A visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos

Janet Landfried, Correspondentredlandsdailyfacts.com

Posted: 07/07/2012 01:18:51 PM PDT

The group stopped at a restaurant on a lake in the Andes. On the slopes of the volcano are farms, typical of what they saw all along their journey. (Courtesy Photo)

The Galapagos. Many friends assumed I had been there in my travels. No, I told them, but I've been to a lot of other Pacific island groups.

I grew up in Hawaii, going out on the ocean with my father and family to fish and crab and camp on the Na Pali coast of Kauai in the 1950s, well before it was discovered by tourists. I spent a week on Midway Island, 1,000 miles northwest of Honolulu, within a month of its transfer from the Department of the Navy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997. Last year I took a passenger/cargo ship and spent two weeks in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, followed shortly by a visit to Easter Island or Rapa Nui, with its 800 carved moai or giant statues.

So it was time I went to

View of the plaza in the historic center of Quito, capital of Ecuador. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Photo courtesy of Janet Landfried )

visit the Galapagos, those enchanted islands brought to the world's attention by Charles Darwin as he developed his theories of adaptation of species and natural selection. Most visits by tourists to this ecological paradise are by small cruise ships of about 90 to 150 passengers that go to several islands in four- or seven-day visits.

Each night is spent aboard the ship as the travelers sail from island to island to see the abundant wildlife. There are land iguanas, marine iguanas, giant land tortoises and birds of every kind from blue-footed boobies to flamingos and the Darwin finches, a different subspecies on each island. Seals, sea lions, fish and turtles know no fear and try to ignore the tourists. There are even penguins and flamingos.

But I was also interested in the human history of the islands. With no indigenous population, like Hawaii or Rapa Nui, where did these settlers come from? There are about 17,000 people living in the islands today, most engaged in the hospitality industry.

I found a tour that very much suited me, with Adult Customized Tours in Palm Springs. I have traveled with them before and their tours are fairly short, well planned and moderately priced. They also feature unusual

Girls at the Otavalo Market crocheting and surfing the Internet. Modern times have come to the high and remote Andean villages. (Photo courtesy of Janet Landfried )


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