On his first trip to Ecuador and Galapagos as CEO of Galapagos Conservation Trust, Ian Dunn will be writing regular entries on this blog – starting with attending the General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation in Quito before traveling to Galapagos…
I took the opportunity today to experience land-based tourism with a day trip out to Bartolome, just off Isla Santiago, passing by Daphne Major enroute. Starting with a drive across to the channel between Santa Cruz and Baltra, we joined the Santa Fe for the day. A quick detour to Daphne Major to see the Blue Footed Booby and the Nocturnal Gull’s before a further two hours out to Bartolome.
The route to the top of the island is via a well constructed board walk, the consequence being that there is almost no impact of tourism on the island; no pathway degradation, no disturbance of the [limited] wildlife, no collecting of lava souvenirs, no litter. Given this has been a heavily visited site for many decades, this is a remarkable achievement. Great view of the famous Pinnacle from the top. The walk up also left me strangely unfulfilled, it is almost too sanitised an experience to become engaged with, or embraced by, the natural world around. On reflection, I don’t think there is any alternative as to allow freer access would cause huge impact. Maybe because it a heavily controlled experience without the interpretation of the surrounding alien world, often provided with such walkways through information panels, that I felt it was ‘betwixt and between’; neither educational nor fully ‘natural’. All around us were the signs of the Islands’ volcanic birth, with vent cones, dormant fumaroles, tortured lava flows and much more and yet neither the guide nor other formats provided any interpretation.
This was followed by a beach visit and snorkelling around the Pinnacle. Entering the water, the freedom to explore was surprisingly invigorating after the constraints of the group walk, and what a great place to snorkel. White tipped sharks, rays, Galapagos penguins, shoals of yellow-finned mullet, parrot fish and a plethora of other sea life. All-too-soon we re-embarked and headed back in choppy waters and strong currents for the next three hours. So, my first experience as a day-tripper on Galapagos was, I would say, ‘mixed’.
Evening spent discussing the threat of invasive species to the marine environment and brainstorming how to tackle the issue and how to raise the funds needed to do so. So much to do!