A new tortoise species discovered in Galapagos?  Lonesome George might be rolling over in his grave (well, not really, he’s being stuffed)!  It seems that research has shown that what was previously believed to be one species from Santa Cruz Island is actually two distinct species.  The newest, and probably youngest, species hails from the East side of the Island, while the main species is predominantly found on the West side of the island.  While subtle differences had been noticed by some from the Darwin Station on Santa Cruz, this new evidence indicates that those subtle differences might really be due to speciation.  Find more information on the subject by Researching “New tortoise on Santa Cruz Island” to get the most up to date information on this exciting development!

Española Island – Galapagos at its Best!

Española Island, formerly called Hood Island, is probably the greatest island to visit in Galapagos.  Featured in almost every documentary, Española boast the entire world’s mating colony of the waved albatrosses, the most strikingly beautiful marine iguanas with males touting large red patches on their sides, and colonies of Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls.  The famous “blow hole” of documentary fame,  is also located here, and it is probable that you will spend a few minutes sitting on the side of the cliff with albatrosses breeding on your left, the blow hole in front of you, and marine iguanas swimming in ocean pools to your right.  And watch your feet!  It isn’t uncommon to find a swallow-tailed gull nest with nestlings in the rocks right next to you.

As you enjoy the sights of Española, don’t forget to look up.  It is likely that you will also have a glimpse of the Galapagos hawk cruising overhead.  This island truly boasts a plethora of animals that makes Galapagos unique in the world, and the antics of the sea lion residents just adds to the fun of this visit.  In the past it was almost impossible to get to Espanola Island, due to the fact that only the large cruise boats had permission to visit there, but beginning in January, 2016, a few local residents will also have permission to make the trip.  Located in Southeast of Galapagos, a relatively long ocean crossing is required to reach Espanola, but, trust me, the trip is well worth the trouble as the sights will stay with you for a lifetime.  Just keep the Dramamine handy and enjoy the trip.  You won’t be staying on the island that long, there are no people or facilities here, but the wildlife is truly incredible.  Enjoy Española while you can, it is the oldest and most weathered island of Galapagos, and will soon sink below the waves as it continues its Eastward movement.  In a few hundred thousand years it will probably be gone, so get there while you can.  By the way, Galapagos Local is associated with one of the local agencies that can get you there, so you may well desire to make this part of your itinerary.


 Galapagos Islands are truly one of the current wonders of the world, and visiting them is on the "bucket list" of scientists, teachers, and nature-lovers in general.  Having grown up rearing turtles and iguanas, I count myself especially fortunate to have had the chance to visit the Islands while still teaching science, I only wish that I had gotten there earlier in my career because of the instant credibility generated among my students and the first-hand experiences I had with the unique animals found there, not to minimize the ecological lessons learned in Galapagos that are similar to those faced in the United States, or any other area for that matter.

And then there are the people of Galapagos - you know, those you see in the documentaries -  no wait- those you NEVER see in the documentaries!  They have become some of my closest friends over the years, and truly, my home away from home.  Other than the fact that I am still not fluent in Spanish, I love my time in the "Paradise Islands" and look forward to every chance I get to return.  I have had the rare privilege of having had two young men from Galapagos complete their Senior year of high school in Arizona from my home, and both went on to community college, so my ties to Galapagos go far beyond a casual visitor status.  If you join us on one of these tours, I'm sure some of my passion will rub off on you!

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