Google’s Street View technology is a fantastic tool for those who love to travel. The service, which is integrated into Google Maps, gives us the chance to take a virtual tour of places that range from our hometown to some of the more iconic places around the globe. For instance, over the past few years, Street View has allowed us to visit Mt. Everest, the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef, all without ever leaving home. Last week, the Internet search giant announced that it will soon add the Galapagos Islands to that list, giving us a glimpse of one of the most naturally diverse locations on the planet.
Located 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are best known for being the place that inspired Charles Darwin to write his seminal work “On the Origin of Species.” It was that book that first explored the concepts of evolution and the idea of natural selection. Darwin’s book would go on to change the way we think about the world around us and how different species adapt to it. The Galapagos served as his living laboratory while he observed his Theory of Evolution in action for the first time.
Working directly with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), Google sent a team of hikers to trek the Galapagos with its Street View Trekker strapped to their backs. The Trekker is a specially designed backpack with 15 integrated cameras that captures a destination from all angles as the wearer hikes through the environment. Over the course of ten days, the Google Team visited ten unique locations in the Galapagos capturing thousands of images as they went. Those locations included beaches, forests, the crater of an active volcano and even under the ocean.Over the years, the Galapagos have become an incredibly popular destination for travelers. The hundreds of unique species that live there continue to fascinate visitors more than 175 years after Darwin first set foot on the islands. But all of the travelers who go there are also a threat to the fragile ecosystem that exists in this isolated corner of the globe. Google, the CDF and the GNPD all hope that this project will help educate the world about the islands while also spreading the word about how important it is to preserve them.
The Galapagos Islands will be added to Street View later this year.
Traveling with a giant, professional camera isn’t always the best option. Some amazing photos and videos have been made on cellphone cameras, including the video above that Miguel Endara shot solely on an iPhone 4S while on his honeymoon in the Galápagos Islands. The short film not only captures some of the most famous species on the islands – including the cobalt flippers of the Blue-footed Booby, the domed shell of the giant Galápagos tortoise and the highly adapted marine iguana – but it also demonstrates the impressive evolution of cellphone camera technology.
If you’re like me you’re probably already looking ahead to 2013 and planning your next adventure. If that happens to be the case, and the Galapagos Islands have been a destination that you’ve always dreamed about, then perhaps January is the time to make that dream a reality. That’s when renowned adventure travel company Mountain Travel Sobek is offering a $500 discount on their first two departures of the year.
These two early season excursions are actually quite different from one another. The first, which sets out on January 17, charts a course for the western Galapagos Islands while the other, which gets underway on January 24, heads to the east. Both itineraries are 11-days in length, beginning and ending in Quito, Ecuador, where travelers will spend the first few days soaking up the country’s colonial history while visiting local markets and exploring the cloud forest.
On the third day they’ll catch a short flight to the Galapagos, where they’ll board a yacht that will serve as their home for the remainder of the journey. Over the course of the following week, they’ll have the opportunity to visit beautiful beaches, hike to the top of a volcano and go snorkeling in crystal clear ocean waters. They’ll also witness first hand some of the wildlife that has made the Galapagos so famous, including sea turtles, swimming iguanas, fur seals and blue-footed boobies. For a more detailed look at the itineraries, click here.
The Galapagos remain one of my top destinations that I would still like to visit at some point. I’ve been told that it is a magical experience with amazing animals in a beautiful setting. I’m sure these two excursions will more than live up to that hype and they’ll do so while saving you some cash in the process.
The Galapagos Islands are considered by many to be one of the top travel destinations in the entire world. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the islands are famous for their unique wildlife that isn’t found anywhere else on Earth. Those animals were first observed by Charles Darwin on his famous “Beagle” expedition and inspired him to write “On the Origin of Species” in which he first hypothesized the Theory of Evolution. Today, many travelers make the journey to the Galapagos to see the native birds, seals, reptiles and other unusual creatures, but an invasive species of rats now threatens the native wildlife there. In an effort to protect those animals, the Ecuadorian government has begun taking drastic measures to rid the islands of those rats once and for all.
Yesterday marked the start of the second phase of an anti-rat campaign that hopes to dispose of as many as 180 million rodents by the year 2020. Helicopters dumped more than 22 tons of poisoned bait on one of the smaller islands with the hope that it will kill off a significant portion of the rat population there. In the months ahead, similar operations will take place across the other 18 islands that make up the Galapagos chain, hopefully culling the rats and creating a safer environment for the native species.This invasive species of rats first arrived on the islands aboard the ships of whalers and pirates during the 17th century. As the decades passed they multiplied rapidly and grew into a threat to native birds and reptiles, preying on eggs left in unguarded nests. As the rat population grew to epic proportions, other species have struggled to survive and compete with the rodents, which eat everything in their path.
In order to minimize the impact of the toxic bait on the Galapagos ecosystem, it has been specially designed to attract rats while repelling other animals. The small poison cubes will also disintegrate after about a week, which means there won’t be thousands of them just lying around waiting to be consumed. What happens to it, and the environment, after it disintegrates remains to be seen, but lets hope this isn’t another case of the cure being as bad as the sickness down the line.
[Photo Credit: National Park Service]
The Galapagos Islands are well known for their endemic wildlife, unique flora and strong ecological philosophy. However, the destination isn’t the only place in the world to experience an unparalleled natural setting. In fact, islands in Asia, South America, Europe and even the continent of Antarctica all feature one-of-a-kind encounters for those interested in seeing something new in the outdoors.
Scuba dive one of the most diverse coral reefs in the world in Vanuatu, relax on pristine white beaches on Brazil‘s Fernando de Noronha and witness the hundreds of sunbathing sea lions on Kangaroo Island in Australia. These are just a few of the experiences to be had in these worthwhile destinations.
For a more visual idea of these Galapagos alternatives, check out the gallery below.
[Image above via Jessie on a Journey. Gallery images via Big Stock, mariemon, Hairworm]