SAERO airline to being Galapagos Inter-Island flights

April 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Ecuadorian Airline SAERO S.A. has announced they are to begin inter-islands service within the Galapagos Islands.  There are currently three airports in the Galapagos the largest on the island of Baltra, one on the island of San Cristobal and a third which is exclusively used for inter-island flights on the island of Isabela.  Travel between these islands is currently limited to either a fiberglass speed boat or EMETEBEE airlines which operates 7 and 9 passenger Britten-Norman 2 Islander planes.

SAERO which currently offers flights within Ecuador and to the beaches of Northern Peru has a fleet that includes a Turbo Commander 840, Helicopter, BeechCraft 1900 Embraer 120 and Leer Jet.    SAERO’s entry into the Galapagos inter-island market will make more options available and it more convenient for travelers who wish to travel between the islands by plane.

Building of Ecological Airport in Galapagos to Begin

December 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Corporate America (CA), manager of 49 airports in the world, this morning received authorization from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to build the first airport in the world ecological in the Galapagos Islands.This was announced by the director for Latin America, CA, Ezequiel Barrenechea, during a visit to Guayaquil.Permission was given 8 months after the Government signed an agreement to lift this work, between the Authority and the Corporation America.

“This means that you can perform the civil works. We hope to start with the closing of the land from next Monday, “said Barrenechea.

The concession was awarded more than two years, but the construction had to wait until the contract conditions attaching to the standards defined by the new Constitution (2008). Initially, it should be ready this year, but now the work must be completed by the end of 2012.

The airport will work with renewable energy, the roof will consist of solar panels, solar collectors will heat water and generate electricity, light-colored pavement will reduce the heating effect and will have LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

An investment of approximately 24 million dollars will be used to construct the new Baltra Airport.

Building of the Top-Secret Base at Baltra

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Group of Navy Men stationed in Baltra John H Peck is #7

Part II of our series on the World War II base at Baltra with assistance  from John H Peck 

In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s as tensions grew around the world, interest in a military base on Baltra Island grew. The Marshall Documents shows that negotiations between the US and Ecuador for the construction of a military base in the Galapagos were well in place during 1939. United States interests made a base in the Galapagos Islands a priority and Baltra was the ideal island due to its clear skies and lack of rain.

Baltra Base during WWII

In March 1940, local Galapagos residents reported seeing of German U-Boats in the Galapagos Islands. In August the same year Germany admitted loosing an aircraft to the Panama Canal defenses. By the end of 1940 it was publically known the US was in negotiations with both Costa Rica for the use of Cocos Islands and with Ecuador for the use of the Galapagos as military bases to protect the Panama Canal.

US Military Ship at the Dock in Baltra

In September of 1941 a Dutch boat was sank near the Galapagos as did an Australian ship in early December and there were extensive reports of a Nazi Raiders in the region and these Raiders were thought to have been responsible for the sinking of both boats.

US Planes over the Baltra Base

On the South America Continent tensions had been growing between Ecuador and Peru over land dispute in the Amazon Region. During 1939 and 1940 there were a number of skirmishes between along the boarder and finally in July 1941 Peru invaded Ecuador. The 13,000 men who made up the Peruvian forces quickly over took Ecuador’s meager 1,800 men. Peru began bombing the towns of Huaquillas, Arenillas, Santa Rosa and Machala along the southern coast of Ecuador. The Peruvians sent paratroopers into the Puerto Bolivar. Quickly Peru occupied almost the entire province of El Oro and some towns in the province of Loja. A blockade around the port of Guayaquil shut off the supply line into the country.

Control Tower at Baltra During WWII

As the US continued negotiations with Ecuador to obtain a military base in the Galapagos continued, Ecuador wanted part of the negotiation to include the sanctions against Peru and the return land in the Amazon region which amounted to over half of the size of their country.

Eleanor Roosevelt Visiting the Base in Baltra During WWII

However when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor things quickly changed. Within 5 days US troops were sent to the Galapagos to begin a modest refueling station for naval aircraft. In January 1942 an agreement was signed between the US and Ecuador for the use of the Galapagos Islands by the US Military. In March Ecuadorian Contractors began construction of a military base on the island of Baltra and in September the same year the SeaBees arrived to complete the job.

Feral Goats in front of Military Buildings During WWII

Known as Base Beta, Baltra was top-secret military base. According to John Peck who was stationed there “On arrival in CZ (Canal Zone), I was asked to volunteer for duty on an island in the Pacific, I did not know or was told what island. I was told it was for only six months, and when it was up I could return to the CZ.” “We left the first week of January 1944 via seaplane to arrive at our new base. On the flight we were told we were going to Galapagos, which was 600 miles off of South America. All messages were censored and all mail would be censored. On arrival on Baltra we were assigned to our departments and were told the Sea Bees were still in process of building we could only stay on the Navy side of Baltra, as the US Army Air Corps occupied the other side.”

Baltra Base Post Office

Those stationed there were treated very well. Other than a hospital shared by the both the Army and Navy the two bases were separate. A small city was created for those who lived there including a church with services on Sundays, a movie theatre with current releases, a beer garden and bowling alley. Those stationed there enjoyed the beaches, and deep-sea fishing as well as made pets of some of the Land Iguanas and feral goats found on the islands. Mail arrived daily via seaplanes from the CZ and those stationed on Baltra were given the option to take college courses, which could be transferred to universities in the US.

To read Part I see The Role of Baltra in WWII

The Role of Baltra in World War II

December 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

With the assistance of John H Peck, possibly the final member of the Ancient Order gang of the ancient Order of the Whiskered of Galapagos who was stationed in Baltra during WWII we decided to do a series of blogs on the role of Baltra during WWII.

Map showing strategic importance of Galapagos in protecting the Panama Canal

Map shows how a shield against attack from both the Atlantic and Pacific will be formed around the Panama Canal by the new US and proposed bases on Cocos and Galapagos Islands. Desirab

September 6, 1940

Costa Rica, Ecuador AID in defenses

But FDR Answers Query on Pacific Islands with “No Negotiations On”

By the Associated Press

Washington, September 6, – President Roosevelt said today that Costa Rica and Ecuador were co-operating completely with the United States in plans for the defense of the Americas, but he added no negotiated for acquisition of additional naval and air bases were now under way with any country.

Asked about reports that Costa Rica had offered this country Cocos Islands about 600 miles northwest of the Panama Canal in the Pacific for a base, the President replied that all he could say on that was that there was complete co-operation between Costa Rica and the United States in the defense of the Americas.

AVOIDS QUIZ ON GALAPAGOS

Another question at Mr Roosevelt’s press conference was whether the Galapagos Islands, about 1000 miles southwest of the canal were involved in talks with Ecuador.  He made the same reply, namely that Ecuador was working with this country on continental defense.

Mr. Roosevelt emphasized however that there were no negotiation on to acquire bases other than those granted by Great Britain on eight of its crown colonies from Newfoundland to British Guiana in exchange for 50 over-age destroyers.

Before the President’s meeting with the press it was learned that Canada was seeking several hundred obsolete World War tanks and large quantities of military supplies from the United States.

Seated in the well deck of USS Houston (CA-30), with a shark he caught in Sullivan Bay, Galapagos Islands, July 1938. A sailfish is being hoisted up in the left distance. Courtesy of Otto Schwartz, USS Houston Association, 1982.

Since the rumor mills in 1940’s were alive with both Cocos and Galapagos being sites of potential bases and records released after the war showed that materials were being stockpiled for these bases far before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It might seem more than a coincidence, during July of 1938, FDR took a fishing trip to the Cocos Islands and Galapagos.  While this was before the war had officially begun, Italy and Germany were already showing aggression in Europe.  Germany had sanctioned Austria and made claims on parts of Czechoslovakia.  While in the Pacific, Japan had invaded China the year before and the same month as this “fishing trip” Japan invaded both Russia and Mongolia.  It may be that as early as 1938 FDR and the US Government realized the strategic importance of the Galapagos Islands in the defense of the Panama Canal and the US interests.

Galapagos National Park Seeks to Protect Baltra Iguanas

August 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Baltra Iguana

The authorities of the Galapagos National Park of Ecuador and the operators of the airport in Baltra are seek to find protect the land iguanas living on the island of Baltra.

Victor Carrion from the national park stated today, since July a total of (5) iguanas have been found dead in the airport area, (3) were killed when hit by aircraft, (1) by motor vehicle and the other by activity near the airport.  The airport operators have told the park that they will begin an inspection of the runway before any airplane is allowed to land or take off from Baltra in order to protect the iguanas. While the program is new the park authorities believe the efforts will help along with having training pilots on how to protect the iguanas.

Baltra is the busiest of the airports in Galapagos.  “Losing five minutes to protect an iguana, I think it’s worth,” said aware of that little time can mean a lot of money for airlines.Carrion noted that during the 1980’s  the National Park and Charles Darwin Foundation implimented a iguana breeding program to restore land iguanas to Baltra.  In 1932 amateur naturalist G. Allan Hancock capture 20 iguanas from Baltra and introduced them to the island of North Seymour which at the time did not have an iguana population.  While this act would be unheard of today his efforts are what allowed the park to initiate the breeding program. The iguana breeding program was successful, Baltra now has approximately 1,000 iguanas. While at one time land iguanas on the island were at the brink of extinction. “There is increasing population of iguanas, the reproduction in the wild is very good,” said Carrion.

“They in certain areas are looking for new areas of life because iguanas are quite territorial and that has forced to take a step just for the airport area,” said the advance that has been advanced in training for staff who are responsible for remodeling terminal and runway.

Thus, workers will know that before getting into the vehicle should be checked, for example, that motor is not under any iguana sheltering from the sun.

Getting to the Galapagos Islands – planning your Galapagos Island Trip

May 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked from people wanting to go to the Galapagos is how do I get there?

You will begin your trip by flying to Ecuador – either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). Quito is located in the Andes Mountains at 9,600 feet elevation. The capital of Ecuador, Quito is a beautiful city surrounded by high peaks and was named a UNESCO world heritage site due to the historic old city – the best-preserved Colonial City in all of Latin America. Guayaquil is located right about sea level, it is a busy coastal city located along the Guayas River.

If you are arriving from North America, most of the flights arrive at night. No matter where you are arriving from chances are you will need to spend at least one night in either city prior to boarding your cruise or flying to the islands to start your tour or hotel stay.

The first day of your cruise, you will fly out to the islands where you will board your boat. If you are starting a tour or a hotel stay you will also fly to the Galapagos to begin your trip.

There are two airports in Galapagos one in Baltra – which services cruises starting in Baltra or in Puerto Ayora as well as people staying in either Santa Cruz or Isabela. The other airport is on San Cristobal servicing cruises beginning in San Cristobal or people staying on San Cristobal. You will want to arrange your flights out to the islands either as part of your cruise or with someone who knows your itinerary to insure you are flying into the correct island. (If you wind up on the wrong island, there are speedboats once a day that can take you to the other island; the trip is about 2 hours each way.)

If you are boarding a cruise in Baltra, your guide will be waiting at the airport for you. You will board a bus to the main dock and a small boat will take you over to board your boat and begin your cruise.

If you are staying in Puerto Ayora, traveling to Isabela or boarding a boat in Isabela you will take a different bus to the Canal where you will board a boat that will take you across to Santa Cruz. Once on Santa Cruz you will board either another bus or take a taxi to your Puerto Ayora it’s approximately a 45-minute drive from one side of the island to the other.

If you are boarding a boat in San Cristobal, again your guide will be waiting for you at the airport. You’ll take a bus down to the main dock and a small boat will take you to your boat to begin your cruise. If you are staying on San Cristobal or taking a tour beginning in San Cristobal, you’ll either take a taxi to your hotel or you can walk to some hotels as the airport is just on the outskirts of town.

Returning from the Galapagos is somewhat the same thing – you’ll need to get back to the airport by the same means of transportation that people leave the airport and fly back to the mainland. The flights depart the islands in the late morning arriving on the continent mid to late afternoon meaning that most people will have an overnight on the way out just like they did on the way to the islands.

Our top 10 tips for Getting to the Galapagos Islands

1. You’ll need to fly to the Galapagos – Unless you are traveling on your own personal boat, the only way to get to the Galapagos is to fly. There are no boats offering service between the continent and the islands.
2. There are set airfares to the Galapagos – The government sets all the airfares, foreigners pay a specified rate and there are no advanced purchase discounts.
3. Make a reservation in advance – The flights are frequently full so you will need to make a reservation in advance.
4. Most people need to stay in either Quito or Guayaquil 1 night before and 1 night after their trip to the Galapagos
5. You need a Permit to enter Galapagos – you do need to get permits to enter the park, most cruises and tour operators will arrange these permits for you, but it is possible to do them at the airport.
6. Double check your itinerary – make sure your reservations are flying to the island where you need to go.
7. Pack Smart – there are 20km weight limits on the flight for check-in luggage. If you are over this weight the airline may allow you to take extra luggage the same day you fly or may make you ship it and it will arrive in the future either way you will have to pay the extra cost.
8. The airlines assign seats at the airport
9. All of the flights are coach – there is no first class
10. Make sure to arrive at the airport early – if you miss your flight you, you may not be able to get another flight until the next day or several days later.

Learn more about Flights to the Galapagos and getting to the Galapagos Islands

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