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Posts Tagged ‘Galapagos’

The Galápagos: one big evolutionary party

Elaborate mating dances. Posturing and parading. Whistling and twittering. Lounging and basking. Such is the festivity of the natural world in the Galápagos Islands—where there’s always something evolutionary happening.

We can’t help but go all Darwin on you when it comes to the Galápagos, seeing as how the young naturalist’s visit to these islands in 1835 sparked a new conversation about life itself that is still ruffling feathers. From his observances of subtleties in animal adaptation in the Galápagos, Darwin determined that living things are shaped by the world around them.

The Galápagos Islands will feed your sense of awe and wonder.  It is here, and only here, that you’ll find the giant Galápagos tortoise, a 500-pound vegetarian that lives to be 150 years or more; the marine iguana, the only lizard that swims in the ocean; the Galapagos land iguana, poor thing, according to Darwin, from its “low facial angle (has) a singularly stupid appearance”; the Galápagos penguin, the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; and the “true” Sally Lightfoot Crab that tiptoes nimbly across rock and sand.

Then there are the blue-footed boobies flaunting their cerulean feet for all the single ladies. These guys court, mate and nest all year round—talk about a party!

So what else do 95 species of birds, mammals and reptiles do for fun on the 13 main islands that make up the archipelago?

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Where you should travel with your tax refund

Tax season is officially over and you might be expecting a refund check in the near future. The average person will receive a tax refund of about $2,755, according to the IRS, which can come in handy if you want to get away on an international vacation. To help, I’ve broken down a few suggestions for where you can travel at a few different price points.

If you’re looking to stay under about $2,000 per person, I recommend:

  • A Taste of China or Beijing & Tokyo. Visiting China is the trip of a lifetime for travelers interested in exploring a culture truly different from their own. The country has impressive modern achievements and an ancient, rich culture. Beijing, China’s capital, and Shanghai, often called the “Paris of the East,” are two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an, a large industrial city, is the site of one of the world’s most important archaeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers buried to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
  • A Taste of Ireland or Discover Ireland. As I’ve said before, whether you have Irish roots or just a love of Irish culture, there has never been a better year to visit Ireland. That’s because The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Irish ancestry with clan gatherings, festivals, sporting events, music, and concerts, is going on this year. This event only adds to the lush countryside, friendly and wonderful people, and the array of beautiful destinations — Dublin, Kerry, Killarney, Kilkenny, Limerick, and more — in Ireland.
  • Captivating Costa Rica or Costa Rica Pura Vida. From jungles, cloud forests, and active volcanoes to its rivers and Caribbean and Pacific coasts, travelers need to experience everything that makes Costa Rica the jewel of Central America. This destination has beautiful resorts and adventurous travel opportunities — making it the perfect place for every kind of traveler. And the location is out of this world: the island contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. (more…)

Saying goodbye to Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises

A CONSERVATION ICON: Lonesome George, the last known
Pinta Island tortoise, has passed but his legacy lives on

Lonesome George, famously known as the last of the Pinta Island tortoises, sadly passed away at the end of last month. Estimated to be about 100 years old, Lonesome George was discovered in 1972 in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. George was the only living Pinta Island tortoise and spent 40 years as an icon of the Galapagos Islands’ conservation efforts.

Long before George’s time, whalers hunted giant tortoises nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Farmers then introduced goats to the islands, and they consumed most of the giant tortoises’ food sources, which depleted the population even more.

A researcher discovered Lonesome George in the ’70s and moved him to the Charles Darwin Research Station to protect him. In an effort to keep his species alive, mates were provided for George, though all mating attempts failed. He became a symbol for wildlife conversation, both for the islands and internationally. His image is used as the logo for the Galapagos National Park, which we visit on some tours, and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

The government of Ecuador used George’s plight as motivation to restore the tortoise populations on the islands and improve the status of other endangered and threatened species. Lonesome George’s passing reminds us that the power of change and preservation is in our hands, and that we must continue to make an effort to protect all species.

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