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Category Archives: Galapagos

WISH LIST FOR 2019

This time of year is ideal to dream about places to go in 2019 or beyond. Here is our list to inspire you. From sailing around the Galapagos Islands or cruising in Antarctica. Other wildlife adventures are to be had in the Amazon, or the coral reefs of Belize. For impressive natural wonders, it is hard to beat Iguazú Falls. To visit colourful indigenous people and their ancient past, our two top places would be Peru and Guatemala. Finally, for the best barbeques in the world washed down with Argentine Malbec you can’t do better than Mendoza.

CRUISE THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Galapagos is the dream trip for anyone interested in wildlife. Have your own Darwin moment discovering flightless cormorants and swimming iguanas. The joy is that most of the strange creatures are fearless of humans, so you get up-close and personal to albatrosses, giant tortoises and the iconic dancing blue-footed booby. Snorkel with sealion pups and the only tropical penguin not to mention unique fish, turtles and whales.

EXPLORE ANTARCTICA

You won’t forget the first giant iceberg that comes into view as you head across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. Follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, but on a comfortable expedition cruise ship. Our expert scientists on board will help identify the wildlife and fill-in on the history of the Great White Continent. Have fun with penguins, fur seals and keep a watchful eye on the huge elephant seals

INTO THE MYSTIC MACHU PICCHU

Peru, Machu Picchu Copyright David Horwell

The ‘lost’ city of the Incas can be reached on foot or luxury train down through the Andes. This iconic World Heritage Site will live up to all the brochure photos you’ve seen on first sight. New regulations have been introduced at Machu Picchu to limit visitor impact, but we can still organize a second visit on your own if you wish to experience the ruins and meditate without being rushed.

FEEL THE POWER OF IGUAZÚ FALLS

The hundreds of cascades that make up Iguazú falls lie between Argentina and Brazil. We recommend visiting both sides. On the Brazil side you will get a spectacular panoramic view. Walk down to the base of the biggest drop and feel the power of the spray and marvel at rainbows created. You will get wet! On the Argentine side, explore trails into the jungle, with tropical birds, butterflies and a small train to the top of the Devil’s Throat.

DIVE INTO BELIZE’S CORAL REEF

Belize has the second longest coral reef in the World. Here you can snorkel or Scuba dive into another world. Get eyeball to eyeball with turtles, reef sharks and giant mantas. Spot multi-coloured tropical fish teeming around coral formations. You can even explore wrecks. If you tire of the underwater world head into the jungles and find hidden Mayan ruins.

RUB NOSES WITH EASTER ISLAND STATUES

Esater Isalnd Moai copyright David Horwell

Easter Island or RapaNui, as locals call it, lies thousands of miles out into the Pacific from Chile. This is surely a real trip of a lifetime. You will be rewarded by the hundreds of Moai or giant statues hewn from the volcanic rock. Explore the fascinating quarry where many statues lay abandoned, the ceremonial centre of Orongo or the caves where natives sought refuge. The best part is meeting the local people, we can arrange homestays, fishing trips or traditional stone cooking or visit during the annual Tapati festival.

DISCOVER THE AMAZON

The greatest rainforest in the world covers seven countries. For animal and bird-watching we suggest the upper amazon tributaries in Ecuador or Peru. Here there are accessible lodges or luxury small cruise boats. In Brazil the distances are far greater and the rivers much wider, but for the real wildlife enthusiast you get deep into the forest at Cristalino or Uakari lodges or take a cruise from Manaus, once the centre of the rubber boom.

WINE-TASTING IN MENDOZA

Mendoza’s relaxed atmosphere and fine dining make it an excellent choice to visit for rest and relaxation. A cycle in the afternoon sun around the many vineyards dotted just outside the city is a must, and of course a great way to try some of these top-notch wines. The hot days and cool nights of the region are the secret to the success of Mendoza’s wine region. If you’re not a city person why not stay at one of the many bodegas, learning more about the process of wine making and, in the harvesting season help collect the grapes: a lovely way to while away a few hours.

GUATEMALA A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PARADISE

Tikal – Guatemala

Guatemala is a country busting at the seams with a mix of colonial architecture, rich indigenous history and spectacular volcanic and tropical jungle scenery. Meander through the colourful local markets bartering with stall holders. Get lost in the lively festivals or spontaneous live music that bursts onto the streets and plazas. Delve deep in the steamy rainforest to discover vast Mayan cities, hop on your bike to cycle around shimmering lakes and towering volcanoes. Out of all the Latin American countries, this one has got to be one of our favourites

Autumn in Galapagos Islands

Galapagos sealion cruise

I recently returned to the Galapagos for a wonderful week’s cruise. I was a bit worried that October is not an ideal time to go but was pleasantly surprised. It was low season, so we hardly saw any other boats and often were the only passengers to land on an island. The boat was not full, so it felt more exclusive. The weather was fantastic with an average temperature of 22-25C and placid seas. It meant that it was neither too hot shore visits nor too cold for swimming. The sunrises through the morning mist were a bonus. Evenings aboard the boat were warm enough for star-gazing. We also had fun spotting sharks that swam around the boat at night attracted by the lights.

Galapagos_tortoise
The northern Autumn months are excellent for wildlife. Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island congregate in the highlands to breed. We were tripping over them like in Darwin’s day. Blue-footed boobies were looking after chicks, but some still doing their famous dance. The Albatross breeding season is in full-swing with huge bundles of downy chicks. We saw migrant shorebirds like sanderlings and plovers and got close to flamingos. They obliged by doing a fly-past. Everywhere young sea lions were playing on land and in the water.

Sealions galapagos
One of the highlights was snorkelling in crystal clear waters with penguins, sharks, rays and thousands of fish. Luckily, we had a fish expert on hand Dr. Jack Grove to identify and entertain with his anecdotes. Sea lion pups often joined the group doing aqua-aerobics.

Galapagos Penguin
I was on board the stylish Origin motor yacht designed to showcase the very best of this wondrous archipelago in comfort. Contact us to book your trip.

SUMMER IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Copyright David Horwell

Every month is a wildlife delight in the Galapagos Islands, and the northern summer months are no exception. The giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island have begun to migrate to the highlands in preparation for nesting season, blue-footed boobies are particularly active and, if you’re lucky, you may get to see the curious courtship ritual of the flightless cormorants. Whales and dolphins are more active, especially off the western islands. It is also a good time to spot migrant shorebirds. In central islands you can observe sea lions starting to give birth and rearing their young.

We offer 4-nights, 5-nights and longer combinations on board our stylish Galapagos yachts that are designed to showcase the very best of this wondrous archipelago. Contact us to book your trip.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

Latin America’s top football teams

boca juniors

Flickr: Sam Kelly

The beautiful game is by far the biggest sport in Latin America, nearing an obsession for many. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Try a match between some of the biggest rivals like Buenos Aires’ River Plate and Boca Juniors. Though the teams haven’t got the spending power of European clubs, managers keep an eye out for new talent. So, if you’re looking for a new club to support in the new world, here’s our list of the best there is.

River Plate, Buenos Aires

Let’s start with two of the biggest and well known. The Buenos Aires team River Plate has gained a serious following despite, a recent run of bad luck. They’ve notched-up 36 titles and two Libertadores Cups under their belt. Many of River Plate’s top players get nabbed by European teams.

Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires

The fierce Buenos Aires rivals of River Plate are the Boca Juniors who, over the years, have nurtured a wealth of talent and be named one of the top Latin America clubs of the 21st century. They’ve had similar success with River Plate with 30 titles and four Libertadores. Heard of Maradona? This was his team.

Corinthians, Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo’s Corinthians have gained a serious reputation. With a star-studded list of players over the years, they are Brazil’s largest club. Over the years have bagged a ton of titles including 5 Brasileiraos, a Libertador and even a FIFA World Cup when they beat the UK’s Chelsea. This is a club to look out for.

Penarol, Montevideo

Without a doubt, Penarol is Uruguay’s most followed and successful club. Located on the outskirts of Montevideo, this team have scored enough to gain almost 50 league titles and several Libertadores. The club has produced top players over the years and contributed to all Uruguay’s World Cup teams. Though they haven’t won a cup since the ’80’s, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Santos FC, Santos

Santos FC needs little introduction. This historic Brazilian club has set the football world on fire with the likes of Pele and Robinho. Pele is often considered the greatest player of all time. More recently, it was Neymar’s club before he moved on to play for Barcelona. If you’re looking to support a Brazilian club with pedigree, look no further than Santos.

Atletico Nacional, Medellín

Atletico Nacional, based in Colombia’s city of Medellin, are having a good run, bagging plenty of league titles over the last 10 years. They’re becoming the powerhouse not just in Colombia, but the whole of Latin America. The most famous player to come out of the club is Rene Higuita, a goalkeeper known for his unique style.

Colo-Colo, Santiago

Let’s face it, Colo-Colo is Chile’s most successful team. They’ve many cups and a Libertadores under their belt. Famed for producing players with a fast and offensive style; the big European clubs keep an eye of for talent.

Olimpia, Asunción

Olimpia continues to do well with almost 40 league titles among other cups. It’s best known for bagging the Intercontinental Cup, the Copa Interamerica, the Libertadore and the League Title all in 1979, the peak year for the club. A good solid team with a strong history and one to keep an eye on.

Want to go and watch the beautiful game in Latin America? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

RELATED: This guy is the world’s biggest football fan!

Where to watch Latin America’s famously melting sunset

Who doesn’t like a good sunset? One of life’s great joys is watching the melting ball of orange light dropping behind the horizon, while colouring the sky. Whether you are on a honeymoon or on a romantic getaway, be sure to not miss one of these sunset places. In Latin America they don’t all revolve around the beach and sea, it could be desert or mountain.

Valley of the Moon, San Pedro de Atacama

This spectacular lunar-like landscape lies in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Towering red rock formations would look more at home on the surface of Mars than they do in Latin America. Scamper up to the viewpoint at the end of the afternoon to enjoy a special sunset. As the sun drops down behind the arid scenery, the rock colours transform.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste

Tamarindo

Flickr: Duane Storey

We mentioned that few of these spots are beaches, but we’re making an exception with Tamarindo. This surf town and strip of sand overlooks the Pacific on Costa Rica’s western coast. Ideal honeymoon territory. Spend you days swimming, snorkelling or wildlife watching before taking your seat on the powdery sand. Watch the sun setting over the ocean’s horizon, a picture-perfect sight. Spend the evening with travellers splashing around in the sea.

Machu Picchu, Cuzco

Machu Picchu

Flickr: Todd Gehman

If you’ve got deep pockets, spend a night at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel next to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. When the throngs of crowds have all, you’ll have the perfect uninterrupted view of the sun setting over the citadel from your private terrace. A completely different way to experience one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

The Galapagos, Ecuador

galapagos sunset

Flickr: Steve

The Galapagos Islands are famous for wildlife, but few mention the spectacular sunsets. If you take a cruise around the islands it can be tiring spotting the archipelago’s animals. At the end of the day, enjoy a glass of something fizzy and some mouth-watering food, with the sun setting behind the ocean horizon. Then argue with fellow traveller’s if you’ve seen the ‘green flash’.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain

Flickr: duncan c

Climb Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain to take in the spectacular views across the bays but be sure to stay up there until the late afternoon. There are few places on earth that measure up to watching the sun setting over the Marvellous City. Lights twinkle among forested mountain scenery, spot the towering Christ de Redeemer. Just perfect.

The Salt Flats, Uyuni

The Uyuni Salt Flats lie on the high plateau of Bolivia are one of the world’s great natural wonders. A vast expanse of snow-white salt broken only be the odd cacti-laden island. Stay in one of the unique salt hotels out in the wilderness. Here you’ll witness the sight of the sunset’s light bouncing off the salty crust. Ready your camera, you’re not going to want to miss snapping this.

To start planning your honeymoon or romantic break in Latin America, call on of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

Select Latin America joins up with Galapagos Conservation Trust

Copyright David Horwell

We are happy to have renewed a partnership with the Galapagos Conservation Trust. This non-profit organization raises money to help preserve these wonderful islands. Based in the UK it is part of the Charles Darwin Foundation who maintain a scientific research station in the archipelago. They advise the National park and help with specific projects. Among these are monitoring whale sharks, surveying resident seabirds like the endangered penguins and cormorants, repatriating giant tortoises that are captive-bred and restoring islands to their pristine state by eradicating introduced organisms. A recent project is to restore Floreana island, to re-introduce the endemic Galapagos mockingbird, a species that were as inspirational to Charles Darwin as the finches that bear his name. The GCT also fund environmental education of local students in the inhabited islands, for they are the future guardians. We will donate a year’s membership of the trust to each of our passengers visiting the Galapagos.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

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.

RELATED: 9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

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.

RELATED: Take a journey around the Galapagos islands on this map

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.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

Lonesome George returns home

lonesome_george-488x326

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.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

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