By Elizabeth Hart
Quick Island Facts:
Area: 986 km2 or 381 mi2
Maximum Altitude: 864 m or 2835 ft
Human Population: Approx12,000 residents
The island of Santa Cruz is located near the middle of the Galapagos archipelago. Santa Cruz is the tourism center of the Galapagos - probably because of its close proximity to Baltra, the main hub of the islands with the only public airport. Perhaps the largest tourist attraction in the Galapagos - besides the incredible pristine nature of it all - is the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.
Brief Island History: Since its volcanic formation, Santa Cruz has had a long history of human settlement and agriculture. Settlers came from the United States and Europe during WWI and WWII to establish military centers. In the humid uplands they raised cattle and grew avocados, coffee, sugarcane, bananas, oranges, and lemons. With the longest paved road on any of the Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz is the best opportunity to see the true uplands of a Galapagos.
Charles Darwin Research Center & Lonesome George
A trip to the Darwin Research Station is often included with many cruises. At the visitor's center there are educational exhibits about the climate, geology, biology, and conservation efforts. The research center works in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park conducting research, assisting with conservation efforts, and providing technical assistance.
One of the Center's conservation programs is the 'Giant Tortoise Recovery Project.' The giant tortoise population on many islands is in danger of extinction. In 1972 a giant tortoise (Chelonoidis spp.) was found on Pinta Island. This was very exciting as they were thought to be extinct on this particular island. The giant male tortoise was relocated to the Darwin Center - Lonesome George had made his debut. The researchers were hoping to find a female giant tortoise from Pinta Island to breed with George and re-establish the Pinta tortoise population. No such luck. Lonesome George was the sole survivor.
Lonesome George is left tortoise in this picture.
On the morning of Sunday July 24, 2012 Lonesome George was found dead in his comfortable corral at the Darwin Center. I feel privileged that I was able to "meet" such a remarkable creature. Lonesome George's age was estimated at over 100 years old.
The Galapagos Conservancy posted an article about Lonesome George: "The World Loses Lonesome George."
Clothing Note: I had the best outfitters in town when I was preparing for this trip! To see my clothing recommendations check out the Travel Clothing for Expedition Cruising Collection!
I also wrote a helpful blog about the 10 Clothing 'Must Haves' for Expedition Cruising.
Please enjoy some of my pictures from the Darwin Center on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos:
This blog article is dedicated in loving memory to Lonesome George. May he forever graze in an endless heaven of green!
By: Elizabeth Hart
Fernandina Island (Narborough Island)
Area: 642 km 2 or 248 mi 2
Maximum Altitude: 1476 m or 4842 ft
This island is the westernmost island of the Galapagos Archipelago, most known for its volcanic eruptions. Fernandina Island is the youngest of the Galapagos Islands with an age less than 1 million years. The island is currently over the volcanic hot spot that created the archipelago! The active volcano on this island is called “La Cumbre.” There is a magnificent photo-op along the trail of the volcano in the distance!
Fernandina Island is the most well-preserved of the islands, with only one visitor location on the Northeast coast of the island. Abundant marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and Galapagos penguins will gladly pose for your pictures. Sea lions and Green Sea Turtles are also often encountered here, so have your camera ready!
Espinosa Pointe Visitor Site: Espinosa is the walking trail for visitors. From the zodiac there is a dry landing, although the steps are wet and slippery and you may still end up wet. The short hike begins in a thick mangrove canopy – watch out for the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs scurrying across the path! The canopy opens to a breathtaking view of a rocky shoreline covered, I mean completely covered, with sunning marine iguanas and drying flightless cormorants. Don’t get too close to the marine iguanas, they will spit at you! The marine iguanas don’t spit to be rude, that is their way of expelling salt from their bodies after time in the water. Also keep your eye out for the occasional collapsed lave tube and lava cactus (pictured behind me)!
There are two scuba diving locations just off of this island where you can observe Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Penguins, sea horses, marine iguanas, sea turtles, and various species of sharks and rays from the marine point of view! While I did not have a chance to dive this location, I do plan on making a return scuba trip!
There is very little shade on this island, as it is still volcanically active. Therefore, make sure you are prepared with the appropriate sun protection (UPF) apparel:
- UPF Long Sleeve Shirt
- UPF Pants or Shorts
- Wide Brimmed Hat
- Polarized Sun Glasses
- SUN SCREEN LOTION!
With the rocky terrain I highly recommend close toed walking or water shoes with a solid sole.
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Happy Traveling! Life is, after all, One Great Adventure!
Photo Gallery: I'll let the pictures do the talking! These are my personal pictures...
My favorite Alaskan Cruise Excursion: The Taku Glacier Lodge Flight & Feast, Juneau, Alaska
By: Suzi Caffey
The Alaskan Atmosphere
This is a wonderful 3 1/2 hour journey that begins when you leave the Juneau waterfront in a floatplane. During the flight you enjoy the unrestricted view of lush rainforest, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and massive glaciers to the lodge.
The Taku River is your "runway" as you land in front of the 1923 Taku Glacier Lodge, which looks directly across the river at the Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier. The lodge itself is rustic: decorated with old dog sleds, hunting and trapping gear, and furs.
The all-you-can-eat feast of wild Alaska salmon and side dishes are a delicious treat to the eye and taste buds! During the meal, Taku Lodge hosts entertain you with stories of the lodge's past. Keep on the lookout, as occasionally the aromas of the freshly grilled salmon attracts black bears looking for a quick lick of the grill.
After our feast we visited the quaint gift shop, and explored the forest trails.
Dressing for the Occasion
Alaska makes its own weather…that changes constantly! Spring temperatures average 40s-high 60s.
Jeans and an ExOfficio Dryflylite long sleeve shirt were a great base layer. I wore my rain jacket and pants as a windbreaker for warmth and sprayed the deet on the rain suit to keep the GIANT size mosquitoes off.
For footwear, I wore my cozy SmartWool Hiking socks with my Merrell waterproof boots so I could rinse them off if I stepped in bear scat (plenty of that around)!
I carried a day pack with many small necessities. In my Ameribag I had my passport (always have it on you – since you may cross into Canadian territory!) and photo ID, ship card ID, Coleman Deet spray, Camera, Travellite V binoculars, Motion Eaze, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Eco Sunscreen chap stick, cash, credit card and everything else my husband handed me to hold!
This was my favorite spring/summer excursion, along with the northern lights....but that’s another trip!
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by Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart and Jorge, Galapagos Lead Naturalist
A tropical cruise is fun, any way you look at it. With the sun, the sea, and the wonderful food you’re destined to enjoy yourself! However, there are ways to get even MORE enjoyment and education out of this trip other than observing the countryside from the ship! Get off that lounge chair and immerse yourself in the local culture and take advantage of every opportunity available from a small cruise – I promise you will still get plenty of sun!
I have partaken on a Galapagos expedition cruise through the Celebrity Xpedition cruise line. The ‘Discover Galapagos’ program focuses on education and conservation of this pristine ecosystem while unveiling to you the natural wonders of this unique area. Information about this adventure can be found on the Discover Galapagos – Celebrity Xpedition website. These were some of my favorite things to do on this tropical expedition cruise – Destination Galapagos!
Mingle with the Naturalists Onboard: Certified naturalists are your guides on all excursions and share their wealth of information! Being native Ecuadorians, they have been educated in the varying Galapagos ecosystems! They know the rich biological and anthropological history of this unique archipelago and are more than eager to share their knowledge and personal experiences with anyone interested – both on and off ship! I formed a friendship with the top naturalist on my cruise…and we keep in touch to this day (almost a year later)! He even gave me his name tag as a keepsake!
Participate in ALL available Excursions: Up to 2 excursions a day (3 if you include the occassional snorkling opportunity) provide ample opportunity to explore these amazing islands and the water around them! Snorkeling excursions offer a chance to get up close and personal with very friendly wildlife not found in other parts of the world! The friendly nature of these animals (especially sea lions) is astounding and unbelievable! I participated in EVERY available outing for the fear of missing a once in a lifetime encounter- this is the reason I have over 1,500 pictures from a 1 week cruise!
Participate in On-board Activities & Demonstrations: Onboard activities provide a chance to learn about the local culture. Music events share local musical entertainment, provided by the naturalists! Cooking demonstrations share local cuisine and cocktail favorites. I recommend the original “Red Footed Booby” cocktail!
Embrace the experience, submerse yourself in the culture, and totally appreciate this incredible trip of a lifetime!
Have you experienced the joys of small expedition cruises? Share your stories with us! Leave a comment!
Happy Traveling! Remember, life is One Great Adventure!
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