CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Saturday March 7, 2015
Here's a 2 minute CNN piece on a recent success story - the survival of tortoise hatchlings on Pinta Island, for the first time in over a hundred years, now that the introduced rats have been eradicated (thanks to the work of the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service). The piece interviews our old friend Linda Cayot, the woman behind this work, and the woman who hired my husband for a job in Galapagos.
Linda was inadvertently responsible for not only the birth of tortoises on Pinta, but of CNH Tours as well!
Click here to see the video.
Wednesday February 25, 2015
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.
Friday February 6, 2015
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!
Saturday January 31, 2015
(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.
Friday January 30, 2015
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."
Thursday January 29, 2015
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:
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.
Sunday January 18, 2015
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
Monday January 12, 2015
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.
Monday January 12, 2015
(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.
Sunday December 21, 2014
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)
Thursday December 18, 2014
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.
Wednesday December 10, 2014
CNH has learned that Ecuador's internal revenue service has started applying regulations more seriously - in that it will no longer consider cruises as a transportation service, but as a tourism product. Whereas transportation services (buses, taxis) are exempt from charging 12% tax on sales, tourism operations are not.
Apparently, this will not be charged to people buying their cruises outside of Ecuador. But if you are inside Ecuador, Ecuadorian or foreigner, you will be charged the extra 12%.
Tuesday December 2, 2014
(Unashamedly copy-pasted from "The Guardian" newspaper - published 30 November 2014)
Galápagos Islands wildlife threatened by battle between locals and scientists
Wildlife on the Galápagos is under a new threat. The scientific group that has helped to preserve the islands’ giant tortoises and other unique creatures is on the brink of closure – because of a row about a gift shop.
Local traders have objected to the Charles Darwin Foundation running a souvenir shop at its research station at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. They claim it was siphoning business from their own shops and in July local officials, backed by the government of Ecuador which owns the Galápagos, ordered the station’s shops to be shut.
The impact for the foundation – which carries out wildlife research in the Galápagos and provides key scientific advice on protecting wildlife there – has been devastating, its executive director Swen Lorenz told the Observer.
“The shop provides us with about $8,000 a week in income from the sale of souvenirs to tourists. Losing that key source of funds was bad enough but it has also affected other donations. People don’t see why they should give us money if the Ecuador government will not support us by letting us run a gift shop.
“There has been a dreadful chain reaction following the shop’s closure and we have run out of cash.” The foundation is now two-and-a-half months late with salaries for its staff and some projects have had to be suspended. One key staff member has already left.
“We are now on the brink,” added Lorenz. “It’s going to be touch and go. The Ecuador government has since said it supports us, but unless we get some money from them and are allowed to reopen our shop in the next few weeks we will have to close.”
The Galápagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific, 560 miles west of the coast of Ecuador, and are renowned for the species of birds and reptiles unique to the islands. These creatures include the marine iguana, the only species of iguana that can forage at sea; the Galápagos giant tortoise, the world’s largest tortoise species; and the Galápagos hawk.
The islands also played a key role in helping Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of natural selection. On his round-the world voyage on the Beagle, the young biologist stayed on the islands for a month in 1835, noting the subtle variations in species from each of the islands.
In particular, Darwin was fascinated by differences in colour and beak shape in the islands’ mockingbirds and finches (now known as Darwin’s finches), observations that played a critical role in developing his evolutionary theory.
In the 20th century the Galápagos became a popular tourist destination and the islands have suffered from persistent problems associated with the introduction of pests and loss of habitat. The Charles Darwin Foundation has played a key role in helping the islands overcome these threats – for example, in setting up a breeding programme for several of the islands’ different species of giant tortoises.
The foundation was also involved in eradicating feral goats from several islands where herds had stripped them of their vegetation (CNH Tours editor's comment: My husband was in charge of that project). Once these goats had been removed, giant tortoises could then be reintroduced to their former habitats. However, new threats continue to bombard the islands. The latest, said Lorenz, is a recently introduced parasitic fly, Philornis downsi, which is devastating bird species – including Darwin’s finches. The fly lays its eggs in nests with incubating birds and its larvae feed on the blood of the nestlings, sometimes causing up to 100% chick mortality in a particular nest.
At least 16 of 20 song bird species only found in Galápagos are now threatened. “This is another very serious threat to the wildlife of the Galápagos,” added Lorenz. “We have developed a strategy to deal with it, but it is touch and go whether we will be in existence long enough to implement it.
“This matter has to be resolved very quickly or the islands’ wildlife will suffer severe damage.”
Friday November 21, 2014
The non-profit Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), the oldest and largest scientific operation in the Galapagos Islands and an iconic visitor site, is at a high risk of forever closing its doors before the end of 2014 according to its director, and CNH Tours friend, Swen Lorenz.
Why? It boils down to the sticks being put in its fundraising wheels by the local mayor Leopoldo Bucheli, who is under pressure by small t-shirt shop owners to prevent the Station to operate its own Station store. The recently refurbished store opened in May this year, selling almost exclusively Ecuadorian products. The unrestricted funds so generated were part of a strategy developed three years ago to deal with the major cash-flow issues at the Station, which runs a $3million annual operating budget (it's internet connection alone costs $3,500 per month, let alone the high cost of electricity, water supply, maintenance, management of large collections of animal and plant collections, the most important research library on Galapagos in the world, waterfront facilities etc. etc.).
The Station, previous run by intelligent and well meaning scientists, had gradually been run to the ground over the past 10 years for lack of concerted attention to the bottom line. In 2011, Swen Lorenz stepped in as a volunteer at first, recognizing the tremendous turn-around potential of the Station. A London financier, Swen had a knack for business and succeeded in dealing with many of the financial "hangover" issues he had inherited. The Station store was on track to get back into the black, relying in good part on the generation of up to US$300,000 of unrestricted cash flow per year from the Shop, to cover all those costs associated in the operation of a remote research station, and that are hard to pay for from research grants or for other fund-raising efforts.
CDF urgently needs your support.
A fundraising plan is in place to raise signficant funds to transform the Station. However unless the Station raises funds now, its entire operation will not survive until the end of 2014.
The Charles Darwin Foundation needs to raise $1,000,000 before the end of 2014 to avoid bankruptcy and secure funding to continue our work in protecting these Islands and their natural inhabitants.
Please, to enable nature and science to have a voice in Galapagos:
- Donate what you can using this link here
- Purchase a CDF online membership here
- Share our cause with your friends and supporters online by downloading our fundraising and awareness media pack: here
CNH Tours donated $1,000 to the Station a few months ago this year, and we are encouraging others to help in any way they can to ensure that this beacon of good science.
You may also wish to send a note to the town of Puerto Ayora's mayor, letting him know that without the Station working in town, you would see no reason to visit Puerto Ayora at all during your Galapagos cruise and ask him not to obstruct the Station store operations.
Leopoldo Bucheli: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's be sure the sign below can be removed soon.
Thursday November 20, 2014
Thankfully the "San Cristobal" (built in 1966) did so soon after having left the mainland on its way to the islands on November 17 - so there's no risk of an oil slick affecting Galapagos, nor of debris scattered among their wild shores. The San Cristobal seems to have developed a list of 15 degrees before capsizing completely and going down in 10 minutes no more than 100 km from the coast (Galapagos is 1,000 km away) - the crew was unharmed. This comes 6 months after another such cargo ship sank, the Galapaface (who names these ships?), but this time just off the shores of San Cristobal island in Galapagos (see our earlier news stories in May and July this year).
Though not a risk for Galapagos ecosystems, this sinking, right on the heals the other, is a big blow to many small merchants in the islands. The ships carry all kinds of goods, from food, household goods, hardware, building supplies, gas cannisters, even vehicles. Very few of these small merchants insure their shipments, and those having received a blow last May, may now find themselves completely bankrupt. There is a real risk of shortages of supplies in the coming weeks and months.
There was a time back in the 1970s when the islands were served by one cargo ship which came once a month - but rapid growth in both population (from perhaps 5,000 then, to 30,000 now), and the great expectations of material comforts and a rapid increase in land based tourism have led to the need for a much more regular supply of goods to the islands. This increased back-and-forth between the islands and the mainland also poses a risk for the introduction of new species to the islands. Introduced species are the greatest threat to Galapagos biodiversity.
So everything is connected. One silver lining in this and the earlier sinkings is the hope that the ships will be replaced by new ones that meet the strictest bio-security and phytosanitary standards, reducing the chance that they will be vectors for the introduction of harmful pests to the islands. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Saturday November 1, 2014
(Reuters) - Conservationists said on Tuesday they have brought giant tortoises found on the Galapagos island of Espanola back from the brink of extinction, gaining a foothold strong enough to allow humans to leave the reptiles alone.
Numbering just 15 some five decades ago, the tortoises, which can live as long as two centuries, now number about 1,000 and can sustain themselves, according to a study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
"We saved a species from the brink of extinction and now can step back out of the process. The tortoises can care for themselves," said James Gibbs, a vertebrate conservation biology professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry who led the study.
Española giant Galapagos tortoises, their scientific name is Chelonoidis hoodensis, measure 3 feet (1 meter) long with a saddle-backed shell.
They live up to 150 or 200 years, eating grasses and leaves during the wet season and cactus during the dry season on an arid, low, rocky island measuring only 23 square miles (60 square km). Gibbs said the population numbered perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 tortoises before the arrival of people.
"The tortoises were hunted by buccaneers, whalers and other sea goers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries," added Linda Cayot, a herpetologist who is science advisor to the Galapagos Conservancy group.
"They collected them live, stacked them in their holds, and had fresh meat on their long voyages. Tortoises can live up to a year without food or water, so a natural source of fresh meat," she said.
Gibbs said the tortoises had been given up as extinct by the time the islands were protected as a national park in 1959.
In the 1960s, only 14 tortoises were found on Espanola, 12 females and two males. They were all taken into captivity and a third male was found in the San Diego Zoo. From those 15 tortoises, the population was rebuilt through a breeding program in captivity before they were reintroduced to the island.
"Nobody knew how to breed tortoises in captivity and the best zoos around the world had failed. The Galapagos National Park figured it out and actually became exceedingly effective at it," Gibbs said.
The success story of the Espanola subspecies comes in sharp contrast to the closely related tortoise found on the Galapagos island of Pinta. In 2012, a male dubbed Lonesome George died in captivity as conservationists tried in vain to find a way to breed him. He was the last of his subspecies.
Even though the human threat was eliminated by protecting the Espanola tortoise, the reptile still faced a formidable foe in goats that inhabited the island for 90 years before being removed in the 1970s.
Introduced to the island by humans, the goats mowed down just about everything in their path, including most of the cactuses the tortoises thrive on.
Unlike the grassy place it once was, the island now is covered with woody vegetation unsuited for tortoises. Gibbs said it could take hundreds of years for cactuses to reach previous levels.
Thursday October 2, 2014
(this article is copy pasted from the Charles Darwin Foundaiton news release of yesterday)The Archipelago's must-have selfie! 12 months in development, our Darwin statue has finally arrived to the home of science in Galapagos. We decided it was time to move away from the tired, weathered looking Darwin profile so often connected to Galapagos. Our statue embodies the young man who visited the Islands - full of energy, notebook and magnifying glass close by, ready for the gap year of a lifetime.
The above photo shows the team behind the statue: renowned Galapagos scientist and life-long Darwin scholar, Godfrey Merlen (left - CNH Tours's note: Godfrey is one of our oldest Galapagos friends) with Ecuadorian sculptor Patricio Ruales. Godfrey has put together a fabulous article about his involvement on the project. Darwin’s Right Hand Man describes his personal joy, pride and fear (of turning to clay) all for the love of his hero.Check out the complete article below.
Click here to read Darwin's Right Hand Man by Godfrey Merlen
Thursday September 25, 2014
There’s an animated debate going on right now about the final resting place for the icon of Galapagos, and by extension, all island conservation challenges – even all conservation challenges worldwide: Where should the stuffed and mounted remains of Lonesome George (LG), the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise so famous for having been the last of his kind for at least 40 years, rest? LG died in 2012. His remains were sent to the Museum of Natural History in New York where they were given careful treatment and restored. He was unveiled a few days ago at the museum, where he is on display until January. Aftr that, he’s to travel back to Ecuador. Galapagos residents are of course furious at the idea that the Ecuadorian government’s proposal to have him displayed in Quito, in exchange for a bronze replica to be standing guard in the islands. A heated discussion is filling social media these days on the matter.
The Guardian newspaper has come up with a novel idea: Lonesome George, already an emissary for conservation work worldwide, should go on a slow (tortoise paced) world tour to help educate and sensitive people on the challenges of species survival in a rapidly changing, globalizing world with fewer and fewer wild spaces in which to seek refuge. See their article here:
Lonesome George’s species was killed off by a combination of hungry whalers and seafarers looking for fresh meat to eat, the accidental introduction of egg and hatchling tortoise eating rats and pigs to Pinta island in the 19th century. Giant tortoise species on other Galapagos islands managed to survive this pressure. Those surviving on islands with rats and pigs remain in a precarious state. Thankfully, conservation efforts by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation are helping improve matters.
Below: LG on display in New York
Sunday September 14, 2014
I was just contacted by a member of the leading penguin research team in Galapagos. They've been studying penguin populations since the 1970s. Thanks to their work, they've managed to understand some of the leading threats to penguin survival (some include absence of suitable nesting sites) and have taken action to support their conservation. One the biggest (and most expensive) challenges is carrying out regular population surveys. YOU CAN NOW HELP. By taking pictures of penguins, and recording where and when you did so, and sending them to the researchers, you will help them get a lot more valuable information on penguins. See their website: http://www.igalapagos.org/
Saturday September 6, 2014
I guess I missed this video, released last year. It's 7 minutes long, and gives us a good idea of the kinds of things one will see on a Galapagos cruise. It's fun - I even recognize a face or two, and see my old office. If you're considering a trip to the islands, have a look a this, and it will give you an idea of what you are in for (but don't expecting the fun music track).