Video of the Day: Galapagos animals can dance

Us Gadling writers don’t usually use this space for self-promotion (mostly because our editors get mad at us when we do). But, well, this is the Video of the Day post and I made a travel video today. It just feels right to share it with you. I was in the Galapagos a couple of months ago and was blown away by the animals there. They know no fear, so you can get amazingly close to them (without you can’t touch them, of course) and witness their natural behaviors. It turns out that they have a fantastic sense of rhythm. I just assume that they evolved that way.

Anyways, it’s a Galapagos Dance Party and everyone’s invited.

Galapagos ranked #1 destination by focused adventure travel site

AvidTrips this week announced the results of its first Top Adventures survey taken in June 25 at this year’s Adventures NYC in Central Park. From a field of 60 domestic and international adventure destinations, the results reveal the world’s top three adventure travel destinations as The Galapagos Islands, the South Island of New Zealand, and Machu Picchu respectively. That caught my attention. Going further I discovered a really easy to navigate, focused adventure travel website that offers a wide variety of adventure travel options complete with ratings on difficulty and activity levels, price and more.

“The launch of our annual Top Adventures survey is part of our ongoing efforts to bring the world’s most amazing adventure trips to travelers” said Sanem Eruçar, Founder & CEO of AvidTrips.

Respondents were asked to select up to three places they most want to visit. In addition to ranking the Galapagos Islands number one, results revealed differences in desired adventures by age and gender.

The South Island of New Zealand emerged the top pick among female adventurers, followed by Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Male adventurers picked the Galapagos Islands first, followed by Patagonia and Yosemite National Park.

Travelers in the 18-34 age group would like to visit the South Island of New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu, whereas adventurers in the 35-54 age group selected Bora Bora, French Polynesia, the Galapagos Islands and Yosemite National Park as their most desired adventure destinations.

AvidTrips is a different sort of website that empowers adventure travelers to discover and book adventure trips directly with the world’s leading adventure tour operators, skipping the travel agent.

“Whether you’re a horseback rider or trekker, scuba diver or cyclist,we aim to bring you the widest selection of the most exhilarating adventure experiences – so you can focus on finding the trip that’s right for you.” says AvidTrips on it’s website.

After joining via Facebook, users can pick activities and see a map of where they are being offered world-wide. I chose “climbing” and was presented with a map showing organized tours at various locations, complete with a description of what is being offered and a price.

Just for fun, I picked a tour called Everest Base Camp with Island Peak (like I could survive it) and got a quick overview of what to expect along with a detailed description of all that would be happening. Included too were alternative but related tours and resources for further investigation.

This is good stuff to simply kill some time on a hot summer day or get a serious idea of what is involved, when the best time to go is and what costs might involve.

Flickr photo by alh1

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New Galapagos travel rules help protect the islands for future visitors

A month ago we told you about some significant changes to the rules of travel in the Galapagos Islands that will go in effect in 2012. In a nutshell, the new regulations say that a ship cannot visit the same island twice within a 14-day period, which will likely have an impact on the available itineraries that are currently being offered to visit the place. While the intent of that story was to inform travelers of these changes and how they could impact any future plans to visit the Galapagos, the article failed to mention exactly why these changes are being made.

As most travelers know, the Galapagos are a unique and very special place. Located approximately 525 miles west of Ecuador, they are home to a large number of plant and animal species, many of which aren’t found anywhere else on the planet. Those creatures include several types of sea turtles, the flightless cormorant, warm water penguins, and a marine iguana that actually dives under the ocean to capture its prey.

The Islands were famously visited by Charles Darwin, aboard the HMS Beagle, back in 1835, and his observations of the endemic plant and animal life there led to his groundbreaking work The Origin of Species. The Galapagos are like a fantastic, living laboratory, offering Darwin, and other researchers that followed, an opportunity to observe the way animals adapt to their environment in a natural setting that is unlike any other on the planet.Because of the diversity of plants and animals on the Islands, UNESCO designated the Galapagos as a World Heritage Site in 1978, and in recent years it has become a popular tourist destination. So popular in fact, that the number visitors has begun to threaten the fragile environments of the Islands, which were amongst the most pristine, well preserved wildernesses on Earth. In an effort to ensure that they stay that way, the Ecuadorian government has instituted the new travel rules to help prevent over crowding and to spread tourist traffic more evenly across the 19 islands that make up the chain.

It should be noted that while these new regulations will force tour operators to change their itineraries, and in some cases the way they do business, the announcement has been met with universal applause. By prohibiting vessels from visiting the same location twice in a two week period, they are also limiting the size of the crowds on an island on any given day. This makes the experience all that much better for the visitors, while keeping the impact on the environment to a minimum as well.

While doing some research on this topic, I corresponded with several tour operators, and it quickly became clear to me how much they loved the Galapagos. Each of them remarked about how happy they were to see these regulations put into place and how it would help preserve the Islands for future visitors to enjoy as well. This is an example of how sustainable tourism can allow us to continue to visit the spectacular places of our planet, while also protecting them from harm. As avid travelers, I’m sure that is something that we can all get behind.

New Galapagos Islands regulations will change 2012 tours

Over the past decade or so, the Galapagos Islands have become one of the more popular tourist attractions in the world. In fact, they’ve gotten so popular that the fragile ecosystem there has become threatened by the amount of tourist traffic that now visit the area each year. In 2012, a new set of regulations will go into effect that may help protect the Islands, and could have an effect on travelers as well.

Beginning February 1st of next year, no vessel will be permitted to visit the same site more than once in a given 14 day period. The hope is that this will keep the traffic dispersed throughout the islands, and prevent some of the more threatened areas from becoming too crowded. It should also help to make the overall Galapagos experience a better one too.

While these regulations sound like a great plan for protecting one of the planet’s best natural wonders, they will have a direct impact on travelers planning on going to the Islands in the future. For instance, many of the tour operators have already begun to drop their shorter 7 to 10 day itineraries in favor of longer 14+ day excursions. In fact, week long Galapagos trips may become a thing of the past, as ships wouldn’t be able to visit the same sites with the same regularity, making them very inefficient for tour operators.

That is not to say that shorter trips might not still be available in some form or another, but they will not offer the same level of coverage that the have in the past, and travelers might not get to experience everything they had hoped for.

Also keep in mind that a 14 day Galapagos trip will require 17 or 18 days when you factor in the travel time to Ecuador and the islands themselves. That may mean that those of us with fewer days to spare will be shut out from visiting the Islands as well.

If you’re visiting the Galapagos this year, your travel plans won’t be impacted, but if you’re planning on going in 2012 or beyond, you may want to reexamine your options.

Take a photographic adventure with National Geographic

Fans of National Geographic have long been drawn to the magazine’s fantastic photos, with many of us wishing we had the skills to take similar shots ourselves. Now, National Geographic Expeditions is offering us the opportunity to go on a photographic adventure while building and honing those skills along the way.

Nat Geo Expeditions is the travel arm of National Geographic, offering up some excellent adventure travel opportunities to a number of far flung places. But they also offer aspiring photographers the chance to take part in photography workshops held throughout the country including New York, Washington DC, Tuscon, and Santa Fe. Those workshops range in length from 4 to 7 days, and will teach you everything you need to know about using that fancy digital camera that you bought, but never got around to learning how to operate. For dates and pricing on those workshops click here.

Perhaps even more exciting however are the Photo Expeditions that Nat Geo has to offer. Those trips are 8-12 days in length and will send you off to some amazing places where you’ll learn everything you’ve always wanted to know about photography. Destinations include Alaska, Bhutan, Morocco, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands. Much like the workshops, these trips are designed for photographers of all skill levels and are led by National Geographic photographers with years of experience in the field. They also happen to add healthy doses of culture and adventure to the mix. For more information on the Photo Expeditions click here.

For someone who loves to snap photos (like me!), but wishes they had a firmer grasp on the technical aspects of the art (also like me!), these workshops and expeditions are fantastic opportunities to learn from an expert. So whether you use a point and shoot or a high-end DSLR, a National Geographic photographic adventure is sure to be a fantastic experience.

[Photo Credit: National Geographic Expeditions]