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Travel the World

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S: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands 2011

BC: Good-bye to Ecuador and to all of our new friends. We had a wonderful time!

FC: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands 2011 | Memories

1: Ecuador

2: On our first morning in Quito, we visited a day-care center, where we brought presents to the children. | Day 1

4: We played with the children, and they performed for us.

5: On our guided sightseeing tour, we explored the well-preserved colonial quarter of Quito, where wrought-iron balconies and stone pillars grace its 300-year-old plazas, churches, and palaces.

6: We visited a convent and many churches. | Quito

7: Carved into a narrow plateau high above the Andean valleys, Ecuador's capital is still overshadowed by soaring peaks and the looming Pichincha Volcano. The area was declared a World Cultural Heritage site in 1978. We visited the colorful gardens of Independence Plaza, the Government Palace, and the San Francisco Church.

8: This afternoon we visited the ethnographic museum inside the equatorial monument known as Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) the namesake of Ecuador. We stood in both hemisperes at the same time!

9: Our local guide | the Equator

10: Trying to walk on the equator with your eyes closed was very difficult! | Our new buddy Rick Samson

11: Trying to balance an egg on a nail head | Depending on the hemisphere, water drains in a different direction.

12: This morning we traveled north of Quito. | We got to be Ecuadoreans! | Kaitlin and her new buddy

13: EF Staffers Paolo, Susanna, Victor (our TD), and Kaitlin | The local merchants knew my addiction to scarves.

14: We arrived at our destination, the Otavalo market, home to Ecuador's largest selection of handmade indigenous handicrafts made by the Otavalo Indians. | Dan and France buying souvenirs.

15: Every day our hotel, the Mercure Grand Hotel Alameda Quito, had gorgeous floral arrangements. After three nights, we left for the airport to fly to Guayaquil and then on to the Galapagos Islands. We landed on Baltra Island, which used to be a US Air Force Base during WW II. It was built to patrol the eastern Pacific for enemy submarines and to protect the Panama Canal.

16: After landing, we took a bus to the docks where a boat took us aboard the Legend, the 100-passenger cruise ship which would be our home for the next five days. | EF staffer Erin getting ready to board the dinghy.

18: Life aboard the Legend

19: This afternoon, we visited Bartolome Island, located at the center of the archipelago. We had a wet landing, and swam and snorkeled. On the beach we saw sea lions resting on the lava. | Bartolome Island

20: We also walked up to the highest part of the island by way of a sandy volcanic ash trail with a wooden staircase of 365 steps to reach the summit. From there we saw the most popular view of the Galapagos. There is very little vegetation, but lots of lava tubes and spatter cones.

21: We had a glorious sunset the first night of our cruise. | Our group ("Boobies") at the top of the island

22: To the west of Isabela Island is Urbina Bay, where we explored the uplifted coral reef (the result of volcanic activity in 1954). Among the bushes were giant tortoises and land iguanas, noteworthy for the special texture and yellowish color of their skin. | There were all sorts of birds - flycatchers, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and hawks.

23: Isabela Island

24: After lunch we visited Fernandina Island, the youngest and considered one of the most pristine and best preserved islands in the world. Espinosa Point, located in the northwest part of the island, shelters a wide variety of endemic fauna.

25: The flat lava of Punta Espinosa shows the stark and barren landscape, home of the largest colony of endemic marine iguanas. There are also mangroves, Sally lightfoot crabs, flightless comorants, and sea lions. | Fernandina Island

26: OurNational Park naturalist guide Greg took us out on two visits a day and introduced us to the mysterious and wonderful secrets of the flora, fauna, and geology. | July is the start of the sea lion breeding season and the lava lizards mating season.

27: Marine iguanas (who learned how to dive) | Dally lightfoot crabs | Flightless cormorant (bird that forgot how to fly) | A living lab of evolution

29: At Puerto Egas on Santiago Island, the first part of our trail is made from volcanic ash; the rest is volcanic rock. Pelicans, boobies, herons, warblers, finches, crabs, and marine iguanas share space with one another. | Santiago Island

30: Sea tortoise

31: Blue-footed boobies | Many of the creatures are unique; they cannot be found anywhere else on the surface of the earth.

32: After lunch, we went to Rabida, also known as Jervis Island. It is one of the most diverse in terms of volcanic activity, lying at the heart of the archipelago's volcanic origin. | Kaitlin and Susanna | We took a dinghy ride to spot sea lions, pelicans, blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies.

33: We also got to go deep-water snorkling. | Rabida Island

34: A reddish sandy beach is surrounded by cliffs and steep slopes of volcanic cinder cones. Inland, we observed many land birds .

37: Monica and Randy | Mieke and friend | The red beach of Rbida

38: Today we visited the Charles Darwin Station, located at Port Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Two hundred scientists, educators, research students, and volunteers (90% Ecuadorian) make decisions for conservation of the island. | Cemetery on the island | Home of the giant tortoise breeding program

39: Playing with the giant tortoises | The archipelago is named after the gigantic Galapagos tortoises, one of the longest living creatures on Earth. They are the most famous endemic animal - they are found here and no where else.

41: Lonesome George is the last survivor of the Pinta Island giant tortoise species. | There is also a land iguana breeding program at the station. | Santa Cruz Island

42: Baby tortoises stay in their incubators or small pens for about 4 to 5 years before being released.

43: Port Ayora

44: We took a 45-minute bus ride to the natural reserve with the famous giant land tortoises in their natural habitat. These enormous and slow reptiles are responsible for the island's name. They weigh between 250-300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Their principal enemy has always been man. | The tortoises share their sanctuary together with other endemic and migratory species, mainly birds and reptiles. These creatures form the greatest example of evoultion at work. | Santa Cruz Highlands

45: Afterwards, we enjoyed a visit to the lava tunnels, the result of many eruptions in the islands centuries ago. | Rick, Kaitlin, and Randy try on a tortoise shell.

46: As we left the reserve, a tortoise decided to cross the street in front of our bus. Luckily he didn't stay long on the road!

47: This is one giant tortoise!

48: Today we visited Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island. Behind the beach are two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, gulls, native and endemic vegetation, mangroves, and saltbushes. | We can see the tracks of a marine tortoise who made a hole to lay its eggs.

49: Enjoying the coralline white sandy beach | Mary Ann and Susan | Bachas Beach

51: The Boobies leave their mark!!

52: Back on the ship | Brother Ron and Matt | Stephen King | Rick (again!)

53: Old friend Barbara and Susan | New friends Sara and Rick | Our great American and Canadian group!

54: France, Dan, and Erin jumping for joy! | Our cruise route of the islands | Each day the pool would be refilled.

55: As we leave the islands, we get one last visit from a native. | Some of us prepare to return to Quito, while most of the travelers head on to Peru. | Susan, Debbie , KC, and Wade at the airport heading back to the US. | Adios!

56: 2011 Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands Teacher Convention Delegates Rick Samson (Port Washington, WI) Sara Bornheimer (Port Washington, WI) Linda Hammond (Runnemede, NJ) Susan Parsons (London, England) Dan Ware (Columbia, MO) Debbie and KC Beavers (Zebulon, NC) France Duval (Sherbrooke, QC) Marci and Terry Ferguson (Saskatoon, SK) Mary Pierangeli (Dudley, MA) Barbara Boerstler (Lake Worth, FL) David and Merle Blumell ((Rosemary, AB) Mary Ann Mann (Slatersville, RI) Mary and Wade Kynett (Moccasin, MT) Mieke Vanderkooy (Burlington, ON) Pamela Vanderburg (Brighton, ON) Chris Koopman (Brighton, ON) Randy Gabel (Winnipeg, MB) Monica Conger-Morrison (Stonewall, MB) Ron Luksic (Cincinnati, OH) Matt Schumacher (Chicago, IL) Shauna Kidd (Austin, TX) Gary and Dana Werner (Lafayette, IN) Stephen King (Marystown, NL) Susan and Patrick Stiehr (Roseville, CA) | EF Staff: Erin Flaherty (Director of Marketing, Boston) Paolo Meineri (Director of Operations, Lucerne) Kaitlin Grott (Customer Service Leader, Denver) Susanna Dawson (Sr. Manager, Toronto) Joe Harvey (Sr. Tour Consultant, Boston)

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