82Isea&iISPRING-SUMMER 2010and movie-style monsters. This is a highly active, educationaland fun holiday for anyone, but for youngsters, as the futureguardians of this planet, this privileged insight and appreciationof the natural world is invaluable. History in the makingThe Galapagos islands were first discovered in the 16th century,but it was not until 1835 that their most famous visitor arrived: theEnglish naturalist Charles Darwin. It was during his stay thatDarwin formed the basis for his theory of evolution by naturalselection. At the time, scientists and the Church held the beliefthat species were unchanging, and it was Darwin's revolutionarytheories on evolution (publicised some 20 years after his visit)that changed all that. Experiencing first-hand the ecosystems ofthe Galapagos, we can appreciate how, while nature clearlyadapts to its environment, it also relies on specific environmentalconditions to survive - conditions that we, as humans, arechanging day by day. As Sir David Attenborough points out: "Eventhough Galapagos is recognised as one of the best-preservedarchipelagos in the world, due to the consequences of humanintervention many species are now threatened with extinction.With prompt and holistic action, however, Galapagos can providea model of sustainability for the world." Fortunately, as yet the islands remain a startling reminder of themiracle of nature and the rich diversity of species we have on thisplanet. The rigorous work of the Galapagos Conservation Trust(GCT), the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDF), the GalapagosNational Park and others aims to keep it that way by raisingawareness and preserving the land and marine ecosystems. Assuch, any trip to the Galapagos promises to be as valuable andeducational as it is fun and enlightening. That said, there are verystrict regulations regarding visitors. As the GalapagosConservation Trust acknowledges: "Tourism is an undeniable factof life and has contributed to bringing the unique wildlife ofGalapagos to wider attention, as well as boosting the localeconomy. The challenge for GCT and its partners is how to raisepublic awareness of Galapagos without causing a flood of visitorsdestroying the unique experience they have come to enjoy." With that in mind, cruising here is a somewhat uniqueexperience. There are numerous regulations regarding whichvessels are permitted, a cruising permit is required, and anofficial guide must accompany the party on board at all times.Your CNI charter broker can organise a yacht for you, and takecare of all the official requirements, but bear in mind you'll needto notify them well in advance if you wish to visit. A natural selectionThe Galapagos islands bridge the Equator in the Pacific Ocean,600 miles from mainland Ecuador. The 13 main islands andhundreds of other islets and volcanic rocks float on one of themost active volcanic regions in the world - the Nazca Plate.As you sail between the islands you'll be escorted by a circusof acrobatic birds wheeling overhead or dipping in the sea -these include cormorants, pelicans, gulls, penguins, boobies.When blue-footed maleboobies skip a matingseason their feet become bluer, making them more appealing to femalebirds the following season. Giant Galapagostortoises can survive a year without eatingor drinking.One in five of the 43 threatened Galapagosmarine species mayalready be extinct,prompting new pressurefor climate-change policies.In 1976, wild dogs wipedout a colony of around 500 land iguanas. Naturalpredators, such as dogs,pigs and wild cats, are now strictly controlled.FASCINATING FACTS
SPRING-SUMMER 2010I sea&iI83furtherafieldand albatross. Ashore you'll encounter land iguanas (whichgrow to over three-feet long and can live up to 50 years) dozingamong the cactusin the midday sun, while on the water's edgeyou'll discover their brothers the marine iguanas (there areseveral hundred thousand of them in the Galapagos). This is theonly sea-going lizard in the world and it is an excellent exampleof how a species can adapt to its environment. Due to the fragile nature of the region, and the strong focuson conservation, a guide will escort you to guarantee you haveminimum impact on the environment and ensure you get themost from your visit as you clamber over lava and boulders andwade through shallows. The islands can be visited at any time of year, although theNational Park (comprising 97 per cent of the land area of theGalapagos) limits the volume of visitors. Peak seasons are midJune to early September and mid December to mid January. FromDecember to May the temperature is warmer and seas are calm,and despite light rain it's sunny. It's a time when flowers bloomand birds and sea turtles nest. June to November is cooler andcan be cloudy, but fish fill the sea and you're more likely to seealbatross and penguins. It's also a good time to dive. Best of both worldsYour days may well be spent happily clambering over space-likelandscapes and wallowing in waves, but rest assured your yachtis close to hand with comfort and excellent service. You cansunbathe on deck while scanning blue skies filled with wheelingA trip to the Galapagos brings home the need to protect ourplanet. As such, CNI is delighted to offer advice on how tooffset the carbon emissions of your trip, helping you to travelmore responsibly. Please contact your charter broker for moreinformation. You may also like to support the work ofconservation projects in this region. For information, contact.. The Galapagos Conservation Trust: www.savegalapagos.org. Galapagos Conservancy: www.galapagos.org. Charles Darwin Foundation: www.darwinfoundation.orgACT TODAY; SAVE TOMORROWAbove, from left:bird life is abundant on the islands;hammerhead sharks;seals waddle across the rocky landscapes;blue-footed boobiesbirds, or gaze overboard at an exotic concoction of sea life. Speaking of which, the Galapagos extends wonderfulopportunities for experienced divers who can add sharks, sealions, fur seals, turtles, rays, mantas, marina iguanas and reeffish to their tick-list of things to watch out for. Only limited,authorised diving is permitted (and never from your ownvessel), so again, to avoid disappointment research andplanning are required before you travel. Whether to embrace a new charter experience or to explorea remarkable habitat, a cruise of the Galapagos is a uniqueopportunity to learn about the world on a new level andbecome inspired to take action to safeguard the future of thesewonderful islands.nFor detailed information on cruising in the Galapagos, please contact yourCNI charter broker, see page 6 for details.