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Galapagos – Giant Tortoise ‘Lonesome George’ Dies

June 26th, 2012

Sad news came to the world that “Lonesome George” — the last remaining giant tortoise of his kind — passed away in his enclosure in the Galapagos Islands on Sunday (June 24, 2012). The 200-pound, 5-foot-long tortoise was thought to be in the prime of his life — around 100 years old, which is not particularly old for a giant tortoise. Conservation officials in the Galapagos are conducting an autopsy to determine his cause of death, though they suspect he may have suffered a heart attack.

Celebrating the Life of Lonesome George
When the Galápagos Islands became a National Park in 1959, conservation priorities were a top priority for the world’s scientific community. Giant tortoises, who gave their names to the remote archipelago, ranked high, together with the need to eradicate introduced animals (rats, goats, etc.) from the archipelago’s days as a pirate bolt-hole.

Hundreds of thousands of giant tortoises had been killed for food during the intense whaling years of the 18th and 19th centuries. Conservation reached Galápagos too late for some. Floreana and Santa Fe Island Giant Tortoises had disappeared long ago, and the only known living tortoise from Fernandina Island was killed and preserved in the name of research and conservation during a United States expedition in 1907. The La Pinta Tortoise was, officially, another species wiped out, while the island itself was plagued by introduced goats, the tortoises’ direct, warm-blooded competitors for food.

Inadvertently, in December 1971 a young snail expert, Joseph Vagvolgyi, while squatting over the resident Bulimulus spp snails of La Pinta Island, was startled by moving shrubbery. He expected goats to have caused the commotion, but instead saw a male tortoise emerging from the foliage. His report went unnoticed until 1972, when a team of park wardens went to La Pinta Island to hunt introduced goats. On that visit an Ecuadorian field biologist, Manuel Cruz, took the opportunity to analyze the stomach content of goats to understand better the effect of goats foraging upon the fragile flora of the Galápagos. Cruz once again stumbled upon the last living tortoise of La Pinta. But this time he opted for rounding up wardens to help him lug the weighty (200-pound/90-kg), reptile down to the beach. A few days later the tortoise was happily ensconced at the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

The relevance of this ‘animal rescue’ didn’t become evident until much later. In the 1970s, each island’s tortoise population was taxonomically seen as a subspecies – with only subtle differences among them. In subsequent years, scientists agreed that they were all different species. The only remaining living tortoise of La Pinta became a “living extinct species”, unless a female was found. From that day forth, the search began to find another female La Pinta tortoise. Officially, a monetary reward still exists for the person who delivers a female La Pinta tortoise to the National Park authorities.

In the meantime, one of the wardens from the 1972 team on la Pinta, Fausto Llerena, took over the care of the all resident tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station. George, as he called him, became better known over the years as “Lonesome George”, possibly named after the American comedian George Gobel (1919-1991) who used this nickname in some of his shows.

As the last living tortoise of La Pinta species, Lonesome George soon became a living icon for conservation not only in the Galápagos but also internationally. His image is the logo of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, and he is possibly the world’s most famous reptile. He even has an entry as the rarest animal in the world in the Guinness Book of Records and a clothing line named after him. As author Henry Nicholls puts it: “His story echoes the challenges of conservation worldwide; it is a story of Darwin, sexual dysfunction, adventure on the high seas, cloning, DNA fingerprinting and eco-tourism.”

His departure is felt worldwide. A faint flame of hope remains, following a recent study in northern Isabela (where species with Floreana Island DNA were found), with the tortoises presumably removed in whaling days that carry George’s species DNA. Perhaps George’s death is not entirely the last page of a chapter initially stained by human greed, later redeemed with dedicated efforts towards the preservation of endangered species. As for the old male from La Pinta, he will be remembered for generations to come, and his story will serve to shed light on our responsibility towards the other species on our planet.

Click on the link below for more details.

Last of his kind, Giant Tortoise ‘Lonesome George’ Dies (Time Newsfeed)

Where Does My $100 Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee Go?

June 16th, 2012

When you arrive in the Galapagos Islands, everyone is required to pay the National Park Entrance Fee. For the average visitor (adult, non-Ecuadorian) the cost is USD$100. This is one of two fees that you’ll pay to enter the Galapagos. The other fee and document that you’ll need is issued by the Consejo de Gobierno de Galapagos. It is called the Transit Control Card (Tarjeta de Control de Transito). So, now that you and thousands of other visitors have paid, where does that money go? Click on the link below and find out….

Galapagos Entrance Fees: Where does the money go?

Galapagos – Learning About Sally Lightfoot Crabs

May 19th, 2012

Galapagos Tours – The red and blue Sally Lightfoot Crabs are a highlight for many visitors to the Galapagos and they always are for us. This week we published a new post about these funny little crustaceans. Check out: Learning about Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Seattle Times Notes Go South Adventures

May 10th, 2012

Seattle Times – Looking for adventure? A small-group tour can be the way to go, especially to far-flung corners of the world where organizing your own trip…Go South Adventures is among a list of notable Seattle based companies.

Seattle-based tour companies offer worldwide adventures (click link to view)

Chile – Atacama Desert – Tierra Atacama Lodge

March 12th, 2012

At almost 8,000 ft, the Atacama desert is the highest and driest desert in the world. There you will find volcanic geysers and hot-springs, other worldly vision scapes and an evening sky painted with stars. Come explore the latest addition to our first class Chilean Lodge programs. Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa offers guided Atacama adventures, Altiplano excursions and bird-watching; as well as luxury spa services, fine dining and boutique hotel hospitality… all in one of the earth’s most beautiful locations, San Pedro de Atacama.

Torres del Paine National Park: the aftermath of the fire

March 1st, 2012

Torres del Paine National Park: the aftermath of the fire

By January 13, 2012 the fire that had affected the Torres del Paine National Park since December 27, 2011 was fully controlled. Of the Park’s more than 240,000 hectares (600,000 acres), approximately 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) were damaged by the flames, representing only 6.6% of the Park’s total area. The area damaged by the fire included 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of grassland and bush of fast recovery. Of the remaining area, 10% is Native forest.

Fire in Torres del Paine National Park

December 30th, 2011

EcoCamp evacuates due to closure of Torres del Paine National Park.

We regret to inform you that EcoCamp Patagonia is being evacuated following the closure of Torres del Paine National Park on the evening of December 30th, on the orders of Chile’s National Park administration body CONAF.

The fire is currently restricted to the western zone of the Paine massif, meaning EcoCamp guests, on the eastern side, are in no danger. However, due to the park’s closure and EcoCamp’s inability to conduct tours as normal due to fierce wind and smoke, we feel evacuation is the most prudent action. We had sincerely hoped this measure would not be necessary but the well-being of our guests is our absolute priority.

All of our guests spent a very peaceful night at EcoCamp and are now being transported to Puerto Natales where they will be placed in temporary accommodation until we have further news regarding the outcome of the battle to stop the fire. A tentative date for EcoCamp’s re-opening is January 3rd – To be confirmed following subsequent updates on the battle to get the fire under control.


December 13th, 2011

The Ecuadorian Government has noted that the ticket prices for air transport will increase from January 1, 2012 through the elimination of subsidies for local aviation fuel.

With the elimination of government subsidy to the aviation fuel, they will get $ 92 million savings. The new fuel prices will apply to airplanes using the airports of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. They will maintain the 40 percent fuel subsidy for governmental domestic airports. Pricing is scheduled to be announced before the end of the year by the Ecuadorian government.

New prices have not yet been set (as of this post 12/13/2011). We will inform our passengers as soon as the new prices have been announced.

Explora Patagonia – Chosen as Best Hotel by Condé Nast Readers

November 15th, 2011

The readers of Condé Nast Traveller Magazine chose Explora Patagonia as the best hotel in the Americas. The lodge is located right at the heart of the extraordinary Torres del Paine National Park in central Patagonia. The varied and untouched landscapes of this area led UNESCO to declare it a World Biosphere Reserve.

The Patagonia hotel lodge opened in 1993 on the banks of the Salto Chico waterfall. It affords an excellent view of the unique Paine Massif and two of the three impressive towers, which give the park its name. The lodge has 50 rooms and a variety of inviting spaces.

Situated on a 3-hectare (7.4-acre) site, the design borrows certain organic forms from the landscape itself, adapting to it with simple elegance. It was designed to create harmony with its surroundings, bringing those who visit closer to the magnificence of nature. For travelers, the lodge provides unexpected comfort in a remote region of the world.

Peru Featured in Anthropologie Clothing Catalog (Nov. 2011)

November 2nd, 2011

Peru – Cusco, Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca (the floating Uros Islands) serve as the latest fashion backdrop in the  November ’11,  Anthropologie Clothing Catalog.  Ohhh Peru, so hip.

Click to view – Anthropologie Clothing Catalog (Nov. 2011)

We are proud members of the following organizations

  • Adventure Travel Trade Associates
  • GSA and the Rainforest Alliance have formed an alliance to support sustainable tourism in Latin America