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Awareness Magazine
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Visit the Galapagos in September or October

By Sara Duncan Widness

Here’s an idea to add to a calendar of “must dos.” In September and October the animals, birds and sea life are at their friskiest best in The Galapagos. Cooler, dryer air and lower water temperatures prevail at this time in these fragile islands and in regions of mainland Ecuador. These conditions make for good sightings of sea lions with pups while snorkeling and diving. Manta ray congregate for plankton that arrives on colder currents.

Giant tortoises are still nesting and laying eggs, Galapagos penguins are friskier than usual while hammerhead sharks school in greater numbers. Most species of sea birds are active at their nesting sites providing prime viewing. Off the mainland coast in a region called Ruta del Sol it’s high season for surfing and humpback whale encounters.

Temperatures in the high 60s to mid-70s compel visitors to climb and trek, activities that might seem daunting when it’s hot or wet; plus it’s a great time to surf mainland beaches. Because September and October are off-peak, there are fewer people at popular sites and hotels are known to offer reduced rates.

A dilemma that often faces travelers is not scheduling enough time to see and do everything a brand-new destination offers. This can be true in The Galapagos and on mainland Ecuador. You may want to consider dividing your time between the islands and mainland. Think about Ecuador as four quadrants or distinct worlds on two hemispheres. These are the Andean Highlands with the World Heritage capital city Quito, the Equatorial Monument, historic Cuenca, and the best-preserved Inca complex in the country, Ingapirca.

The second quadrant takes in the bio-diversity in and around the Galapagos Islands with snorkeling with sea lions, a visit to a private preserve where giant Galapagos tortoises freely roam, exploring pirate lore and legend on Floreana, and hiking in the caldera and visiting lava caves on Isabela.

The third quadrant includes the Amazon Basin where guests stay at a remote jungle lodge accessed by dugout canoe with hikes to a native village and a canopy tower adventure.

Quadrant number four encompasses the Coastal Lowlands and includes tours of historic Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest commercial center, a yacht tour on the Guayas River and shopping at artisan markets.

For example, Samai Lodge in Santa Elena is a relaxing jungle inn and wellness spa on the mainland where it’s easy to access unique dry forests and cloud forests and coral reefs. For a longer visit to Ecuador guests can combine this lodge with quality time at accommodations on three Galapagos islands and even include snorkeling and diving at the Red Mangrove Dive Center that opened recently.

Red Mangrove Galapagos and Ecuador Lodges own and manage the center as well as five lodges on the islands and have also researched and personally sampled the offerings of inns and activities on mainland Ecuador. While taking care of guests it also looks after its wildlife friends. It has created Red Mangrove Tortuga Reserve, the first such reserve in the Galapagos, on 20 acres adjacent to the Galapagos National Park, a short drive from the company’s Aventura Lodge on Santa Cruz. Here animals have free and unobstructed movement. “We see this as a necessary step for the preservation of the threatened Galapagos giant tortoise,” said Hernan Rodas, founder.

He said the reserve is being created from a minimalist, least environmental impact perspective. Only guests visiting the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge may walk the grassy trails on the preserve. Although there will be washroom facilities and a rain shelter, there will be no gift stores.

This reduced traffic and development will limit any impact on the tortoises and their environment,” said Rodas, underscoring that conservation is the top priority. Red Mangrove Galapagos and Ecuador Lodges seeks to build alliances with local conservation organizations and the national park for the greatest benefit to the species.

At present the site harbors 30 to 40 giant tortoise, but the total number at any time will depend of how humid it is and how much water is in a small pond that attracts the tortoise. These reptiles weigh up to 880 pounds and in the wild can live for over a century.

The name Galapagos comes from the Spanish word for tortoise. Early explorers would have witnessed the species in numbers of over 250,000 in the 16th century. By the 1970s the number had dropped to around 3,000 and the species is classified “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

For more information please see www.redmangrove.com