San Cristobal – Snorkel and Dive Sites

July 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Snorkeling with sea Lions

Snorkeling with Sea Lions

San Cristobal is somewhat unique in Galapagos Islands destinations – unlike the swift waters that can surround Isabela and Santa Cruz, there is little or no around Puerto Baquerizo or some of the most popular Galapagos Diving and snorkel sites.

Just outside of the port itself are the remains of Caragua a WWI German transport ship, this 100-year-old wreck whose sinking gave the bay its name – Wreck Bay.  Today the Caragua is one of the only wreck dives in Galapagos.  The wreck is approximately 300 feet long and you can inspect the ships remains inducing the propellers and boilers.  Today Caragua is a reef-like environment where you can dive with schools of fish, sea lions, sea turtles, marbled rays, yellow snapper and scopionfish among others.

Heading up the coast you’ll reach the ancient and eroded volcanic formation rising out of the ocean to form Leon Dormido or Kicker Rock.  Formed by two rocks reaching a right of just under 500 feet the rocks have the shape of a sleeping lion.  The rocks are home to a variety of birdlife including boobies, frigates, lava gulls and pelicans.

As stunning as the scenery is above the water it is under the water at Kicker Rock where things are really exciting.  A fantastic site for both snorkeling and diving Kicker Rock is home to Eagle Rays, Stingrays, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Barracuda, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Juvenile Grunts, Creolefish, Mexican Hogfish, Sea Cucumbers, Blue and Gold Snappers, usually lots of turtles and more.  Seasonally Dolphins and Whales are frequent sites.  In the gap between the two rocks Galapagos Sharks are known to live where as along the backside of the rock hammerheads are frequently seen.

Continuing up the coast of San Cristobal you’ll reach a sandy isolte known as Isla Lobos.  The walk on this Island can only be done with a licensed naturalist guide and allows you to see the nesting grounds for both blue-footed boobies and frigate birds.  Yet the reason most people come to Isla Lobos is to swim with the playful sea lion pups.  Isla Lobos is noted for the friendliest sea lions in all of Galapagos.  The pups here eagerly await the arrival of new playmates in the form or tourists.  These frolicking and barking ‘dogs of the sea’ love to swim up to you give you a small kiss then swim away waiting for you to chase them.  They will swim circles around you swim underneath you then turn to stare you straight in the eye awaiting for you to join in the fun.  Giant Mantas, fish and sea turtles are also common surrounding Isla Lobos – however the sea lions are the stars of the show.

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Galapagos Island Based Travel: San Cristobal Highlands

July 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

San Cristobal Tortoises

San Cristobal Tortoises at Cerro Colorado

Spending the day in the highlands of San Cristobal offers some unique opportunities, including the San Cristobal Giant Tortoise Reserve, El Junco lake, the vista point at Cerro Colorado as well as a visit to the first human settlement and coffee plantation at El Progresso.

The drive from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Cerro Colorado is approximately 45 minutes.  Once here you can take a walk up to the top of the island’s highest lighthouse where you will be treated to a fantastic view of the island’s Eastern shore including Punta Pitt, Puerto Chino and El Pescador.

A few minutes drive takes you to the San Cristobal Giant Tortoise preserve.  San Cristobal originally had two populations of tortoises, one located in the Northeast consisting of approximately 1,400 tortoises some of which were transferred to the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Preserve.  The other group was located on the south of the island in an area adjacent to the current preserve however this group became extinct due to whalers in the past centuries.

The tortoise preserve was built in 2002 this 12 hectare preserve is located in a dry forest and was constructed to preserve the San Cristobal subspecies of tortoise (Geochelone chathensi).  The San Cristobal tortoises are seriously threatened by introduced animals (wild goats, rats and cats), which the park has been working to eradicate.  The tortoise preserve and captive breeding program was developed to insure the continuation of the subspecies.  In 2005 – 2006  the national park announced 11 new tortoises were hatched here.

The San Cristobal reserve is substantially different than the tortoise areas in the Galapagos Islands like Santa Cruz or Isabela.  This is a large walled preserve with boardwalks and gravel trails leading throughout the area.  There are ample opportunities to see giant tortoises as well as a selection of highland birds including flycatchers, yellow warblers, finches and the endemic Chatham Mockingbird.

Back on the road back heading towards Puerto Baquerizo at the summit of the island is the El Junco Lagoon located at 2,067 feet above sea level.  El Junco is the only permanent fresh water lake in the Galapagos Islands and holds some 9 million gallons of water.

The lake exists inside an extinct crater and was formed by the impermeability of the crater’s bottom, the accumulation of rainfall and the constant mists that cover the area.  During years of heavy rainfall the lake overflows forming a stream. In 1978 the stream produced 5400 gallons per hour.  During years with El Nino the run off floods much of the surrounding area.

El Junco is an excellent place to see a variety of endemic plants, giant ferns as well as seabirds like frigates that come here to bathe in the clean waters.

El Progreso farm was founded toward the end of the 19th century by Manuel J. Cobos, who encouraged the cultivation of sugar cane and even invented his own currency.

Today El Progresso is operated by the Gonzales family who produces a number of agricultural products and grow Galapagos Coffee.  Visitors are welcome by advance reservation to come and visit the hacienda and enjoy lunch.

San Cristobal Island – Interpretation Center and Frigatebird Hill

June 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Frigatebird Hill Trail

Frigatebird Hill Trail

San Cristobal was the first island visited by Charles Darwin during his historic visit to the Galapagos Islands.  Home to one of the two airports servicing the islands it is the first island visited by many tourists visiting Galapagos today.

Puerto Baquerizo is the main town, the provincial capital of Galapagos it is clean and orderly with several beaches in town or a short walk away.

The most popular visits in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno are to the Interpretation Center and to Frigatebird Hill.

About a 10-minute walk from the main dock, the Interpretation Center was built in 1998 by the national park in conjunction with the Spain Agency for International Cooperation.  The facility has an exhibition hall as well as meeting facilities.

Interpretation Center

San Cristobal Interpretation Center

The exhibition hall tells the story of the formation of the Galapagos Islands, the wildlife that lives here, the arrival and impact of man and the importance of conservation.  The displays are lively and engaging making it the best visitor center in the Galapagos Islands.

Leaving the Interpretation Center there is a trail leading to Frigatebird Hill named for the Frigatebirds that nest here.  This is one of the few self-guided trails in the Galapagos.  Following the trail you’ll pass by Opuntia Cactus and other Galapagos plants characteristic of the dry arid zone.  Hiking up the steps to the top of the hill can be hot and taking bottled water is a must.

The trip will take you to see the breeding area of both the Magnificent Frigatebird and Great Frigatebird.  It is the best spot to learn the difference between the two species.  Along the way there are the remains of a World War II cannon a reminder of the important role the Galapagos Islands played in protecting the Panama Canal.  There are sweeping views of the sea and Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) to the distance and a statue of Charles Darwin.

A short tail leads down to a bay where you can cool off snorkeling with sea lions, color fish, rays and turtles.

Read Highlands of San Cristobal

San Cristobal goes Green – Puerto Baquerizo to rely on Green Energy

June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno signs letter of intent to rely on Green Energy

by CLCommunicationsInc

JUPITER — Hydro Alternative Energy (HAE) has signed its first letter of intent with the municipal government of San Cristobal County in the Galapagos Islands. The one year letter of intent calls for HAE to begin producing and providing clean energy to the Ecuadorian municipality and its 7,000 residents. In turn, the commitment calls for the local government of Galapagos to buy the electricity from HAE.

It will take approximately 12 to 14 months to identify where the Galapagos Islands’ currents are strong and permanent and where to drop up to three turbines in the water, which are manufactured here in Palm Beach County.

In addition, HAE is working aggressively to secure licenses and agreements with the countries of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

HAE, with offices in Jupiter and Wellington, has produced a turbine prototype which can create electric energy from the ocean’s waves and currents. This kind of “green technology“ will provide clean, reliable, cost effective energy for national and international use.

“Recognizing the fragile ecosystem in the Galapagos Islands, Hydro Alternative Energy is extremely honored to have our Ecuador partners select us to be the first company to produce hydrokinetic energy for them,” said Mark Antonucci co-founder and President. “Our 10-year plan is to continue on a strategic path to provide clean electricity to the national and international consumer.”

Hydro Alternative Energy was founded in March 2009 by Antonucci and Jon Landau. There are only two other known companies (based in Texas and New York) which are doing work at similar levels of production.

Galapagos Island Based Travel: San Cristobal

June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

San Cristobal Beach

Sea Lions on the Beach in San Cristobal

Located to the far east of the Galapagos Islands is one of the oldest islands of the chain – San Cristobal.  On the western edge you’ll find the town and the provincial capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.  Puerto Baquerizo is the surfing capital of Galapagos with some great surf sites located just minutes away.

San Cristobal is somewhat unique in though it is the only island where you can stay in the Galapagos that has an airport with service from the continent, making San Cristobal a convenient destination.  There are several beaches in town which are a favorite destination both of the local people and the many sea lions that live here.

There are a number of great excursions including the giant tortoise preserve, frigatebird hill, the Charles Darwin Interpretation Center and La Loberia.  In the highlands of San Cristobal you’ll find El Junco Lagoon one of the only permanent fresh water lakes in Galapagos.  San Cristobal has excellent sites for snorkeling, kayaking and diving.

San Cristobal is home to a variety of wildlife including all three types of boobies – red footed, blue footed and Nazca boobies, both types of frigatebirds Magnificent and Great, San Cristobal Tortoises and the endemic Chatham Mockingbird to name a few.

Many of the Galapagos Cruises either begin or end in San Cristobal making it an ideal destination to add a couple of extra days either before or after your cruise to enjoy the Galapagos.

Over the next few days we’ll discover what to see and do on San Cristobal.

Galapagos Coffee

March 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

El Junco Lagoon is a place you probably have never heard, yet it’s existence is the reason for Galapagos Coffee.   El Junco is the Galapagos Islands‘ only permanent fresh water lake.   It’s located on the island of San Cristobal at an elevation just over 2000 feet, in the belly of a collapsed volcanic crater.  The lake itself is a tourist attraction.  Visitors come to see the lake with its surrounding lush endemic plants and the many species of birds that come here to bathe in its sweet waters.

What does this have to do with coffee?  It’s part of a combination that makes it possible to grow coffee here.  The fresh waters from El Junco, the nutrient rich soils from the extinct volcano, and the surrounding micro climate combine together to create unique agricultural zone located within these pristine islands and an ideal place to grow everything from avocados, to oranges and even coffee.

The history of Coffee in Galapagos dates back to 1879, when Manuel Cobos (the so-called Emperor of Galapagos) established Hacienda El Progresso in this area.  His hacienda was little more than a prison camp; he set up so he could take advantage of free inmate labor to harvest sugar cane and process the meat from sea turtles and feral cattle.  In a section of the Hacienda called El Cafetel Cobos planted arabica bourbon beans and Galapagos Coffee began.  His endeavor lasted until 1904 when his workers tired of his Machiavellian ways, revolted and killed him.  Cafetel and the hacienda stood in ruins, abandoned for over 100 years.

In the 1990’s the Gonzales family purchased the land and realized that the coffee plants though ignored over all these years they continued to thrive.  To the family’s delight they found when the beans were collected, dried and processed they produced a medium bodied coffee with a sweet caramel aroma, slight citrus taste with layers of leather and tobacco.  As a result the Hacienda was revived and Galapagos Coffee was reborn.

Today, with the support of  the local community, Galapagos Coffee is produced and sold at specialty coffee shops around the world.  If you are planning a visit to the Galapagos we suggest a visit to the San Cristobal Highlands where you can visit the Giant Tortoise preserve to see the famed Galapagos Tortoises in the wild, visit El Junco lake and by special arrangement enjoy delicious lunch at the El Progresso Hacienda and try a cup of their special coffee.

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