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I Have an Obsession With Ecuador

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Tiny Ecuador, no larger than the state of Nevada has it all! Think of it divided into 4 distinct north/south bands: The lush rainforest and indigenous cultures of the jungle in the Oriente (east) The Andean spine is the seat of the capital city of Quito, the world-famous Otavalo Indian market, and elegant 300+ year old Spanish haciendas, reborn as boutique hotels. The western slope of the Andes is shrouded in cloud forests and cascading waterfalls, lush habitat for wild orchids and hundreds of exotic bird species. And 600 miles off shore, the Galapagos Islands continue to evolve, to educate mankind in evolution, and the sheer, stark beauty of Mother Nature at work.

As Wildland Adventures Galapagos Program Director I love the fact that I not only plan trips, but I am directly involved in projects that affect positive change in our destinations. Wildland Adventures was a founding corporate member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, and I presently serve on the Board of Directors. IGTOAs mission is to preserve the Galpagos Islands as a unique world heritage site that will provide enjoyment, education, adventure and inspiration to present and future generations of travelers. Member organizations act as a liaison between the visitors to Darwins Enchanted Islands and the business interests who serve these guests. During our annual meetings, IGTOA members tackle issues ranging from environmental certification programs for yachts to elimination of invasive species, to refitting and repairing engines on anti-poaching Park patrol boats, to improving the educational opportunities for local students in Galapagos. Perhaps one of the most important benefits to our clients as an active, founding member of IGTOA is our constant vigilance to monitor small ship cruise safety and comfort for passengers.

Guides in the Galapagos
Galapagos naturalist guides are rated according to the grading system that designates a Level 1, 2 or 3 (the best) guide. An important difference in yachts and prices on Galapagos tours is the level of guide. At Wildland Adventures, we only use first class yachts with Level 2 or 3 guides. Essentially, the difference in the levels is academic achievement, experience and language capabilities. Level 1 and level 2 guides have some college education, some local training by the Charles Darwin Station and some speak a second language. However, a Level 2 or 3 guide will have at least 3-4 languages, and a minimum of 10 years guiding experience in the Islands. There is a world of difference in how you will experience the Galapagos with a higher level guide. I am proud that we work with the best and brightest naturalist guides in the Galapagos Islands.

Wild Surprises
Every trip to the Galapagos at any season brings its own surprises. On a trip I took in May, the male Magnificent Frigatebirds were staking out their territory amongst the jagged black lava rocks. Inflating their brilliant red throat pouch, and fully extending 4-6ft wide glossy black wings, the frigatebird emits an eerie, high-decibel song - all to attract the female frigatebird, cruising the thermals above. On another day dozens of blue-footed boobies dive-bombed the waters all around us in a feeding frenzy. Just below the surface, a pod of dolphins stirred up more and more grist for the feast, their dorsal fins periodically cutting the waves almost within arms reach. My last sunset onboard the Eclipse we were accompanied by a mother Brydes whale and her calf swimming alongside for almost an hour. Toward the horizon, at least 4 other blow spouts raised vapor into the long golden light of the waning day.
No wonder I have an obsession with the Galapagos!

Your friendly Ecuador expert,

Sherry Howland
Got questions about travel to Ecuador? Ask me!

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