Saturday, June 23, 2012

Equinox at the Equator

Spending the summer solstice on the equator is not an everyday occurrence, but it is even more special to be spending it in the Galapagos Islands, where some of the world’s most interesting species can be found.  

The day started off like any other day we’ve had in the islands: a morning visit to the Charles Darwin Center, the Ministry of Tourism office, and then a day at Tortuga Beach.

While at the Charles Darwin Center, we learned about very similar things to what we had heard before about tourism and the Galapagos Islands.  The biggest threat to the islands is invasive species such as goats, rats, and ants, which were brought over by ships over the various years.  Although many of the eradication programs have been successful – especially the goat eradication program – there are still many invasive species on the islands today.

After our discussion at the Charles Darwin Center, we went to see Lonesome George, the last existing tortoise of his species.  Lonesome George is an internationally known tortoise, so seeing him was a truly extraordinary opportunity!  Although efforts have been made to have him mate with other tortoises, he initially refused to mate with them.  When he was finally willing to mate with a tortoise at the ripe age of 90, none of the eggs were sterile. Ever since then, he has not mated with any other tortoise, making him very lonesome indeed.

Lonesome George

Later in the morning, we went to visit the Ministry of Tourism, where we learned about tourism plans in Ecuador and the Galapagos.  Some of the plans for eco-tourism to help make the Galapagos Islands more attractive through better regulations and higher standards make this place seem like even more of a paradise to visit, especially since the target length of a visit is expected to become longer!

The delicious bread at El Chocolate
After a delicious lunch of homemade bread and chicken and rice at El Chocolate, we were headed off to Tortuga beach for some beach time!  Except this wasn’t just an ordinary beach – it was a calm hidden beach through a pathway behind the main beach after a 40 minute walk on a beautiful path through the natural flora and fauna of the island.  On the way, we saw dozens of iguanas soaking up the sun in the sand!

The pathway to the beach
Some of the iguanas laying in the sand!

After walking through some trees, the path opened up to a beautiful beach that was secluded and calm.  It made for some relaxing swimming and laying in the sun!

The tranquil beach at Tortuga Bay

All in all, although it was an overcast day, realizing that it was the summer solstice while sitting on the beach made me realize what a special experience I was having to be able to spend it in paradise.

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