On Sunday 17th February Ecuadorians will head to the polls for
presidential and legislative elections. A "dry law" goes into
effect from midday on Friday 15th February until midday on Monday
18th. This measure prohibits businesses in Ecuador from selling
alcohol during this period.
This ban does not apply to people on board ships, but does apply
to everyone else.
A new hospital is being built in Galapagos, in the town of
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island. This is the
capital town (not quite city!) of Galapagos, though smaller by far
than the main tourist town of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz
The US$8.1M investment will lead to a new and modern facility,
part of the government's plan to improve health services in the
islands. Last year, it spent US$5million on equipment and
Of particular importance to tourists on ships in remote
locations, there is now a Navy operated Bell-430 helicopter that is
available for emergency evacuations, in operation since last
August. It has already carried out 48 missions (38
interisland emergency evacuations, 5 rescues at sea and the
transport of 5 medical teams to attend to emergencies in situ).
CNH Tours is pleased to announce that dates for its highly
acclaimed "ACTIVE GALAPAGOS" trips have just been posted on our
website. We have been custom designing the ACTIVE
itinierary for 10 years, growing from 2 cruises a year to a record
14 planned for 2014.
This trip consistently attracts a like-minded group of
inquisitive carpe diem guests from the US, Canada,
the UK, Europe and beyond who want to make the most of what will
usually be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Galapagos
in an "up close and personal" way. Our ACTIVE guides
receive rave reviews and are often cited in the bulletin boards.
They are hand picked and among the very best in the islands. The
Samba crew and on-board experience receives consistent positive
comments. Altogether, these elements combine to make this an
intimate and ideal way to see the islands.
"I want to thank you for
organizing such a wonderful trip to Galapagos for me. Juan
and the rest of the crew of the Samba were amazing. Thank you
for helping me realize a dream adventure." Holly, on a 2012
Recent group photo: Crossing the
Equator, we all dress up accordingly. Spot Juan Salcedo, as
Neptune, and Samba guests as various Galapagos animals.
CNH Tours has unilaterally (we are not very democratic it
seems!) decided that the picture below is the best Galapagos
picture of the year, courtesy of the Galapagos National Park
In it, we see the moment in which inspectors at the Baltra
airport have discovered live iguanas stashed away in the suitcase
of Dirk Bender, a German national about to embark on his flight to
the continent, and beyond. Mr. Bender, in the
background, looks like a child caught with his hand in the cookie
jar. This happened last July 8th, and Mr. Bender has
been in detention at a Puerto Ayora prison ever since, awaiting
trial. There is a 6 month statute of limitations in
Ecuador, and if he's not tried before the 8th of January, he goes
free. The Park Service announced yesterday that a trial
is scheduled for tomorrow, January 4th.
Mr. Bender was caught doing exactly the same thing in Fiji, on
December 3rd, 2011. In that case, he was trying to smuggle a
Crested Fiji Iguana. He was liable for a fine of up to
$20,000 - but CNH Tours has not been able to determine what his
sentence was exactly.
It's very nice to see the law being fully applied in Galapagos,
particularly when it comes to environmental crimes.
Infractions of environmental laws are not often taken seriously by
courts in many countries. The work of the judiciary in
Galapagos is becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental
issues - a good thing for this very fragile natural area.
British nature documentary superstar Sir David Attenborough
presents the 2nd of his 3 part series on Galapagos
tonight in the UK (Sky TV), but this time in 3D. "It is
usually a mistake to go back, but I have now returned three times
to the Galápagos Islands since my first visit in 1978 and each time
the excitement has been undiminished. On my latest trip, indeed, it
has been heightened, for I have had the opportunity not only to
film the islands in a new medium but - as we disclosed earlier this
week - to film an entirely new species" he stated. He refers
to the pink iguana, first documented a few years ago.
Galapagos documentaries remain very popular, and CNH Tours
certainly appreciates the free publicity for this (truly) unique
place. I recall once, after 3 years in the pressure cooker
that is Galapagos conservation life in the islands, I took a
Christmas holiday in Canada with my family, and we went to the
extended family retreat, a small lakeside cottage in the
snow. We started a fire, and distractedly turned on the
television, only to be confronted by a, you know it, Galapagos
The Galapagos National Park reports that a 74 year old woman
died after tripping and falling on the boardwalk at the Cerro
Colorado Semi-natural Tortoise Breeding Centre on San Cristobal
island yesterday. Jane White from the USA was on a cruise on
the La Pinta ship. While visiting the tortoise centre, she
decided to join a group of three other visitors who were headed off
to the restrooms. She appears to have tripped and
knocked her head against the boardwalk as she fell. She was
pronounced dead at the hospital in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, 24
No place is risk free, and Galapagos is perhaps a bit riskier
than your typical cruise experience. Not only does a cruise
include several short hikes on what can be uneven trails, but you
may also find yourself quite far away from professional medical
attention. Anyone considering a Galapagos visit should take
that into consideration and be willing to accept these
risks. Of course, the trails are not "death defying" -
thousands of visitors walk over them every year, many well
into their 70's and often into their 80's (CNH Tours has no doubts
that sprightly folks in their 90's also frequent them).
But accidents may happen. We are sad to hear of
The Galapagos Port Captain reported yesterday that the 20
passenger, tourist superior Galaven yacht had hit some rocks at the
Cerro Dragon (NW sector of Santa Cruz Island) and was taking on
water. Passengers were on land while this
happened. The crew was able to control the leak and
took the ship to the Canal de Itabaca (which separates Baltra, the
airport island, and Santa Cruz island). The passengers were
later taken back to Puerto Ayora.
Based on this information, it would appear that the Galaven may
be out of service of a while. If you planned to cruise on the
Galaven in the next few weeks, CNH Tours recommends you get in
touch with your agent as soon as possible.
The town of Puerto Ayora (the main tourist service centre in
Galapagos) recently inaugurated a nice "Laguna Las Ninfas" mangrove
interpretive boardwalk/trail, with nice panels explaining the
ecosystem, both in Spanish and English. It's just a short
walk (e.g. 10 minutes) from downtown - well worth a
Ecuador no longer has an international airport departure
tax. Until recently, this tax (up to $41) was applied to all
out-going travellers. So, it will be one less hassle to
worry about as you make your way through the usual airport gauntlet
of line-ups, check-in counters, passport control and
security! This doesn't mean you're necessarily saving
money though... typically, it means that Ecuador was able to
reach an agreement with the airlines and their ticketing services
so that the tax could be included in the price of your air
If it's any comfort, the new airport in Quito (presumably payed
in part with airport taxes?) should be opening soon and should
offer more comfort and modern services. The bad news is
that the new airport is significantly furhter out of town.
The logistics of all of this in terms of getting people to and from
the airport are still being ironed out by the entire tourism (and
other) industries - but CNH Tours is sure things will quickly
We are taking the liberty to copy/paste a good article from the
Huff Post on-line, below. More evidence on the fact
that it's a lot better to keep the critters from arriving in the
first place, than to try to clean up after they've arrived.
So, when you're going through the bio-security check at the Quito
or Guayaquil airport on your way to Galapagos - please take a
moment to appreciate the very hard work involved in setting up and
ensuring the effective operation of this very complex
multi-institutional effort. It was developed during the
years CNH Tours was working at the Charles Darwin Research Station
and the Galapagos National Park Service (1998-2002). Our firiend.
close colleague at the time, and master entomologist, Charlotte
Causton, played a key role in the process (along with many
others). She left Galapagos several years ago, but recently
returned to head the Station's Research Department.
From Huff Post On-line
Nov 15 2012
The unique bird and reptile species that make the Galapagos
Islands a treasure for scientists and tourists must be preserved,
Ecuadorean authorities say - and that means the rats must die,
hundreds of millions of them.
A helicopter is to begin dropping nearly 22 tons of specially
designed poison bait on an island Thursday, launching the second
phase of a campaign to clear out by 2020 non-native rodents from
the archipelago that helped inspire Charles Darwin's theory of
The invasive Norway and black rats, introduced by whalers and
buccaneers beginning in the 17th century, feed on the eggs and
hatchlings of the islands' native species, which include giant
tortoises, lava lizards, snakes, hawks and iguanas. Rats also have
depleted plants on which native species feed.
The rats have critically endangered bird species on the
19-island cluster 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Ecuador's
"It's one of the worst problems the Galapagos have. (Rats)
reproduce every three months and eat everything," said Juan Carlos
Gonzalez, a specialist with the Nature Conservancy involved in the
Phase II eradication operation on Pinzon island and the islet of
Phase I of the anti-rat campaign began in January 2011 on Rabida
island and about a dozen islets, which like Pinzon and Plaza Sur
are also uninhabited by humans.
The goal is to kill off all nonnative rodents, beginning with
the Galapagos' smaller islands, without endangering other wildlife.
The islands where humans reside, Isabela and Santa Cruz, will come
Previous efforts to eradicate invasive species have removed
goats, cats, burros and pigs from various islands.
Pinzon is about seven square miles (1,812 hectares) in area,
while Plaza Sur encompasses just 24 acres (9.6 hectares).
"This is a very expensive but totally necessary war," said
The rat infestation has now reached one per square foot (about
10 per square meter) on Pinzon, where an estimated 180 million
The director of conservation for the Galapagos National Park
Service, Danny Rueda, called the raticide the largest ever in South
The poisoned bait, developed by Bell Laboratories in the United
States, is contained in light blue cubes that attract rats but are
repulsive to other inhabitants of the islands. The
one-centimeter-square cubes disintegrate in a week or so.
Park official Cristian Sevilla said the poison will be dropped
on Pinzon and Plaza Sur through the end of November.
A total of 34 hawks from Pinzon were trapped in order to protect
them from eating rodents that consume the poison, Sevilla said.
They are to be released in early January.
On Plaza Sur, 40 iguanas were also captured temporarily for
their own protection.
Asked whether a large number of decomposing rats would create an
environmental problem, Rueda said the poison was specially
engineered with a strong anti-coagulant that will make the rats dry
up and disintegrate in less than eight days without a stench.
It will help that the average temperature of the islands is 75
degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius), he added.
The current $1.8 million phase of the project is financed by the
national park and nonprofit conservation groups including Island
The Galapagos were declared protected as a UNESCO Natural
Heritage site in 1978. In 2007, UNESCO declared them at risk due to
harm from invasive species, tourism and immigration.