A Travellerspoint blog

A TRUE STORY ABOUT A SEAL AMONGST THE SEA LIONS

I mentioned earlier on that one of the things we witnessed was the interaction amongst the different wildlife we saw; in particular one animal such as a heron telling the pelicans who were much bigger "get off my turf! Well, here's another example between a seal and one of the sea lions. From our accommodations, we would go from the storefront straight down the road and if we continued to walk straight down the street we would land at the Pier, but if you turned left (which is also where many shops were), only a few metres away, you would find a concrete pier which almost always had sea lions lying about.

One day, as we were walking by this particular pier, we noticed quite a few sea lions and baby marine iguanas (it was nesting season for the iguanas) lazing about. Well, as we approached the scene to grab some pictures, we saw a seal climbing onto the pier. From where we were, we could not see if there were steps to the pier from the other side, the side that faced the water but regardless of the mechanics, this particular seal made it up to the pier. As the seal settled himself down amongst the sea lions, one of the sea lions rose up and started barking (leader of the pack?) and didn't stop until the seal had moved away from the group of sea lions. Although the seal was still on the concrete pier, he was segregated from the sea lions....sort of looked sad and I wanted to run up and hug the seal, but of course I didn't.

I've posted a couple of pictures of that scene along with other sea lion pictures that we took while on Isla Santa Cruz.

Lazin' about on this warm afternoon...

Lazin' about on this warm afternoon...


The young ones

The young ones


Sharing the space

Sharing the space


OH, OH

OH, OH


ALMOST ALL ALONE

ALMOST ALL ALONE


Segregated

Segregated


OWNING THE ROAD

OWNING THE ROAD


TAGGED

TAGGED

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

GOING LOCAL & Social Conscious Discussions.]

EATING LOCAL For the first three days in Puerto Ayora we ate our dinner on the closed-off street that catered to the tourists. Now mind you, the cost wasn't expensive. A seafood dinner for 2 with a couple of beers and a juice or smoothie for me amounted to between $24 - $28.00 U.S. For breakfast, we also went to the same spot but it was hit or miss. Sometimes we wanted fruit, they didn't have it, and when we ordered something for breakfast there always seemed to be something not quite right and really, it came down to the same thing, the language barrier.

I had mentioned to Tom, that although I enjoyed the dinners we had I felt that I would end up being the Michelin Man if I kept up eating the huge portions. I think too, our trip was not just a one or two week trip, we were here in Ecuador for 5 weeks, and had to spread the money around a bit more gingerly. ....so we spoke to a young couple to find out where they ate...but a bit more a about the youth we met....

THE YOUTH WE MET AND THEIR SOCIAL CONSCIOUS While in Puerto Ayora we chatted with a young couple from Israel who were staying where we were staying, but they were in a small tent. They were on a year long trip and had already been to Cuba, and to Colombia where they bought a car which they were planning to sell whenever they went back to Columbia. They did not have any specific date that they were leaving the Galapagos (there is a 30 day limit) but they said they would go to San Cristobal which also had an airport and after that they would go back to Columbia where they planned to go to the Amazon. We had great conversations with them. It's so refreshing listening to them, their social conscious, their political savvy. Tom and I both noted that the kids that we have met on our most recent trips; Costa Rica and Ecuador were very social conscience.

Even in Quito, we met two young girls from Ryerson University who were on a 10 day stint in Ecuador. They were trying to find volunteer placements for students and were also looking for possible placements near the Amazon basin. We also met with 2 girls who were going to the Amazon basin on a tour. These young women had researched the companies that offered Amazon tours and found out that most of the money paid to the tour companies, only a small percentage of the money received went to the Indigenous tribes. So, after doing some research, they found a tour company in Columbia that gave the indigenous communities a fair share of the proceeds being made. We also met Jacob who was doing his PHD in Arizona regarding the affects of climate change on animals) and was staying in Quito on his 10 day break.

BACK TO THE TOPIC OF FOOD So, I asked the young couple from Israel, "where do you guys go to dinner and how much does it cost"? They told us they went several blocks down the street past where where we were currently eating you and where we could get good meals at the mom & pop shops for around $3-$4 each. So that's what we did. We found a place called Oasis and we had our dinners there for the next 3 nights. At Oasis we got a fish meal with a jug of freshly made juice, rice, yummy soup and usually some vegetables or beans. This meal cost the both of us combined around $7.00. If Tom had a couple of beers it cost about $15.00 for the both of us.

For breakfast, I went to the nearby supermarket and bought a bag of granola and 3 liquid yogurts. This was enough to last for 3 breakfasts. Unfortunately, we didn't have spoons so we got ripped off and bought 3 (they came in a pack of 3 that cost $6.00). Tom had a more difficult time getting his breakfast. Apparently, according to someone Tom met, the stores in town (close to the touristy area; like where we were) did not put out any fruit or vegetables for sale until after 11:00 a.m. because the restaurants wanted the tourists to eat in their restaurants. So Tom went to the local supermarket and would get a baguette, and then walk away from the touristy area and purchase his vegetable or fruits close to the area where we ate our dinners. I think it was around 4-5 blocks away from where we were staying. We knew that the next place we stayed at on island Isabela included breakfast, and the only other place we would have to worry about breakfast was in Guayaquil. We felt quite proud of ourselves in finding this solution to make the buck go further. Something we would have to do more of because we were planning to spend future winter vacations for 4 months at a time.

COCONUT

COCONUT


EATING COCONUT

EATING COCONUT

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

DON'T EAT THE APPLES....a true story

Everywhere we went in the Galapagos there were signs saying don't feed the animals, don't touch the animals and to stay at least 6 feet away from the animals. I can tell you it is very hard not to get close to the animals because Tom and I did it once in Santa Cruz. I was standing about 3 feet away from a sea lion as he was sleeping on a bench and one time Tom sat at the edge of a bench a few feet away from the sea lion. As we walked away we saw people going even closer to the sea lions, one even touched the sea lion. We made a promise to each other that we would never get that close to any animal for the remainder of our trip, and we didn't. We felt that this must be very stressful for the animals and showed a lack of respect.

One time, I think it was the second night we were at the pier in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz and it was in the evening there was a pelican sitting on the railing so I got my camera out and took a couple of pictures with the flash on, well the pelican crapped on the railing. I thought to myself, well of course that was bound to happen I was friggin' blinding his sight with the flash of the camera, it must have been so stressful for him. I was upset with myself for being so insensitive and I never took a night picture again with my flash on if the animal was nearby. Instead, I would turn the flasher off. What I can tell you is that Tom and I both learned so much about how everything is intertwined - the animals with their habitats, the food they eat, the efforts being put forth to protect the animals and their environment. How the smallest of things that man has done, have almost brought some of the animals to the brink of extinction. For example, years ago, a couple of fisherman brought 3 goats to the island so they would have an additional food source. Their intent was not to cause harm to the tortoises but within a decade or so there ended up being thousands of goats. The problem was that the goats ate the vegetation i.e. the grass which had a negative impact on the tortoise population as their food source was being depleted. As a result there was a huge decline in the tortoise population. In order to solve the problem the government hunted the goats with the goal of irradiating the goat population and then develop strategies to increase the tortoise population. The goat population is now under control.

So, here is a story told to us by a biologist who we were lucky enough to have him as a tour guide. There is a tree called a manzanilla tree, which has a small green fruit that looks like a mini Granny Smith Apple and when it falls to the ground it eaten by the giant tortoises. The thing is to any other animal including humans this apple is poisonous and get this, the giant tortoise is the only animal that can eat this apple. Talk about how awesome Mother Nature is! So, there was a tourist who wanted to feed a tortoise (which you are not allowed to do). The tortoise takes the apple from the tourist, the juice of the apple splashes onto the tourist, and the tourist almost dies. The reaction that a human has is the inability to breathe and the feeling of being burned. The moral of this story is that the signs are there for a reason. They are put in place to protect the animals and humans.

Poisonous apple warning sign

Poisonous apple warning sign


Little green apples

Little green apples


Roaming freely on a reserve

Roaming freely on a reserve


Protecting the natural habitats

Protecting the natural habitats


Sad, but true

Sad, but true


STOP

STOP


Lazing around

Lazing around


Information about the poisonous tree

Information about the poisonous tree


Pelican at the Pier

Pelican at the Pier


Lots of Baby Marine Iguanas

Lots of Baby Marine Iguanas

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Charles Darwin Research Station

One of the reasons Tom and I wanted to go to Santa Cruz was to see the Charles Darwin Research Station and Breeding Centre (http://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/). You could also take a taxi if you wanted and it probably only cost a buck or two. Getting to the research centre was about a 20 minute walk. By the way, the taxis on the island were pickup trucks. This is likely for several reasons. First of all, the terrain can be rugged and second, let's say you want to bike and you know you wouldn't be able to bike up a steep hill, well then you can load your bike on the truck and bike it down.

You knew when you were getting close to the Centre when you passed the giant statue of Lonesome George. Lonesome George was the last living Pinta tortoise who resided at the Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz Island. Marine attempts were not successful, therefore this subspecies is extinct. George's body was found by his caregiver of 40 years in June 2012. George's age was probably between 80-100 years old. Currently George is on display at the Smithsonian Institute, but there is a push to have him returned to the Galapagos. Like several of the places we had already visited, we had to register with the park staff. We learned that there was also a beach, which I had not read about. So before we went to see the tortoises, we took a quick look at the beach. It wasn't very big and was quite rocky. There were some tide pools and some young children were playing in the water. I really didn't think there was much to that beach; you know, it was rocky and small... but later I learned that was SO NOT THE CASE. The evening before we left Santa Cruz to go to Isabela, we bumped into a couple on the pier. Funny, but we seemed to bump into them at least once a day. Anyways, she told me that they had been snorkelling at the beach and just beyond the rocks and there were marine turtles, and sea lions. "Darn" I thought, "I should know better than just assuming that it wasn't much of a beach." However, all was not lost because we would be coming back to Santa Cruz for one more night as we needed to exit the islands by using the nearby airport.....that one last day, I would go to the beach and snorkel!

The first building you see after you register with the park's office is the interpretation centre but when we arrived the interpretation centre was closed for a couple of hours. This is the one thing we learned while in Ecuador is that most places shut down for a 2 hour siesta around noon hour. Although there was no uniformity as to when the siesta started and ended, particularly with the smaller shops.

Tom and I visited the the breeding centre and watched with these giant prehistoric beings. I wondered how these big creatures could survive in the heat. What a marvel! We learned that for the first 20 years the tortoises stay close to where they are born, but at 20 years of age they move to a more hilly landscape (i.e. near and about the volcanoes) because they needed a more abundant food supply. We also learned that that the tortoises varied amongst the Galapagos because they had to adapt to that particular habitat. For example, Isla Isabela has 5 volcanoes. The tortoises found at each of these 5 volcanoes differ from each other. For example, the shell of the tortoises on Isla Isabela were more boxed shaped from the tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz.

Next, we saw 2 land iguanas. I believe (but may be mistaken) that we were told that there are only between 70-100 remaining in the world. If any of you have a Lonely Planet Ecuador book, look at the book cover, that's a land iguana.

After visiting the tortoises, we learned about the mangrove finch whose population has declined dramatically due to the introduction of an asian parasite (it looks like a fly). This parasite lays its eggs in the finches' nest and their larvae feed on the blood and tissue of the young fiches.The mangrove finch is the species of birds most threatened by extinction in the Galapagos. There are less than 100 mangrove finches left in the world and those in existence can be found on Isabela Island (which was the next island we would be visiting). We watched a short video that explained the program that has been put in place to try and save the finch. This is done by providing finches with an environment that is free of the parasite. More information about this program, which has to date been successful can be found at http://www.galapagos.org/conservation/conservation/project-areas/ecosystem-restoration/restoring-mangrove-finch-populations/. The interpretation centre was very interesting. We saw the shell of a tortoise,(large and very hard), part of the skeleton of a .Bryde's whale which was the type of whale we had seen in Puerto Lopez. The centre also has a program that tracks the movement of many of the marine and terrestrial animals. We often saw sea lions and tortoises with tags or numbers on them for tracking purposes. If you yourself personally were interested in one of the tortoises you had seen, you could access this website and input the tracking identification of the animal and see where the animal has been. On a final note, one thing we both learned is that sometimes when the tortoises stretch their necks out, they will let the finches pick the ticks from their bodies. So once again, another demonstration of how everything is interconnected.

Additional resource that gives additional details about the Charles Darwin Research Centre

http://www.ecoventura.com/what-is-the-charles-darwin-research-station/

Entrance to the Charles Darwin Research Centre

Entrance to the Charles Darwin Research Centre


STATUE OF LONESOME GEORGE -THE LAST PINTA TORTOISE

STATUE OF LONESOME GEORGE -THE LAST PINTA TORTOISE


GIANT TORTOISES AT CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH CENTRE

GIANT TORTOISES AT CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH CENTRE


Ancient looking

Ancient looking


Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise


Eating some food (vegetation)

Eating some food (vegetation)


Charles Darwin Research and Breeding Centre

Charles Darwin Research and Breeding Centre


Relaxing in the pool

Relaxing in the pool


Tortoise walking

Tortoise walking


This looks like a football huddle

This looks like a football huddle


Closer look

Closer look


Siesta

Siesta


A group siesta

A group siesta


land iguana

land iguana


Land iguana

Land iguana


smiling' for the camera

smiling' for the camera

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACH I HAVE EVER SEEN!

I've travelled to a few places and have seen many beaches that are beautiful, but Tortuga Bay was in all honesty, so far the most beautiful beach that Tom and I have ever seen...and he's  also travelled all over Europe in his younger days, so he has more beaches to compare Tortuga Bay with.  Tortuga Bay is part of the National Park system so when you arrive  you have to register with the park attendant. They require your passport number, name, citizenship and your arrival time.  You are also required to sign out.

From our accommodations,Tortuga Bay was about a 15-20- minute walk to the park's office.   There are washroom facilities at the office and they are the only ones available. Ice-cream is also sold (can't remember if water was sold) but that's it.  From there you walk along a 2.5 km trail.  Some of it was uphill, but once you passed that point, it was a relatively easy hike. We saw young families pushing baby strollers along the path and the occasional surfer. It was quite hot so sunscreen and water is highly recommended.

At various points along the pathway information was posted about the landscape and animals. We learned that the cacti species play an important role in the ecosystem.  The cacti provide food for iguanas and the tortoises.  We also learned that the height and shape of the cacti also varies depending on the species and the habitat (i.e.the Cactus finches).

As we continued our walk, and when we were able to see Playa Brava in the distance, it looked so stunning and to see such a different landscape against the shrubbery and cacti that we now walking on; for me it was mind-boggling.  Then, just before entering the beach of Playa Brava, we saw a sign advising us that turtles were nesting.  I wondered if we would see any tortoises, as I had seen this phenomena in Costa Rica (we didn't)

As we walked along Playa Brava we saw our first marine iguanas. So prehistoric looking! I cannot tell you what it felt like to see these creatures walking freely on this beach; knowing that they had been on this earth longer than us humans. We knew that this was <b>their</b> beach, we were the guests.  As we watched them roaming along their beach, it did make me wonder if the human race would be able to survive as long as they have? Unfortunately I think not, and we weren't the only ones that thought that way.  We followed the coastline towards our immediate left and saw a cove of lava rocks dividing the beach into another section.  Amongst the rocks were marine iguanas sunning. Upon closer observation we noticed their were more marine iguanas amongst the rocks than we first thought because mother nature had provided the iguanas with dark grey colouring so that they blended perfectly into the lava rock landscape  We then turned around and slowly made our way to Playa Mansa where people were kayaking and snorkelling. The water was shallow and the sand fine as sugar.  For the size of Tortuga Bay, it was realitively empty, which only enhanced it's beauty.  

In all honestly, I'm really at a loss for words to describe this experience to you. I hope the pictures and video give you a sense of what Tom and were feeling.

MAP OF TORTUGA BAY

MAP OF TORTUGA BAY


Tortuga Bay walkway

Tortuga Bay walkway


The highest cacti that Tom has ever seen (me too)

The highest cacti that Tom has ever seen (me too)


Posted information - we learned a lot

Posted information - we learned a lot


Taking a break

Taking a break


I loved the bark on this cactus

I loved the bark on this cactus


Getting closer to the beach

Getting closer to the beach


A GLIMPSE OF WHAT'S UP NEXT....BEAUTIFUL!

A GLIMPSE OF WHAT'S UP NEXT....BEAUTIFUL!


STRONG UNDERTOW

STRONG UNDERTOW


Turtles breeding

Turtles breeding


Red flag = strong undertow

Red flag = strong undertow


Guess what this is..bet you can't?

Guess what this is..bet you can't?


Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana


Sand like sugar

Sand like sugar


Like having a beach to ourselves

Like having a beach to ourselves


off he goes...

off he goes...


Swimming in the water

Swimming in the water


Off they go.....

Off they go.....


A different landscape approaching

A different landscape approaching


A group of marine iguanas amongst the vegetation

A group of marine iguanas amongst the vegetation


Cacti at Tortuga Bay

Cacti at Tortuga Bay


Blending right in

Blending right in


Hey....

Hey....


Barren looking but full of life

Barren looking but full of life


Rocky landscape with cacti

Rocky landscape with cacti


Rocky shoreline

Rocky shoreline


Just hanging' around

Just hanging' around


The differing landscape at Tortuga Bay

The differing landscape at Tortuga Bay


Marine iguanas offered a perfect camofauge

Marine iguanas offered a perfect camofauge


Water and rock

Water and rock


Shoreline before the lagoon

Shoreline before the lagoon


Wow!

Wow!


Mangrove at Tortuga Bay

Mangrove at Tortuga Bay


Tom at Tortuga Bay

Tom at Tortuga Bay


Heron sighting at Tortuga Bay

Heron sighting at Tortuga Bay


Mangrove closer up

Mangrove closer up


Shoreline at Tortuga

Shoreline at Tortuga


Marine Iguanas

Marine Iguanas


Pelican ...boy they're big

Pelican ...boy they're big


Pelican close-up

Pelican close-up

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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