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Category Archives: Galapagos

Videos of the most magnificent birds in Latin America

Latin America has the most diverse range of avifauna on earth. More than 3,000 different species of birdlife can be found from the mountains down to the coast. Notably places birders should visit are the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the cloud forests of Peru, the Atlantic coastal forest in Brazil, the Iberá Wetlands in Argentina, and the Boquete Highlands in Panama. Here’s a rundown of the most magnificent birds in Latin America that all birders should tick off their lists.

Hyacinth macaws

The hyacinth macaw is part of the parrot family and is native to the rainforests of South America. It is characterized by its cobalt blue feathers. It is the largest of the parrot family at maturity can reach up to a metre long from its head to the bottom of its tail. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, hyacinth macaws are listed as vulnerable. We can recommend spots in the Pantanal where you will definitely see them.

Andean condors

Andean condors inhabit much of the high Andes Mountains. It’s large, with a wingspan off well over 3 metres and is part of the vulture family. They circle on the thermals looking out for dead animals to scavenge. It has one of the longest lives of any bird, with some living to over 70 years. Perhaps one of the best places to see this impressive bird is in Peru’s Colca Canyon.

Cock of the Rock

Though small, the cock of the rock is one of the most colourful birds in Latin America. Inhabiting the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, these birds are characterized by bright orange feathers including a prominent fan-shaped crest. They congregate in leks where the males display in the hope of attracting a mate. If you want to see a cock of the rock, be sure to visit the cloud forests of Ecuador or Manu in Peru.

Waved albatross

These huge 2.5 metre birds descend upon Espanola island in the Galapagos during the mating season in May. Most visit the island to view the majestic birds’ mating ritual of bill circling, sky pointing, and bill clapping. The rest of the year they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador. Interestingly, the waved albatross can live up to 45 years.

Resplendent quetzal

The resplendent quetzal is found in the cloud forests of Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and Costa Rica. There are several different sub-species, and they are often considered by many as the most beautiful birds in the world. These solitary creatures are part of the trogon family and are usually found on their own or very small groups.

Magnificent frigatebirds

Magnificent frigatebirds have a large wingspan and are known for stealing the food from other birds. This has led to the Spanish calling the pirate birds. The males have a layer of shiny black feathers along their body and a large red throat pouch which they inflate during mating season to attract a mate. Females are large then the males, and have white breast and shoulder feathers.

Blue footed boobies

Though blue footed boobies can be found along the coast of Ecuador and Peru, the biggest populations are on the Galapagos Islands, and are one of the archipelago’s biggest draws. They are easily recognised by their blue feet which they stamp up and down to impress a female. They reach almost a metre in height (the females are generally taller) and they have a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres.

King penguins

Most of the population of king penguins are found in the Antarctic, but there is a small population of king penguins on the Falkland Islands and another in Tierra del Fuego. King penguins are around a metre tall and are expert swimmers. While looking for prey like small fish and quid, they often dive down to over 100 metres, though some reach depths three times this.

Harpy eagles

The beautiful harpy eagle is found throughout the Americas and is one of the most powerful raptor species. They can be seen in parts of the lowland rainforests in Brazil and Central America gliding around on the morning thermal. They have huge talons which they use to grab prey and can lift animals that are as heavy as they are.

Capuchinbird

This funny looking bird is found in Northern Brazil and Guyana. It’s part of the cotingidae family and is famous among birders as having one of the most unique vocalisations, a low rumble like a cow. It’s got a strange head formation which makes it easy to spot.

Want to see the bird life of Latin America? To start planning, call one of our birding experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos archipelago lies off the Ecuadorian mainland and is home to some of the most fascinating wildlife on the planet. It’s isolated location, lack of predators, a little contact with humans over thousands of years has helped the fearless wildlife flourish. Nowhere else on earth can you see some a range of species, from flightless cormorants, penguins, and giant tortoises that roam around on the highlands, while sharks, dolphins, and whales take refuge in the plankton rich waters. Without a doubt, the easiest way to see the island is on board one of the many cruise ships.  No day is the same, with new experiences and wildlife found on every island and site, but a typical day looks something like this.

In the morning, you will wake up to the sounds of sea birds and the gentle lapping of the ocean. Up on deck, you’ll likely to get you first sight of birds which circle around the boat above. Your crew will already have been up early creating a spread of eggs, toast, fresh fruits, yogurts, cereals, juice, and coffee for your breakfast.  You’ll have some time to eat and get ready before the excursion begins. During breakfast, your guide will give you a briefing of the day, what you’re likely to see, and what you’ll need to bring with you.

Board pangas (inflatable boats), to and cross over for either a wet or dry-landing. If wet, you’ll jump out into the water and wade through onto the beach. During a dry landing, the boat will moor up and allow you to step ashore. Which one depends on the site you are visiting. Once on shore, your naturalist guide will take you on a walk, perhaps up to a viewpoint. Along the way, you’ll likely to see everything from noisy sea lion colonies, blue-footed boobies doing their hilarious mating dance, great frigatebirds expanding their colourful red poach, iguanas basking in the sunshine, and waddling penguins. Your guide will help you identify the species, as well as the flora of the island. Back at the shore, you can don snorkel masks and fins and jump into the sea to explore the marine life of turtles, small reef sharks, and colourful schools of fish.

Having worked up an appetite, you’ll board pangas to ride back to the boat. The chef will have been busy preparing a delicious buffet style lunch which typically includes pastas, meat, cheese, bread, vegetables, and some dessert, along with fresh fruit and juices. You’ll have a little time to relax as the boat cruises on to the next destination.

You’ll motor to a new site which will reveal a whole host of new species to discover. For example on Santa Cruz island, you’ll head up the windy roads to the lush green highlands. With your ever present guide, you’ll hike through the greenery in search of some of the island’s giant Galapagos tortoises. They move slowly, so they’re never hard to find. Enjoy close encounters with alien-looking but gentle ambling creatures.

Return to the coast. If time permits, you’ll be taken to another site for some snorkelling. In the cool waters, perhaps spot large manta ray, a colourful parrot fish, a green turtle, or a playful sea lion pup whose inquisitiveness with bring them up close to you. The underwater life in the Galapagos is simply astounding, with rare coral reefs and fascinating marine creatures. You may even spot the odd harmless reef shark gracefully swimming. As always, your naturalist guide will be with you to help you spot and identify the flora and fauna species. With just 16 passengers to every naturalist guide, you’ll have their full attention during the trip.

Back on board, you’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by the onboard chef. Have a glass of wine, swap stories with your fellow guests, look up at the stars (both hemispheres are clearly visible), listen to a briefing of tomorrows itinerary, and get a good night’s sleep, ready for tomorrow’s experience.

To start planning your cruise in the Galapagos, take a look through our Galapagos tour suggestions, call our Galapagos experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, or email us here.

Albatross Breeding Season Comes to Galapagos

The albatross breeding season has started. The waved albatross is the largest species of bird in the Galapagos Islands. They only nest on Española Island, where they can be spotted from the April until the December. This coincides with the cooler season when waters are richer in food. They are called the waved albatross after the wavy lines on their breast. Their courtship ritual is one of the most entertaining spectacles in the archipelago. During the courtship, the male approaches the female, then moves around her. They clack their beaks noisily together and point towards the sky. An eerie rattling sound follow, and much honking prevails. They sway around elaborately leading each other on. The movements are repeated many times. They manage to find their partners from previous years. It is said that they mate for life, which can be up to 40 years. They only lay one large egg on bare ground, which weighs nearly 300g. Once-hatched they rapidly grow, until 6 months later are ready to fledge. One reason they like Española island is it is flat and they can easily take off the cliffs. Film copyright David Horwell.

If you wish to book a Galapagos cruise contact the experts.

Lonesome George returns home

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Almost five years after the death of Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise has returned back home to the Galapagos Islands. He remains were sent to New York in 2012 to be preserved by taxidermists and was exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in 2014.

For those who don’t know Lonesome George, he was the last survivor of the Pinta Islands sub-species. He was found on Pinta Island alone in 1972 when most believed that his species was extinct. After being brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, there were efforts by the park to mate him with female tortoises, but unfortunately this was unsuccessful. At the point of death, his age was unknown, but is thought to be well over 100 years old. He was the star of the show at the research station and during the 40 years he lived there, tens of thousands of tourists visited him.

The Ecuadorian Pacific archipelago is famous as the place that Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. There are 15 species of giant tortoise that inhabit the islands, three of which are now extinct, including George’s sub-species.

The expertly preserved body arrived back on Puerto Ayora on an Ecuadorian military plane and is now on display at the park. Would you like to see Lonesome George or the other wildlife on the Galapagos? Call to speak with one of our travel experts today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or see our sample Galapagos tours here.

25 random but interesting facts about Latin America you probably didn’t know

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  1. Angel Falls in Venezuela is one of the largest waterfalls in the world with a height of almost 1 kilometre.
  2. Colombia produces more than 90% of the world’s emeralds.
  3. Mexico is sinking by around 10 inches every year.
  4. Bolivia was the first country to get rid of McDonalds.
  5. Latin America is the most urbanized continent in the world with almost 80% of its citizens living in cities.
  6. Mambo, salsa, cha-cha-cha, rumba and tango dances all come from Latin America.
  7. It has the shortest coastline, compared to its size, of any continent.
  8. The official name of for Mexico is the United Mexican States.
  9. The oldest university in North America is the National University of Mexico.
  10. Costa Rica translated to ‘rich coast’.
  11. The Amazon spans eight countries – Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
  12. Rio de Janeiro carnival is the world’s largest street festival.
  13. 20% of the world’s oxygen is created from the Amazon jungle.
  14. There are 77 uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon Jungle.
  15. There are over 20 million inhabitants in Sao Paulo making it one of the world’s largest cities.
  16. The highest mountain in South America is Argentina’s Aconcagua and stands at over 6,961metres high.
  17. The world’s most southerly city is located at the tip of Argentina and is called Ushuaia. It has around 55,000 inhabitants.
  18. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and straddles both Peru and Bolivia.
  19. Costa Rica has been ranked as the happiest country in the world.
  20. Asia is Latin America’s second largest trading partner after the United States.
  21. Ecuador was the first country in the world to give nature constitutional rights and can be defended in court.
  22. After the Antarctic, the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile is considered the world’s driest.
  23. Bolivia was the first country to have a ski resort with a rope tow.
  24. Darwin came up with his theory of evolution while visiting the Galapagos Islands.
  25. The Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flats.

To start exploring Latin America yourself, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

8 incredible things you’ll do on a cruise in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands is arguably one of the finest wildlife spots in the world. With a high proportion of endemic creatures, this was famously the archipelago that Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution. It may not be known as much for its human history, but the tales of whalers, buccaneers and mysterious early settlers are just as fascinating.

Here we’ll run through 8 of the best things you will do on an 8-day cruise with us in the Galapagos. Would you like to walk with giant Galapagos tortoises in the wild or swim in the swallows with playful sea lion pups? Take a look at our list of Galapagos cruises and get booking today.

Snorkel with turtles

What could be better than donning a snorkelling mask and swimming with the warm clear waters alongside graceful turtles in the wild? These beautiful creatures live here in abundance, and with snorkelling opportunities every day on most of our cruises, you’ll be sure to spot plenty of them. Silently glide alongside these fearless marine creatures as they search for food.

Walk along the red beach of Rabida

The Galapagos never ceases to amaze in its diversity. On Rabida, a small central island near Santiago, the beaches are deep red, almost maroon coloured. Why? The high content of iron in the rock oxides, making it effectively go rusty. This doesn’t stop the wildlife of which you can see species aplenty. A colony of noisy sea lions bask along the beach, marine iguanas lounge, while brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies build their nest.

Watch the mating dance of the waved albatross

This one’s not only specific to the Galapagos Islands, it’s specific to one island, Española. During April and May the waved albatross return to the island to find a mate. Their curious mating dance of bill clapping, circling and sky pointing. We were lucky enough to see the display close up, a film of which you can see above.

See golden rays in Black Turtle Cove

One of our favourites. The mangroves of Black Turtle Cove are often done on the last morning before departing. Zip down through the secluded estuary on Santa Cruz Island on board dinghies at turn of the engines, after which the real magic begins. Turtles rise to the surface to breath and white tipped reef sharks dart past. However, the real highlight is the schools of golden rays, seen just under the water’s surface.

Post a letter a Post Office Bay

The Galapagos may be known for its wildlife, but humans have also made their mark. Whalers used Floreana Island as a stop off point since the early 19th century. Here they left a wooden barrel at the now named Post Office Bay, from which mail could be left and collected by passersby. When you visit, be sure to leave your piece of mail, and collect some unstamped mail to deliver or hand deliver on your return.

See marine life at the Devil’s Crown

The Devil’s Crown is perhaps the best dive site on the archipelago. The sunken volcanic crater, eroded by waves over thousands of years, is inhabited by a coral reef. This along with the currents, make an ideal home for marine life. Snorkellers are treated to the sight of colourful tropical fish, turtles, marine iguanas and small sharks. If you are a beginner, be sure to stay within the crown, as hammerheads often circle around the outside.

Walk with giant Galapagos tortoises

The iconic giant Galapagos tortoises (of which there are several species), are what gave the archipelago its name. Famously, the islands were home to lonesome George, the last of his species found alone on Pinta Island. He died in 2012, but it’s still possible to go to the highlands of Santa Cruz and walk, albeit slowly, with these gentle giants.

Take a dingy around Kicker Rock

Its Spanish name is Leon Dormido, which literally translates to ‘Sleeping Lion’, an apt name for the two rocky outcrops in the south east of the archipelago. Take a dingy through the narrow channel where an incredible variety of wildlife can be seen. On the cliffs above, nesting blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds can be seen.

Has this whetted the appetite for the Galapagos and the spectacular wildlife that can be seem? If you have any questions about visiting the islands or would like some advice on booking, get in touch with us today or have a look at our Galapagos tour suggestions.

The best drone footage of Latin America

Aerial footage from drones is fast becoming the most creative way to make short travel films. Capturing Latin America’s diverse landscapes, iconic monuments and natural wonders up close and from above adds a new perspective not seen in more tradition handheld camera films. Here are some of the best drone films from Latin America.

Peru

Iguazu – Argentina, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Mexico

Whale watching, Baja California – Mexico

Patagonia – Chile, Argentina

Galapagos – Ecuador

Easter Island – Chile

Orcas, Valdes Peninsula – Argentina

Guatemala

Costa Rica

Panama City – Panama

South America

To begin making your film of Latin America, get in touch today.

50% off selected Galapagos cruise departues

If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Galapagos, now’s the time to visit. We’ve got a massive 2 for 1 offer for selected departures this year on board three different luxury ships.

La Pinta

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Yacht La Pinta offers the ultimate in luxury, pleasure & comfort for 48 guests. It promises a complete immersion in the Galapagos environment, wildlife encounters accompanied by expert guides, delicious cuisine and plenty of comfort on board.

Departure dates

20 November – North Itinerary – 5 days  BOOK NOW
27 November – West Itinerary – 8 days  BOOK NOW
30 November – North Itinerary – 5 days  BOOK NOW
04 December – West Itinerary – 8 days  BOOK NOW
11 December – East Itinerary – 5 days   BOOK NOW
14 December – North Itinerary – 5 days  BOOK NOW
18 December – West Itinerary – 8 days  BOOK NOW

Santa Cruz II

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Santa Cruz is a good choice for those who prefer to cruise the Galápagos Islands on a larger ship offering more stability, space and a range of facilities. The ship was exclusively built for exploring the Galapagos and is air-conditioned throughout. The first class facilities include a cosy restaurant, lounge, library and sun-deck with bar, Jacuzzi and loungers.

Departure dates

25 November – West Itinerary – 6 days  BOOK NOW
30 November – North Itinerary – 5 days  BOOK NOW
05 December – East Itinerary – 5 days   BOOK NOW
09 December – West Itinerary – 6 days   BOOK NOW
14 December – North Itinerary – 5 days  BOOK NOW

Isabela

Isabela

The Isabela II is one of the most comfortable and luxurious yachts that cruises the Galapagos and offers an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere for experiencing the Islands.There are 20 outside view cabins plus an owner’s suite. The yacht is fully air-conditioned; all cabins are spacious, most with two lower berths and all with private bathrooms. Its three public decks offer the amenities of a larger vessel, including bar-saloon, dining room and spacious sun deck with own bar.

Departure dates

20 November – South Itinerary – 5 days   BOOK NOW
30 November – Central Itinerary – 5 days BOOK NOW
04 December – South Itinerary – 5 days   BOOK NOW
08 December – North Itinerary – 7 days    BOOK NOW
14 December – Central Itinerary – 5 days BOOK NOW
18 December – South Itinerary – 5 days   BOOK NOW

Cabins are limited. Call us on 0207 407 1478 or contact us by email to hold your place.

Terms: the offer is only available on these selected dates and must be booked by 10 December 2015. Travel with a companion and pay for just one person. It does not include Galapagos domestic flights, entrance fee, Ingala card or any services on the mainland.

 

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