Visit the biggest tree in the islands

Adriana Mesa Vera, who regularly blogs about life in Galapagos, recently reported on a 300 year old Ceiba tree, near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. If the facts are correct, this tree would be among the first introduced plants in Galapagos (e.g. early 1700’s and would have already been a very large tree when Darwin passed though (1835).   CNH Tours doubts the veracity of Ms. Mesa Verde’s dating – given that the first permanent residents of Galapagos did not establish themselves until the early 1800’s. 

The tree is located at El Progreso, about 7 kilometers from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.  It’s over 40 meters tall (130 feet) with an 18 meter (40 feet) circumference.  Regardless of its age, it remains an impressive specimen!   

The owner of the land on which it grows, José Luis Cornejo, Quito had the great idea of ​​building a house in the tree.     The house is now a tourist attraction, containing artifacts from what was a sugar mill located nearby.   Visitors are encouraged to climb the tree as far as they can go – secured with a sytem of ropes and pulleys. 

A taxi to the tree takes 10 minutes from the main town, costing about $3. 

 

Ceibo

Darwin Foundation raises over $1.5M in 3 months

We reported last October that the Darwin Foundation had found itself in a surprise cash flow crunch, spurred in large part by the unilateral decision of the town of Puerto Ayora to close its gift shop, thought to be competing too well with the local shops.   After a last minute fundraising drive to help tidy it over well into 2015, Swen Lorenz, the Foundation's director, and good friend of CNH Tours, managed to raise over $1.5M from a combination of over 400 individuals (CNH Tours donated $1,000 earlier in 2015) and larger granting agencies. 

Well done Swen and friends!

30 second spot during the Super Bowl today

(This article has been copy pasted from the Wall Street Jounal- Galapagos is of course the most famous Ecuadorean visitor destination - but this small country is suprisingly very rich and diverse).

On Sunday (today!) Ecuador plans to make its debut in the big leagues during the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show. The South American nation with nearly 16 million citizens plans to use the widely-watched American football game to promote tourism.

In a 30-second regional Super Bowl advertisement, costing $3.8 million, Ecuador will run a spot called, “All you need is Ecuador.” The ad aims to entice American tourists with images that highlight the country’s Pacific Ocean coast, its Andes Mountains, the Amazon rainforest and the iconic Galapagos Islands.

The U.S. is already the second-largest source of tourism for Ecuador after Colombia. Last year about 259,000 Americans traveled to Ecuador.

“Advertising during the Super Bowl means we dare to dream big,” Ecuador’s Tourism Minister, Sandra Naranjo, said. And if the ministry’s dreams come true, the 30-second ad will trigger a 10% jump in tourism from the US.

Even a much smaller boost would justify the outlay, though. According to the tourism ministry, with even just a 1% gain in the number of U.S tourists to Ecuador, the country will cover the cost of the Super Bowl advertisement.

The ad will run in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Washington.

Massive ecological restoration on airport island

Taken today from the Facebook posting of CNH Tours friend, Swen Lorenz, very innovative director of the Charles Darwin Research Station / Foundation:

"Great feeling to arrive into Galapagos Airport and see the area outside of the airport BRIMMING with activity thanks to a project I helped to start from scratch two years ago. “Galapagos Verde 2050” is aimed at restoring large parts of the Galapagos Islands back to its original state, or as close to it as possible, by 2050. This project started with a coffee conversation arranged by the Dutch ”Friends of Galapagos" organisation Amsterdam. It now involves not just the Charles Darwin Research Station, but also the Galapagos National Park, the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency, the Ecuadorian Air Force, and the airport operator. That’s not even to begin mentioning all the international partners, donors, and individual supporters and advisors. Now visible when leaving the airport, this will soon be visible from the sky when flying into the airport. At some point in the future, the impact of this project will probably be visible on satellite images.

This is gearing up to become one of the world's most ambitious eco-system restoration projects. Applying scientific expertise, innovative funding strategies, and a local/national/international partnerships. The sort of stuff that TED, the Davos Forum and first-class international media could one day be interested in. With the possibility for such high impact projects, the CDF is an excellent investment for philanthropists and impact investors aiming to deploy funds. And "GV 2050" is a great example for CDF's strategy to do fewer projects, but bigger ones, with long-term funding and huge impact on conservation."

Congratulations Swen!

Baltra Restoration Map

 

Yet ANOTHER cargo ship is lost...

With tourist numbers going up and up (thanks to booming land based visits - as cruise ship numbers are rigorously limited), the loss of yet another cargo ship (down from 5 just 18 months ago, to 2 now) is reallys starting to have an impact on the availability of supplies in the islands.  Dry goods, hardware, gas for cookers - all appear to risk being in short supplies.  CNH Tours friends report empty shelves in some grocery stores.  

One ship owner responded to my query about how this might affect his business:  "We are affected big time, specially for engine supplies and fluids that are not transported by plane. Food refitting starts to become an issue for everyone on the islands."   

He adds that there is some negligence involved:  

"Negligence should be the title of your article. We quite don't understand why the Governor continues to force the entrance of a fully loaded cargo vessel (beyond its capacity - thus riding very low in the water) first to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno,when in fact 70% of the cargo will be delivered at Puerto Ayora. 
Everyone knows that Puerto Baquerizo is a difficult bay to access and exit. Named  officially “Wreck Bay” (Bahía Naufragio it is called by everyone today) by Ambrose Cowley in 1684!"

The "Floreana" cargo ship ran aground yesterday morning.  It is resting in about 10 metres of water - with most of the superstructure stilll above the water line.   Authorities are currently trying to figure out what to do.

 

Floreana 1 

Sea Shepherd - Champions of Marine Conservation

Here's a 3 minute video on what Sea Shepherd Society is doing in Galapagos, released just yesteday.  CNH Tours is familiar with the Society - they have quite an "interesting" history (created by former Greenpeace founder Paul Watson, when he thought Greenpeace was getting too cozy with the establishment).   CNH Tours had the chance to dine with Mr. Watson - he is indeed quite a personality!  In Galapagos, the Sea Shepherd Society works in a very constructive relationship with the Park and the Darwin Station, and make a real difference in the effort to conserve the Galapagos marine reserve.

See the short video here

 

 

Audubon magazine article on a CNH Tours Active trip

Douglas Peacock, the author of the Audubon magazine article entitled: Galapagos Journal: "A Quest to See a Place Untouched by Climate Change", was on a CNH Tours Active Galapagos trip earlier in 2014.   His wife Andrea, who is quoted in the article over concerns about the guide's lovelife, later told CNH Tours: 

"The trip was fantastic, and CNH's part in that was perfect from beginning to end."

To read the article, click here.

2014 a banner year for Ecuador tourism

(from the Global Travel Industry News wire)  CNH Tours notes:  No mention of Galapagos, beyond the Finch Bay Eco Hotel.  The government of Ecuador has invested a lot in developing a more diverse tourism offer, beyond just Galapagos - and this seems to be paying off.

 

QUITO, Ecuador - According to figures released by the government, Ecuadorian tourism gained strength as a basis for the country’s socio-economic development. 2014 was an excellent year for South American tourism, but Ecuador managed to link promotion, growth and investment activities to improve its indices, which was shown by foreign tourist arrivals, which, as an unprecedented milestone, exceeded 1.5 million.

According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism, the best months of the year were April and February and among the main source markets recorded in the period January to November 2014 are Colombia with 333,197 visitors (23.80%), United States 232,868 (16.6%) and Peru with 161,370 (11.5%).

In 2014, destinations, accommodations and travel companies also won prestigious international awards – among them Ecuador, the World’s Best Green Destination 2014; Quito, South America’s Leading Destination WTA 2014; Finch Bay Eco Hotel, World’s Best Green Hotel; Pacari earned 14 trophies at the International Chocolate Awards 2014; Cuenca was Best Adventure Destination 2014; Tren Crucero, South America’s Leading Luxury Train 2014, and the New York Times declared Ecuador an undiscovered paradise in 2014.

Last year private entrepreneurs invested $211 million in the sector. Guayas, Manabí, Pichincha and Azuay were the provinces receiving most investment, especially in the hospitality sector.

Ecuador’s tourism potential makes it an attractive place for investment, not only in its major cities, but also in other locations where it is feasible to establish luxury hotels, resorts and other businesses, as highlighted by a publication of the Ministry responsible for the sector.

The portfolio of State estimates that private tourism entrepreneurs have plans to invest about $2.16 billion in hotel infrastructure in Ecuador by 2020.

New road to Quito airport - FINALLY!

Though the new Quito airport was opened in early 2013, road access had been delayed, leading to at times very long trips to and from the city - stretching to over an hour.  The 12 km distance between the airport and the city was traversed via a roundabout, 42 km journey, a tortuous trip down mountain slopes, through traffic snarled by shopping and strip malls in Cumbayá and Tumbaco, and, worst of all across an aging bridge built in the 1970s that created an eye of a needle over the narrow Chiche river.

Now, travel times have declined dramatically as the new route reduces the distance to the airport by a third and promises to be far less congested than the previous roads. Driving at the legal 90km/hour limit, the new road can be driven in about seven minutes, compared with what could take a frustrating 45 minutes. The total ground travel time from downtown will be slashed to around 25 minutes from 77, according to optimistic estimates from city hall.

This is wonderful news for all travelers to the Galapagos islands transiting through Quito - even those simply considering an overnight there.   It puts Quito again on a competitive basis with Guayaquil in terms of hosting overnight visitors.   CNH Tours has used Quito as its continental base for years, but had been advising transiting guests not considering any continental stays to pass though Guayaquil since the new Quito airport was opened.  Quito is a much prettier city, and more enjoyable to visit than coastal Guayaquil.

(thanks to Analytica Investments for much of the material in this news item)

Transit control card - $20 as of March 1st

Within Ecuador, the province of Galapagos is the only place where Ecuadorians don't have the right to simply move to.   This unprecedented situation arose after the islands became a magnet for internal immigration, as people from the continent sought out better opportunities elsewhere.   The islands being very small and having very limited natural resources such as water and arable land, simply could not take the massive inflow of immigrants.   As a result, the new constitution made Galapagos into a bit of a distinct province, in which immigration was treated very much as it would be in an independent country.

These rules apply to foreigners as well.

To cover the costs of this de facto immigration department, the government set up the "Transit Control Card", which electronically tracks the comings and goings of visitors to the island.  The price has been $10 per card for the past 7-8 years, but will go up to $20 on March 1st 2015.   CNH Tours believes this is a small price to pay for the maintenance of an effective immigration control service to the islands.