Travels with Lois and Jason
Amazon Rain Forest and the Galapagos Islands
an adventure in contrasts
December 22, 2011 - January 8,
Our Galapagos Experience
Click here for our Amazon
We have been very fortunate to travel to many exotic (and not so
exotic) places. We have always been hesitant to return to a
place once loved, fearful that the “aha” would be missing.
When traveling we like to combine trips to take advantage of
airfares, time changes, and wear and tear on our maturing
bodies!!! Since we were traveling so far to the Amazon River,
we wanted to go to another South American location. We
considered many places, both visited and un-visited, and decided, a
little reluctantly, to re-visit the Galapagos Islands. Our
1996 trip was mixed: great day outings, but very poor ship
accommodations. We were trilled that this trip had both
outstanding outings and ship accommodations, leaving us with the
desire to go back yet again.
||One reason we decided to go
back to the Galapagos was to get incredible close to the
animals in a natural setting. We were not
|Sea Nazca Booby on eggs
|Blue Footed Booby
|Great Blue Heron
Reptiles and sea life
|Sea lion protecting boat...
|Sea lion greeting us...
|Sea lion nursing
|Sally Lightfoot Crabs
The Islands and Scenery
||The Galapagos Islands are
a chain of 15 volcanic islands about 600 miles west of
Ecuador. They were made famous by the travels of
Charles Darwin who was amazed by the diversity of plants and
birds found in such a closely grouped set of islands.
He pondered the question “What would explain different
species of birds on two adjacent island?”
Our cruise took us to 14 different landing on seven
different islands. Part of what makes the Galapagos so
unique is the variation that exists from location to
location. Even two landings on different sides of the
same island present totally different
environments. We went ashore in pongas, small
rubber boats, to see the diversity for ourselves.
Our daily routine consisted of morning and afternoon hikes,
with our ship moving to a different location during lunch
and during the evening. This arrangement is pretty
much standard for all the tour boats in the Galapagos, and
is what we did during our 1996 visit.
These pictures try to capture the different landscapes on the
|| San Cristorl (Kicker
Notice our ponga in front of the rock in the picture to the
wasteland...with "blister" cones and craters
Fernandina landing area,...pahoehoe
lava was around the corner and catcus patches that love the lava
While we saw many of the same facinating birds and amphibians on
this trip as we did in 1996, we saw a few sights we did not see
before; specifically, penguins and flamingos, the skeleton of
a whale that had washed ashore, a vast array of fish endemic to the
islands seen when snorkeling, a feral cat, the Galapagos
Interpretation Center, and a lava tunnel.
A major issue discussed on our 1996 trip was the damage done by
goats, pigs, dogs, cats and rats introduced by sailors and early
residents of the islands. We even bought a "kill a goat"
button to support the clean up effort. On this trip we saw a
feral cat, but the really good news is how many islands have now
been completely eradicated of non-native mammals. We again
went to the Charles Darwin Research Center to visit Longsome
George. Tragically this close to 200 year old giant tortoise
is still without a mate. At the center we saw the
breeding pens where they are raising baby tortoises. Each pen
had babies from just one island. When ready, they will be
released back on their island becoming a part of the re-population
The Amazon and the Galapagos in Contrast
Combining the Galapagos Islands with the Amazon Rain Forest made the
monumental differences in these two environments crystal
clear. While they both straddle the equator, that is about all
they have in common.
- The Amazon is amongst the oldest land mass on earth (about 200
million years old and once attached to Africa), while the
Galapagos are amongst the youngest. Espanola is the oldest
island, between three and five million years old, and Isabela is
still growing with five active volcanos (last eruption June
- The Amazon has the most diverse spectrum of life on earth,
with thousands of species of plants and animals identified and
about as many yet to be identified. The Galapagos Islands
had only 435 species of plants and animals when Charles Darwin
visited in 1835, and there are many more today which have been
introduced by humans.
- Precipitation in the Amazon is measured in meters (yards)
while it is measured in millimeters (parts of a inch) in the
- The total combined land mass of all the Galapagos Islands is
about 3000 square miles (smaller than Los Angeles County at
about 4000 square miles). The Amazon Basin is about
2.7 million square miles, about the size of the lower 48-states
at 3.1 million square miles.
- There are millions of square miles of forest in the Amazon,
and about 150,000 square miles of flood forest within
that. There are only a couple of square miles of forest of
any kind in the entire Galapagos archipelago, in addition to
deserts and volcanoes .
- In the Galapagos, you can go from sea level to a few thousand
feet elevation within a mile of the shore line. In the
Amazon, the change in elevation from the shore line along the
Atlantic Ocean to the start of the Amazon River in Peru, 2400
miles west, is only 1000 feet. That is, the Amazon is
essentially flat, and so it floods when it rains.
- The Amazon was ALWAYS hot and humid. The natives didn’t
own long sleeve anything. The Galapagos had variations in
temperature, both cool and hot; we used our jackets and we
saw many local people wearing sweat shirts.
- Humans have lived in the Amazon for thousands of years.
The first known permanent settlement in the Galapagos was in
- The Galapagos played a significant role in helping Darwin with
his ideas on how evolution of species is influenced by
adaptation to one’s environment, and the Amazon is an area
displaying that adaptation in its extreme.
Click here for our Amazon
Photo journalist: Lois Frand
reach us via email at Jason
April 16, 2012