Posted by: galapagosinc | March 22, 2010

10 cruise etiquette tips

Let us forswear the role of Ugly American and start to mind our manners. These 10 tips were developed after a week on the high seas, but they are equally applicable to a land-based vacation or business trip. Read them and resolve to restore some civility to the art of travel.

1. Don’t expect perfection. With today’s ships carrying three and four thousand people at a time, trust me, the experience is not going to be perfect for everyone. Your toilet may clog. The handle may fall off the sliding door. Your table mates may sometimes be rude (my own children come to mind). Have a good attitude and your cruise will go a lot more smoothly.

2. Get some exercise. Fact: The elevators are going to be crowded around dinner and show times. A bunch of crabby people waiting for the elevators will only stir each other up even more; I saw it happen time and again. If you are physically able, why not walk off that crème brûlée and take the stairs — or maybe do a lap on the Promenade Deck.

3. Shut up. It is not necessary to slam your cabin door each time you enter and exit the cabin, and it is rude to do so at 3 a.m.(some passengers actually sleep — at night! — on a cruise). Close the door slowly and preserve some of the peace. Never been on a cruise? There are probably a hundred cabins within earshot of each slammed door.

4. Practice moderation.OK, it’s your vacation: Have fun and party on. But know your limits. No one likes a sloppy drunk, and the last thing you want to do is spend a night in the medical facility because you planted your ass through the glass coffee table. No one will convince me that excessive drinking is not a huge factor in all the recent “crimes” at sea.

5. Be discreet. Aboard ship, we are all equals. I don’t need to see your Rolex watch, or that 10-carat diamond. No need to flash a wad of cash in the casino either. For one thing, you could be asking for trouble; for another (listen carefully): No one really cares! And another thing, while the ship is your home away from home, it isn’t actually your home, so if you feel the need to wander the hallways, please do so wearing street clothes not your curlers and nightie — or less!

6. Remember that you are a world traveler. You may hear others speaking a different or unfamiliar language. (No, it is not a foreign language; it may be foreign to you, but it is not foreign to millions of perfectly competent speakers). If an announcement needs to be made, it will likely be made in several languages; after all, people who speak a language other than yours have the same right to safety and information as you do. Do not demand that people accommodate you. It is all about compromise.

7. Be a good audience member. If you are tired, don’t sit in the front row. How demeaning is it to a performer who is giving his or her all to look out and see an audience member nodding off mid-performance? Now imagine the reaction if there is also a line of drool dribbling from the corner of your mouth. Not a pretty sight, although the photograph I took is a good conversation piece!

8. Stop whining. If something has gone wrong or you are unhappy, there is no need to drag a few thousand other people into your mess. There is a simple solution: Ask management to correct the problem. Whining just brings everyone down and — who knows? — your expectations may be way out of line. And another thing: There’s not much anyone can do about a cloudy day.

9. Dress for public view. If you wouldn’t walk into Wal-Mart wearing short shorts and a tube top, you probably shouldn’t wear them on vacation, either. Same with a thong. People come in all shapes and sizes, but most of us are not looking to become acquainted with your every bulge and curve.

10. Be generous. Tip. Our waitress on the Freedom of the Seas is paid $50 a month. Yes, you read that correctly! The rest of her income comes from gratuities. To the family in the cabins across from me: I heard you all making plans to order room service for 16 on the last night of the cruise so you could avoid having to tip in the dining room. Shame on you!


Posted by: galapagosinc | March 10, 2010

Fascinating facts about the Galapagos Islands!

Perhaps no other place has had a greater impact on the way we understand life. Although made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands, even today, offer an extraordinary array of flora and fauna. The following offerings contain a myriad of facts and trivia about these famed islands and their surrounding waters.

  • The Galapagos Islands take their name from the saddleback tortoises that are found there. These tortoises are among the world’s largest.
  • These volcanic islands are an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly six hundred miles from western Ecuador. There are thirteen main islands in the chain and more than a hundred smaller islands and islets.
  • The chain’s oldest island is thought to have been formed approximately ten million years ago.
  • The islands constitute an Ecuadorian province and are part of that country’s national park system. Ecuador strictly regulates tourism in the area.
  • More than sixty volcanic eruptions have been documented over the last two hundred years in the Galapagos region.
  • During the nineteenth century, whaling ships were a common sight in Galapagos waters. Sperm whales once swam in large pods around the islands.
  • Today, orcas can be seen hunting sperm whales in Galapagos waters. Orcas also feed on Galapagos sea lions, sharks, and rays.
  • Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, was so fascinated with the islands that he wrote a series of essays about them in his work The Encantadas.
  • Charles Darwin was twenty-six when he first saw the Galapagos Islands. His observations about life on the islands eventually led to his famed theory of evolution. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859.
  • Darwin Island, one of the main islands in the archipelago, is named for the naturalist.
  • There are thirteen species of Darwin’s finches endemic to the islands. As noted by the great naturalist, these birds are famous for their beaks.
  • The islands’ marine iguanas are only found in the Galapagos region. These are the only marine-going lizards found anywhere in the world.
  • The notorious scolopendra centipede lives on the islands and frequently dines on lava lizards and even young rats. These creatures grow to about thirty centimeters.
  • The famous Galapagos penguin is the only type of penguin to live at the equator. An endangered species, there are less than 1500 examples according to scientific studies.
  • Poisonous manzanillo apple trees are native to the islands. Both their fruit and sap are toxic.
  • The islands and their waters are a World Heritage Site. Conservation is an ongoing project for the region.

Rustic Girls, Young

Posted by: galapagosinc | March 7, 2010

Popcorn of the sea found in Galapagos Islands

Washington, March 3 (ANI): A research team has found that the barnacle, which is known as the ‘popcorn of the sea’, is not missing, and can be found in vertical upwelling zones in moderately deep waters in the Galapagos Islands.
There’s been a rich debate in marine ecological circles about what happens to the barnacle, a key thread in the marine food web, along rocky coastlines dominated by upwelling.The literature is filled with studies suggesting that the larvae of simple prey organisms such as barnacles and mussels hitch a ride on the coast-to-offshore currents typical of upwelling and are thus mostly absent in the coastal tidal zones.

That theory is getting a major challenge.

Brown University marine ecologist Jon Witman and colleagues report that a key thread in the food web, the barnacle – the popcorn of the sea – flourishes in zones with vertical upwelling.

Working at an expansive range of underwater sites in the Galapagos Islands, Witman and his team found that at two subtidal depths, barnacle larvae had latched onto rock walls, despite the vertical currents.

In fact, the swifter the vertical current, the more likely the barnacles would colonize a rocky surface, the team found.

During three field seasons, the team bolted nearly 1,500 plates at depths of 6 and 15 meters to track the colonization of barnacle larvae and the growth of populations in areas with weak, intermediate and strong vertical upwelling.

The finding “is counter to the prevailing notion about how marine communities are influenced by upwelling,” said Witman

The team also found that barnacle communities thrived in the vertical-current sites.

The group routinely found specimens that had grown from one field season to the next to 3 centimeters (about 1 inch) in diameter – “big enough to make soup out of,” Witman said.

The researchers also documented the presence of whelks and hogfish, which feast on barnacles.

This predator-prey relationship shows that vertical upwelling zones are “much more dynamic ecosystems in terms of marine organisms than previously believed,” Witman said. (ANI)

Posted by: galapagosinc | February 24, 2010

Galapagos tortoises are taking up residence in Illinios

Brookfield Zoo is having a contest through March 12 for children ages 11 and under to help the zoo name some of their newest residents: four Galapagos tortoises.

Entry forms and ballot boxes can be found by the tortoises’ exhibit in the Perching Bird House or at Hamill Family Play Zoo. Forms can also be downloaded at NameA Tortoise and mailed to: Name a Tortoise, Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513.

Completed entries have to be placed in ballot boxes or postmarked by March 12 and received by March 17. Completed entries must include  a suggested name for one of the tortoises, an explanation in 50 words or less why that name was chosen, the entrant’s name, complete address, telephone number and a parent or legal guardian’s signature.

One entry per person is allowed.

Winners will be chosen by a panel comprised of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Programs staff and president and CEO Stuart Strahl.

Winners will be announced March 22.

Winners will receive a “Share the Care” package for the tortoise they named and the opportunity to come to the zoo with up to five family members and  meet the tortoises and some of the keepers that care for them.

My Suburban Life

Posted by: galapagosinc | February 18, 2010

Galapagos provides example for DNA search on Mars

Over the past few years, numerous discoveries about our solar system have made astronomers and astrobiologists believe that the prospect of finding life on other planets around us, or beyond, may not be as far-fetched as once thought. Some believe that there is actually a pretty good chance that Mars, as out closest neighbor, may actually be containing life, with the same genetic properties as it has on Earth. As a result, the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes (SETG) project was born. The goal is to deliver scientific instruments to Mars, that could look for DNA in the planet’s ices and sand.

Evolutionary biologists often give the example of Galapagos Island iguanas, which have developed differently, but from a common ancestor, from iguanas elsewhere. Isolation triggered these changes, and some believe that the same may be holding true for space as well. Lately, it has become increasingly obvious that comets may have played a much larger role in the development of life on Earth than anyone previously thought. Actually, it could be that our planet’s atmosphere and oceans were seeded from such celestial bodies, Space reports.

Meteorites and asteroids can also carry amino-acids and proteins, and so astrobiologists believe that life may have “jumped” planets in very much the same way Galapagos iguanas moved to the island over a land bridge, now extinct. It may even be that life in the solar system is not something that spread from Earth. Many astronomers believe that the seeds for all living things may have arrived both on Mars and on our planet from another “mainland,” to keep the Galapagos parallel, far out in space. “Earth may not be the center of the DNA-based Universe,” explains Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital professor of genetics Gary Ruvkun.

Using grant money secured under the NASA Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development program, researchers are currently constructing a new device for SETG. The goal of the instrument will be to detect any traces of DNA that exist on Mars, at whichever location it’s deployed on. Work is apparently pretty advanced, as engineers announce that a working prototype will become available for testing later this year. At first, the DNA-detection method will be tested on Earth, inside volcano craters, where living conditions are very extreme.


San Diego, CA, January 13th, 2010 – Wildlife Vacations Inc, the premier travel adventure company of the Galapagos region, welcomed back its luxury vessel, the Galapagos Explorer II, to the waters today after several upgrades.

The main dining room, coffee station, and Jacuzzi bar of the Galapagos Explorer II underwent two months of refurbishment.

“Upgrades and remodeling of our vessels excite our cruisers and enhance the entire Galapagos vacation for them,” commented Jon Pinto, CEO of Wildlife Vacations Inc.  “We’re excited to see the response we’ll get.”

The main dining room now features hand-painted images by renowned local artist Mr. Saidel Brito who recently won the “Biennal” in Cuenca, Ecuador.  The wall panels of the coffee station and Jacuzzi bar highlight more modern wood panels, while the dining room showcases a classic wood finish.

The Galapagos Explorer II visits up to ten islands in the Galapagos archipelago on a typical seven-night cruise.  Bookings are arranged by Wildlife Vacations Inc.

About Wildlife Vacations Inc.:
Since 1976, Galapagos Cruises and Vacations from Wildlife Vacations, Inc. has offered exceptional upscale adventure cruises and soft- adventure vacation travel packages to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Peru, the Amazon and the highlights of South America.  From custom cruises for families, to group charters for corporations, Galapagos Cruises and Vacations facilitates entire trips for individuals, private parties, families, special interest, corporate travel and incentive travel for groups of almost any size.

Learn more by visiting: or calling 877. 385. 1433

Posted by: galapagosinc | February 1, 2010

Galapagos island relies on travelers to deliver the mail

Instead of stamps and postmen, the Galapagos isle relies on a barrel and the kindness of travelers to move its mail. Twice a day including Sunday, boatloads of unofficial mail carriers land in Post Office Bay and walk a few sandy yards to a wooden barrel crammed with postcards and notes left by past visitors. The guests, mainly cruisers eco-touring the Ecuadorian islands, sort through the stacks, looking for addresses within delivery distance of their homes. They also drop their own messages into the receptacle, adding another link to the chain of mail.

“Sometimes it’s faster than the regular mail,” said our guide, Carlos, as he yanked dozens of letters from a plastic bag. “You come one day and drop it off two days later.”

The practice started in the late 1700s as a way for English whalers to communicate with friends and family back home. The men heading out to sea would deposit their correspondence, which sailors returning home would collect and deliver.

The “post office” looks like an installation piece by Robinson Crusoe, with artful piles of driftwood and other organic detritus surrounding the elevated barrel. Stickers, scrawlings and a poster of Golden Age Hollywood stars adorn the artifacts as if they were a bathroom wall in a bar.

Since this was our fourth day of traveling together, our group of 16 knew one another’s home towns, and we hollered out international cities hoping to make a match. A New Yorker named Maura approached my parents with “Brookline,” thinking that the Boston neighborhood might be close to their home in western Massachusetts. She kept one destined for Cambridge, Mass., planning to drop it off during an upcoming trip there. The Swedish family grabbed a Stockholm-or-bust postcard and gave me a patient grin when I asked whether a holiday in Copenhagen was in their future.

In my cluster, I found cards addressed to California, Toronto, France and Germany. One for Vancouver said, “We are stranded on Postcard Island. Send help. Quick. Stop.” A sheet of thin, fraying paper covered in tiny print needed a lift to Romania. I was tempted to deliver it myself, worried that it might disintegrate before a Romanian-bound traveler could save it. After flipping through countless images of sea lions and blue-footed boobies, I finally scored: East Capitol Street, Washington, D.C.

It was exciting to make a connection, but then I realized that I actually had to deliver the postcard — or else let down the writer as well as a centuries-old tradition. Buying a stamp and mailing it is considered cheating, Carlos warned us. But arriving at a stranger’s house with a “surprise” from someone you’ve never met could be a little creepy, no?

To her credit, Kathy Brennan was a model recipient. I left a note in her mailbox saying that I wished to deliver a special something from her friend Nancy and asking her to call me to arrange a time. When we talked on the phone, she was excited to hear that I knew Nancy, until I admitted that I had no idea who Nancy was, but that I was her messenger. Even after that, she invited me over.

In her living room, I handed her the postcard of two frolicking sea lions, explaining its journey from a barrel in the sand to a rowhouse in Washington.

“I’m amazed that you picked up this card and hand-delivered it to me,” said Brennan, who has traveled to Africa and Patagonia with Nancy but couldn’t make the Galapagos trip. “It’s like the message in a bottle. You never know if it’s going to reach someone. This is the ultimate travel story.”

Later, I called the letter writer, Nancy Buermeyer, to find out when she’d “mailed” the card. Amazingly, it was the day before I’d arrived in Post Office Bay.

“I mailed postcards to friends who did not get them yet,” said the San Francisco resident. “Turns out you are more efficient than the Ecuadoran and U.S. postal services.”

I asked her why, of all her friends and family, she chose Brennan to send a note to. Buermeyer explained her criteria, which were calculated to increase the odds of a delivery: The friend must live in a metropolitan area, in a building with an accessible mailbox or front door and “would be okay with having a wayward traveler showing up at your doorstep.” Brennan passed on all counts.

For the note I posted at Floreana Island, I was less scientific, addressing it to the first person I could think of. I can’t wait to hear how my trip to the Galapagos was.

Washington Post

Posted by: galapagosinc | January 27, 2010

National Geographic Bee Champion Wins Trip to Galapagos Islands

Ryan Tempel, an 8th grade student at Chester-Joplin-Inverness Junior High School, won the school-level competition of the National Geographic Bee on December 19 and a chance at a $25,000 college scholarship. The school-level Bee, at which students answered oral questions on geography, was the first round in the 22nd annual National Geographic Bee. The Bee is sponsored by Google.

The kickoff for this year’s Bee was the week of November 9, with thousands of schools around the United States and the five U.S. territories participating. The school winners, including Ryan, will now take a written test; up to 100 of the top scorers in each state will be eligible to compete in their state Bee on April 9, 2010.

The National Geographic Society will provide an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for state champions to participate in the national championship on May 25 and 26, 2010. The first-place national winner will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the Society, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Liberty County Times

Posted by: galapagosinc | January 17, 2010

Turtle Expert Speaks at UCF

UCF was honored with a visit from a TIME magazine dubbed “Hero of the Planet” Thursday afternoon to discuss his turtle conservation efforts with students and professors alike.

A leading environmental conservationist, nationally-known tortoise and turtle expert, and director of the Chelonian Research Institute, a non-profit organization in nearby Oviedo, Peter Pritchard focused mainly on Galapagos turtles and “Lonesome George,” the last remaining Pinta Island giant tortoise.

The presentation was a co-curricular component of the UCF General Education Program Unifying Theme, “The Environment and the Global Climate Change,” the university-wide theme of “The Environment, Energy, and National/Global Security” for 2009-10, and part of this year’s Global Perspectives’ events.

When Pritchard first visited the Galapagos’ Islands in 1970 he said that “at times there was no food available and you’d have to go fishing if you wanted to eat,” but that you can now call in for pizza delivery and the population is up to 30,000.

“Growth is upon us,” he said.

The theme of growth continued during the presentation’s screening of the BBC’s documentary “Lonesome George and the Battle of the Galapagos,” in which Pritchard is featured.

“The film is a rather remarkable one because it shows these two aspects of the Galapagos, mainly the human aspects,” Pritchard said.

The film poses two questions: what is going to happen with the people pressure (due to increased population) and how are we going to save the endangered species, particularly Lonesome George?

Lonesome George, considered the “loneliest creature on Earth” by the Guinness Book of World Records, was discovered in 1971 on the Pinta Island and is part of a race of giant tortoises that had thought to have been extinct.

It took four people to carry him and transport him to the national park, where he still resides.

Scientists have been trying to get George to mate with females from similar races, but have been unsuccessful.

George has become a celebrity for natives and tourists alike, showcasing the importance of conservationism for the sake of the island’s tourist industry–a sort of eco-tourism which has irked some extreme conservationists–which is discussed in the film.

In Pritchard’s 2003 visit, he and his research crew found 15 male skeletons and all had fallen down and had become trapped in ravines.

“You’ve got this phenomenon…in paleontology of extinction by masculinization and falling in potholes,” Pritchard said.

The film also discusses the issues of fishing regulations, lack of self-sufficiency on the islands, their over-abundance of goats, for which the government hired New Zealand sharp-shooters to exterminate, and the new threat of maggots on Charles Darwin’s well-known finches.

“People can be careless anywhere,” said Malcolm Phillips, a Junior Political Science major, of the lack of environmental regulations documented in the film.

“UCF’s been doing a lot of conservation and green efforts lately,” he said. “Orlando and UCF are radically different from the Galapagos, though.”

Despite their efforts he thinks they could all use improvement.

During the short Q&A session following the screening, Phillips posed the question of if scientists had tried cloning George to save the Pinta race.

Pritchard explained that no one has really tried and that the people of Galapagos hadn’t really been as assertive with the conservation efforts as they should have been.

“Sometimes nature needs a little bit of manipulation,” Phillips said. “We can’t bring back anything that has been lost, but we can preserve what is still there.”

Central Florida Future

Posted by: galapagosinc | January 6, 2010

Collection of Galapagos Island Scenery Pictures

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