccessfully. Española's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these birds, which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru.
Española has two visitor sites. Gardner Bay is a swimming and snorkelling site, and offers a great beach. Punta Suarez has migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife, including brightly colored marine iguanas, Española lava lizards, hood mockingbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, Galapagos hawks, 3 species of Darwin's finches, and the waved albatross.

Fernandina Island – The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. Fernandina has an area of 642 square kilometers (248 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 1,494 m (4,902 ft). This is the youngest and westernmost island. On 13 May 2005, a new, very eruptive process began on this island, when an ash and water vapour cloud rose to a height of 7 km (23,000 ft) and lava flows descended the slopes of the volcano on the way to the sea. Punta Espinosa is a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of marine iguanas gather, largely on black lava rocks. The famous flightless cormorants inhabit this island, as do Galapagos penguins, pelicans, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals. Different types of lava flows can be compared, and the mangrove forests can be observed.
Floreana Island – It was named after Juan Jose Flores, the first President of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It is also called Santa Maria, after one of the caravels of Columbus. It has an area of 173 square kilometers (67 square miles) and a maximum elevation of 640 meters (2,100 feet). It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history, and one of the earliest to be inhabited. Flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) on this island. The patapegada or Galápagos petrel, a sea bird which spends most of its life away from land, is found here. At Post Office Bay, since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destinations, mainly Europe and the United States, by ships on their way home. At the "Devil's Crown", an underwater volcanic cone and coral formations are found.

Genovesa Island – The name is derived from Genoa, Italy. It has an area of 14 square kilometers (5.4 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 76 meters (249 feet). This island is formed by the remaining edge of a large caldera that is submerged. Its nickname of "the bird island" is clearly justified. At Darwin Bay, frigate birds and swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal species of gull in the world, can be seen. Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches are also in sight. Prince Philip's Steps is a bird-watching plateau with Nazca and red-footed boobies. There is a large palo santo forest.

Isabela Island – This island was named in honour of Queen Isabela. With an area of 4,640 square kilometres (1,792 square miles), it is the largest island of the Galapagos. Its highest point is Volcán Wolf, with an altitude of 1,707 meters (5,600 feet). The island's seahorse shape is the product of the merging of six large volcanoes into a single land mass. On this island, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans and Sally lightfoot crabs abound. At the skirts and calderas of the volcanoes of Isabela, land iguanas and Galapagos tortoises can be observed, as well as Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos doves and very interesting lowland vegetation. The third-largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the southeastern tip of the island. It is the only island to have the equator run across it. It is also the only place in the world where a penguin can be in its natural habitat in the Northern Hemisphere.

Marchena Island: Named after Fray Antonio Marchena, it has an area of 130 square kilometers (50 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 343 meters (1,125 feet). Galapagos hawks and sea lions inhabit this island, and it is home to the Marchena lava lizard, an endemic animal.
Santa Fe Island – Named after a city in Spain, it has an area of 24 square kilometers (9 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 259 meters (850 feet). Santa Fe hosts a forest of Opuntia cactus, which are the largest of the archipelago, and Palo Santo. Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds and shear-waters petrels. Santa Fe species of land iguanas are often seen, as well as lava lizards.

Santiago Island – Its name is equivalent to Saint James in English; it is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. This island has an area of 585 square kilometers (226 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 907 meters (2976 feet). Marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, dolphins and sharks are found here. Pigs and goats, which were introduced by humans to the islands and have caused great harm to the endemic species, have been eradicated (pigs by 2002; goats by the end of 2006). Darwin finches and Galapagos hawks are usually seen, as well as a colony of fur seals. At Sulivan Bay, a recent (around 100 years ago) pahoehoe lava flow can be observed.

Wolf Island – This island was named after the German geologist Theodor Wolf. It has an area of 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 253 meters (830 feet). Here, fur seals, frigate birds, Nazca and red-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sharks, whales, dolphins and swallow-tailed gulls can be seen. The most famous resident is the vampire finch, which feeds partly on blood pecked from other birds, and is only found on this island.
Minor Islands: Daphne Major – A small island directly north of Santa Cruz and directly west of Baltra, this very inaccessible island appears, though unnamed, on Ambrose Cowley's 1684 chart. It is important as the location of multi-decade finch population studies by Peter and Rosemary Grant. 

South Plaza Island – It is named in honour of a former president of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza. It has an area of 0.13 square kilometers (0.05 square miles) and a maximum altitude of 23 meters (75 feet). The flora of South Plaza includes Opuntia cactus and Sesuvium plants, which form a reddish carpet on top of the lava formations. Iguanas (land, marine and some hybrids of both species) are abundant, and large numbers of birds can be observed from the cliffs at the southern part of the island, including tropic birds and swallow-tailed gulls.
Galapagos Weather Although located on the Equator, the Humboldt Current brings cold water to the islands, causing frequent drizzles during most of the year. The weather is periodically influenced by the El Niño events, which occur about every 3 – 7 years and are characterized by warm sea surface temperatures, a rise in sea level, greater wave action, and a depletion of nutrients in the water.
During the dry season known as the garúa (June to November), the temperature by the sea is 22 °C (72 °F), a steady and cold wind blows from south and southeast, frequent drizzles (garúa ) last most of the day, and dense fog conceals the islands. During the warm season (December to May), the average sea and air temperature rises to 25 °C (77 °F), there is no wind at all, there are sporadic, though strong, rains and the sun shines.

Weather changes as altitude increases in the large islands. Temperature decreases gradually with altitude, while precipitation increases due to the condensation of moisture in clouds on the slopes. There is a large range in precipitation from one place to another, not only with altitude, but also depending on the location of the islands, and also with the seasons.
Galapagos History European discovery of the Galápagos Islands occurred when Spaniard Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the fourth Bishop of Panama, sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants. De Berlanga's vessel drifted off course when the winds diminished, and his party reached the islands on 10 March, 1535. According to a 1952 study by Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjølsvold, remains of potsherds and other artifacts from several sites on the islands suggest visitation by South American peoples prior to the arrival of the Spanish. However, no remains of graves, ceremonial vessels and constructions have ever been found, suggesting no permanent settlement occurred at the time.

The Galapagos Islands first appeared on the maps, of Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius, in about 1570. The islands were named "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises) in reference to the giant tortoises found there.
The first English captain to visit the Galápagos Islands was Richard Hawkins, in 1593. Until the early 19th century, the archipelago was often used as a hideout by mostly English pirates who pilfered Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from South America to Spain.

In 1793, James Colnett described the flora and fauna of Galapagos, and suggested the islands could be used as base for the whalers operating in the Pacific Ocean. He drew the first accurate navigation charts of the islands. Whalers and maritime fur trader killed and captured thousands of the Galapagos tortoises to extract their fat. The tortoises could be kept on board ship as a means of providing of fresh protein, as these animals could survive for several months on board without any food or water. The hunting of the tortoises was responsible for greatly diminishing, and in some cases eliminating, certain species. Along with whalers came the fur-seal hunters, who brought the population of this animal close to extinction. 

The first known permanent human resident on Galapagos was Patrick Watkins, an Irish sailor who was marooned on the Island Floreana from 1807–1809. According to later accounts, Watkins managed to survive by hunting, growing vegetables and trading with visiting whalers, before finally stealing an open boat and navigating to Guayaquil.
Galapagos Conservation Though the first protective legislation for the Galapagos was enacted in 1930 and supplemented in 1936, it was not until the late 1950s that positive action was taken to control what was happening to the native flora and fauna. In 1955, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature organized a fact-finding mission to the Galapagos. Two years later, in 1957, UNESCO, in cooperation with the government of Ecuador, sent another expedition to study the conservation situation and choose a site for a research station.

In 1959, the centenary year of Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species, the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5% of the archipelago's land area a national park, excepting areas already colonised. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) was founded the same year. The core responsibility of CDF, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) constituted in Belgium, is to conduct research and provide the research findings to the government for effective management of Galapagos. CDF's research efforts began with the establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in 1964. During the early years, conservation programs, such as eradication of introduced species and protection of native species, were carried out by research station personnel. Now much of that work is accomplished by the Galapagos National Park Service using the research findings and methodologies developed by CDF.
In 1986, the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve, second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In 1990, the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. UNESCO recognised the islands in 1978 as a World Heritage Site and in 1985, as a biosphere reserve. This was later extended in December 2001 to include the marine reserve. In July 2010, the World Heritage Committee agreed to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of precious sites endangered by environmental threats or overuse.

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