Galapagos News

Huffington Post uses CNH Tours as Galapagos source

A small thing for some, but a big thing for us.  We were pleased to note that Huffington Post, a well-known on-line media platform, cited CNH Tours in its report on the dismissal of the Galapagos National Park director.  We may not be big, but we're small!   

Click HERE for the story.



Head of provincial tourism is new Park Director

Well, it looks as though the park directorship has once again reverted to being a political appointment post, and not a civil service job for which people have to compete to get, against a clear set of technical requirements and experience, and training.    This risks taking us back to the disastrous revolving door directorship days of 10 years ago.  Let's hope not.

The new director is Alejandra Ordoñez, former director of tourism for the province of Galapagos.  This sends uncertain signals - does it mean the government wants to open these fragile islands to more tourism?  Already, they are under heavy pressure (one that has mostly been resisted, thankfully) for golf courses (in a water poor environment), sky-diving, sports fishing, massive hotel development...   The Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve are notoriously challenging to manage - about the same size as Greece, 100 islands with industrial fishermen wanting to have access, tour operators wanting 500 passenger ships etc. etc...   

CNH Tours has no reason to doubt that Alejandra is up to the task - we just hope that her appointment does not signal a caving in to pressures that may undermine what these islands are world famous for - their unique biodivesity, their other worldliness feeling, a place where a moderately trained eye can see graphic manifestations of biological evolution still happening today... and finally, a one of a kind place for a trip of a lifetime.

We wish Alejandra all the best - but we continue ask why this sudden change. 



Park press release on change of directors

We've translated this (with some help from Google Translate) from the Spanish version emitted by the Park Service this past Saturday, 11 April:

The Minister of Environment, Lorena Tapia, appointed as the new Director of the Galapagos National Park Alejandra Ordoñez, Ecuadorian young professional specializing in public management and sustainability.

The Ministry of Environment welcomed the work of Dr. Arturo Izurieta for his leadership of the institution during the last period in which significant institutional achievements were made.

The new director of the Galapagos National Park, Alejandra Ordoñez, is challenged to strengthen the management of the entity in the islands and deepen the management of conservation and management of these protected areas.

Ordonez is Master in Public Management, Sustainability and Competitiveness of Tourism and has experience of working in the islands on two charges of high importance.  Throughout her career Alejandra Ordonez has been an adviser to the office of Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism.

In Cuenca, was coordinator of Tourism Research Department of the Central University of Cuenca, professor of masters in tourism and sustainable development of the university.

In Galapagos, he served as Provincial Director of the Ministry of Tourism and Director of Public Use of the Galapagos National Park, among others.

Alejandra Ordoñez becomes the second woman to assume the Galapagos National Park, institution managing the protected areas of the archipelago (note from CNH Tours:  the last one, Raquel Molida, was fired for perhaps being too firm on conservation matters and rigid with established rules, in 2008), which has 335 when rangers who work in the 7 directions that compose it are:

  • Ecosystems, Public Use,
  • Environmental Management,
  • Education and Social Participation,
  • Planning,
  • Legal, and
  • Financial Management in Santa Cruz Island

The park manages 2 decentralized technical units  in San Cristobal and Isabela Islands and a technical office in Floreana Island.

Prize winning testimonial

I have to be watchful in not posting too many self-congratulatory "news" items here - this is the second in just a matter of days - something I have avoided doing ever since I started posting items in the news section of my website, 5 years ago.  I promise I will not post any more for at least 6 months...  But I couldn't resist this one.  I JUST received an email from Carol, clearly, a very happy guest who finished our Active Galapagos trip on April 3rd.  But I must warn prospective travelers - never raise your expectations to unattainable levels, as you will risk disappointment. Be ready for a trip of a lifetime - but be prepared for just a great trip.   Carol does a singular job in raising expectations here - so much so, that even I want to get right back out there!

Hey Heather -

THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for coordinating a trip of a lifetime - we are SOOOOO IMPRESSED with CNH and the SAMBA! and have told EVERYONE that they MUST tour with you guys - hands down the BEST ! there are SOOOO many reasons - please let anyone know they can chat with us about the trip if they are interested in going...

i was so moved, that i threw some words on paper to share with family and friends when i got home - thought i would send to you.

have a wonderful day! :)

having returned from Ecuador only several days ago...i remain in a dream state, stricken with awe by the otherworldly, magical experience of traveling through these amazing and remote islands!

what a transformational journey! so entranced by the beauty and uniqueness of so many wild creatures living in a delicate and mostly peaceful coexistence...yet some realities violently savage in this unusual natural world were taught to us innocent bystanders, gazing with the curiosity of youngsters.

some outstanding memories:
* our first evening swim along a white sandy beach in the soothing salt waters after a hot and hectic day of travel and passports and papers and people moving devices - feeling at last free to explore and connect with the natural world - such contrast - flamingos feeding in the brackish waters - the day's end announced by the peaceful setting sun

* a great blue heron working tirelessly with its piercing bill to consume the smallest of sea turtle babies fighting for its life with no hope of survival - and then disappear down this bird's long, curved, elegant throat

* marine iguanas matching the black lava, crawling over each other in every possible limb entangled pose with no regard for neighborly niceties and sense of personal space while other creatures join the sprawl - smaller lava lizards, bright orange sally lightfoot crabs, flightless cormorants...a party at the edge of the sea

* the intense equatorial sun that plays a vital role in every creature's survival finally setting with bright orange hues reflecting onto the backs of penguins and a myriad of other creatures along a rocky spine of lava breaking the ocean currents with gentle brilliant colored waves

* the raw excitement and pure joy of jumping into pangas full throttle to join magnificent pilot whales and dolphins in their beautiful, elegant and record speed...joyful liquid motion

* enjoying cervezas, rocking gently among new friends on the spacious, clean wooden deck of the incredible Samba under a most brilliant, cloudless night sky

* landing on remote islands with wild, raw and savage volcanic-inspired landscapes uninhabitable to humans yet yielding a phenomenal array of coexisting wildlife - each playing a significant role in maintaining the delicate ecosystem

* playful, swirling, twirling, circling, rolling, bubble-making, whiskered, big eyed sea lions allowing us to share their wonderful underwater world

* mysteriously effortless other-worldly rays - golden, manta, spotted eagle - gliding, soaring, swimming, floating peacefully in perfect formation with no sense of urgency, gently lifting their appendages as if to wave a greeting of acknowledgement

* sunlight illuminating an incredible array of oceanic life - unimaginable colors, brilliant schools of fish, corals, sea stars, octopus, bright yellow sea horse, spiny lobsters, iguanas feeding on much to take in as an awkward visitor floating above, breathing through our small tubes, mumbling our delighted exclamations with bulging-eyed excitement behind our giant masks

* ancient sea turtles floating effortlessly all around us, safely keeping their distance with acute knowledge of our presence - and when suddenly suspicious, having an incredible ability to move swiftly beyond us with one powerful stroke of their flippers

* so many birds...nesting on ground, in trees, in cliffs...tropic birds, frigates, blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, nazcka boobies, brown noddys, shearwaters, petrels, galapagos hawks, mockingbirds, finches, galapagos doves, owls, warblers, flycatchers, pelicans, herons - all incredible - witnessing their habitats, their acrobatics, their feeding skills - each with adaptations and abilities and significance

* Juan, Jose and the Samba crew joyously sharing the wonders of their galapagos world with professionalism, enthusiasm and a deep knowledge and appreciation...protecting us, watchful, silently witnessing our discoveries without ever patronizing or limiting our experiences - allowing us to fulfill our dreams, our thirst for knowledge and for adventure - helping us understand the delicate balance of this world and human's insignificance and significance among these ancient creatures...

* starting the day in the gentleness of the early morning light, floating among the mangroves, while recognizing that even here, in these protected waters, there are no shields impenetrable to the onslaught of development of the industrial world's conveniences - plastic bags and bits, fishing line, rope, styrofoam - the roots of the mangroves reach out like a many tentacled octopus to capture these unearthly toxins and remind us that our sphere of impact is global - what we carelessly throw away today can end up in a horrid migration that impacts the incredible diversity of life that is constantly threatened on a planet that can only sustain such abuse for a finite amount of time...

this journey has raised my consciousness, rocked me into a more awakened state, reminded me that our childlike sense of wonder should never leave us!

- carol


Park director mysteriously asked to step down

The director of the Galapagos National Park Service, Arturo Izurieta, with whom CNH Tours has had several positive exchanges, was informed by the Minister of the Environment that he would be replaced.   We don't know the story behind this, but will try to find out.   Here is his posting on FaceBook, which appeared today (translated from Spanish):

A year and 8 months ago today, I accepted the challenge of contributing to strengthening the management of the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve. I did not ask nor have I sought to stay in the position of Director of one of the world's most famous protected areas. Yesterday I was informed of my removal from the job.   I have no doubt that this was a political decision.  Though I respect it, I do not necessarily agree with it.  However, I leave with the satisfaction of having straightened and improved many internal processes at the Park Service, and having improved transparency and relations with the community. I have managed to complete key planning processes, to initiate zoning processes and to strengthen the human resources at the Park Service.  Management has not been, nor ever can be perfect, but work has been carried out with honesty, integrity and fairness.  When I came here, I found an very well trained Park staff, both men and women, in the field, and in the office, who work hard in the 4 inhabited islands and remote places of our beautiful and unique islands.

As an Ecuadorian and a professional, trained both in Ecuador and overseas, I am pleased to have been able to contribute to the conservation, though not for long, of this most unique and fragile part of Ecuador and possibly the world. Thanks to each and everyone who supported and believed in my leadership. I ask you to continue providing everything within your power to make our islands and protected areas remain a world example. Thanks again.

Arturo Izurieta

CNH Tours is a bit concerned over this development - as we have heard no reason why Arturo would be asked to step down after only 20 months in office.  The Park Director job has in the past been a highly political one - and for a period between 2004 and 2007, 14 directors and interim-directors were cycled through the job, as local and national politicans sought to have their "man" in the job (though after this chaotic period, it was a woman who was given the job).   We of course give the government of Ecuador the benefit of the doubt over this decision, but we will certainly be watchful of how the job is filled, and by who.

Below, a picture of Arturo Izurieta earlier this year, handing out certificates of recognition to two very close friends of CNH Tours:  Wacho Tapia (left): long time director of technical operations of the Galapagos National Park Service, and Felipe Cruz (right), born in Galapagos, brilliant strategist, community leader and dedicated conservationist. 



CNH Tours Guides Receive 100% Scoring

CNH Tours began systematically surveying its returning “Active Galapagos” guests using an on-line survey tool in December 2014.   We are so happy with the results, we are posting them here.  What you see below the picture of one of our guides (Luis, aka Champi) is no more than a “cut and paste” for all the answers we have received to date on the question:  “Comments for / about your naturalist guide”.  Absolutely no editing has taken place.  This question follows a request to rate the guide from 1 (absolute best) to 5 (the guide ruined our trip!).    Believe it or not, the average of all responses received to date is 1.   We cannot be more pleased. 

Luis Rodriguez

Luis knew EVERYTHING about the islands and their wildlife. He was wonderful!

We loved Fausto. Frankly, so much about the trip depends upon the naturalist on board that I don't know if I could recommend any given "boat" from now on as it had become clear to me that 90 percent of trip satisfaction depends on the naturalist.

Absolutely fantastic! Very knowledgable on such a wide range of topics and SO nice.

Juan is an excellent guide, he goes out of his way to make sure we have an exceptional experience. I have used guides in various tours and never seen such enthusiasm and expertise. He didn't stick to a fixed itinerary but would adapt it according to weather and conditions to deliver the maximum satisfaction to us.

Our family felt that Juan was absolutely great and truly helped make the boat trip an unforgettable experience. He is not only very professional and knowledgeable but full of contagious enthusiasm and an adventurous spirit, often going beyond the call of duty, such as having the captain follow a pair of hunting Orcas for several miles.
We will 100 percent recommend Juan to anybody's!

Very knowledgeable. Excellent communication skills. Very passionate.

Can't imagine a better guide than Luis. However, he provided us with SO much detail, that it was impossible to take it all in, and sometimes I wished we weren't standing out in the sun or in the rain while he was speaking. At those times, less info/more comfort would have been preferred.

Juan is the best guide we have had on twelve active adventure trips in the past ten years. His knowledge, specifically his depth of knowledge and clear explainations were exceptional. His ability to get all of us to sit on the ground, rocks, sand or path and experience the wildlife activity happening around us was a new and very rewarding experience. When going snorkeling he positioned us for the currents and locations so that we saw more species and numbers than on all seven snorkeling experiences combined.

Juan was so knowledgeable about the land, history, wildlife and plants. You can tell Juan loves the islands and he wants to preserve it. Juan is so enthusiastic and wants to share his enthusiam with his clients. We were so fortunate to have Juan as our guide.

Juan was an exceptionally fantastic guide. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, great sense of humor, able to get a group to cooperate.

Juan was absolutely outstanding in every way .... knowledgeable,
enthusiastic, passionate about the wildlife, natural beauty of the
Galapagos, amazing ability to engage and inspire, exudes the joy he feels,
an incredible person and guide and a delight to travel with!

Juan was absolutely outstanding in every way .... knowledgeable,
enthusiastic, passionate about the wildlife, natural beauty of the
Galapagos, amazing ability to engage and inspire, exudes the joy he feels,
an incredible person and guide and a delight to travel with!

Juan was amazing. His knowledge of and respect for the park was infectious and inspiring.

I am convinced that he is the best guide in the islands. Funny, patient, enthusiastic, informed, professional - he is a superhero naturalist. LOVED him and could never do the islands again with any other guide but Juan.

Juan was an amazing guide. His knowledge of the environment was comprehensive.

Luis was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He was an absolute pleasure, and kept a very sharp eye on everyone on our excursions.

Thousands march in Ecuador streets

Ecuadoreans marched in the thousands yesterday, in several mainland cities, protesting what they believe is a growing centralization of power in the office of the president (Rafael Correa), reductions in the freedom of the press, and the president's expressed desire to change the constitution (a constitution that he himself promulgated in 2008) which would allow him to be a candidate for the next presidential elections (e.g. removing the two term limit).

Having observed Ecuadorian politics for the past nearly 20 years, CNH Tours was initially very pleased to see the work of the Correa administration when it first came to power in 2006.  Charismatic and intelligent, he seemed to understand the deep rooted challenges in terms of putting the country on the road to development, and sharing the wealth in so doing.   Though he pays strong lip service to the other populist regimes on the continent (Venezuela, Bolivia), generally, he has navigated a balanced path between investment in infrastructure and people, and social policies.  

It seems however that he increasingly believes that the changes he has set in motion require his continued presence at the helm, while the tools he is increasingly resorting to are criticized by some as being close to authoritarian in nature.  Apparently, as the country saw yesterday, an important number of Ecuadoreans believe that they don't need him at the helm indefinitely to continue on the road to prosperity and social justice.  

Visitors to Ecuador and Galapagos need not be concerned about these developments, but they do offer a good opportunity to learn about politics, social justice issues, development and governance in another country.   CNH Tours recommends you read about these things on-line - and you'll be sure to engage in interesting discussions with the Ecuadorians you'll be meeting during your visit there.

Thanks to our old Darwin Station colleague, Michael Bliemsrieder, for the picture below.  Hotel Gangotena is the nice three story building on the right side  - it is considered among the top hotels in all of Latin America.  In the back ground, Pan de Azucar (Sugarloaf) mountain - with the statue of Virgin Mary on top - a popular visitor site.  Quito

A tiny ray of hope for finches on the brink of extinction

(from the Galapagos National Park press release - with help from Google Translate).

For the second consecutive year, endangered mangrove finches are successfully hatched in captivity. 

The mangrove finch project team, led by the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Park (GNP), in collaboration with San Diego Zoo ( SDZ) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, began the process of captive breeding of mangrove finches, with the goal of providing one more chance for one of the most, if not THE most endangered bird species in the world to avoid extinction. 

From February 3 to March 3, 2015, 30 mangrove finch eggs were collected in Playa Tortuga Negra, northwest of Isabela Island. Then the eggs were transported 130 km by boat to the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) incubation lab in Puerto Ayora. 
Mangrove Finch Chick
The mangrove finch is the rarest of "Darwin's finches", with an estimated population of only 80 individuals with less than 20 breeding pairs population. Research shows that the introduced parasitic fly, Philornis downsi is a major cause of the high mortality of this species, with no less than 95% of the chicks dying during the first months of the breeding season under natural conditions.  (note from CNH Tours:  This is one graphic manifestation of how the careless introduction of non-native species to Galapagos can affect the wildlife there - after polynesians arrived in Hawaii, followed by others, nearly 50% of its bird species became extinct - something that is desperately trying to be avoided in Galapagos).  

An intensive conservation management effort to increase the number of chicks produced each year began in 2014 for the first time in the Galapagos Islands.  Eggs were collected from the wild and transferred to Puerto Ayora, where the chicks were hatched and cared for.  Fifteen of them were successfully released into the wild in May 2014. Due to the small size of the population of the mangrove finch, without viable technique today to protect wild nests from the parasitic fly, the collection of eggs and captive breeding chicks is a strategy that has given successful results, which should be replicated.

Mangrove Finch

After last year’s successful results, this season the team of scientists and rangers faced unexpected challenges in the field.  Francesca Cunninghame, an official of the CDF and leader of mangrove finch Project, explained that "it was exceptionally dry in Playa Negra Tortuga and mangrove finches reproduced slower than normal, therefore, only 12 pairs were seen to be nesting . We also had two days of gusty winds which made it dangerous to climb the tall trees to reach the nests"

The incubation equipment and captive breeding, led by San Diego Zoo personnel Global (SDZG) with the support of Ecuadorian fellows, put the eggs in incubators, located within the quarantine facilities in the CDRS. This year’s crop of eggs hatched during the last two weeks. The chicks are fed 15 times a day on a diet of scrambled eggs and papaya and introduced wasp larvae.

Nicole LaGreco, leading expert in wild bird breeding at  the SDZ Wild Bird that "with the success of last season, we were excited and anxious to be invited to participate again this year. Although this year has been more challenging than the previous year, we hope that this will be another successful season. "

Note from CNH Tours:  The mangrove finches exist only on the shores of a very restricted part of Isabela Island at Black Turtle Cove - this site is accessible only with a special permit from the Park.  It is not a visitor site.

CNN piece on successful tortoise conservation

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. 


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. 



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.  

Sales tax to be applied on cruises purchased in Ecuador

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%.