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May 24, 2018 0

The Galapagos has something for every taste, and at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel you can enjoy it all! From superb cuisine to relaxing by the pool, cocktail in hand. From wildlife observation to the exploration of the islands’ unique landscape. You don’t have to choose just one! You can do it all and get a complete Galapagos experience that encompasses all the details and activities that will make it a truly unforgettable journey.  For the most sporty and adventurous, Finch Bay also offers an array of interesting options, which are only enhanced by the mesmerizing location where they take place in, the Enchanted Isles! If this sport is something you’ve done before or you want to do for the first time, this is the place to do it. Read on to learn how to go about kayaking in the Galapagos and get ready to enjoy!

Where Does the Activity Take Place?

Once you’ve booked the activity, we make sure to go through all the safety procedures that will make it even more enjoyable. Our kayaking program takes place in Divine Bay, a beautiful location with protected waters that make for a very pleasant trip. We leave when the tide is high from Playa de Los Alemanes (German Beach), located by Finch Bay – one of the advantages of staying at the only beach-front hotel in Santa Cruz! We start rowing southward for about 15 minutes until we get to the Lover’s Crevasse, as the locals call it, and surround the mangroves that grow by the bay.

Where to stay in Galapagos?
While the Galapagos Islands offer plenty of accommodation options on both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, there’s truly no better option than the Finch Bay Hotel. This hotel in Galapagos is the only one with sustainability practices both in its operation and cuisine. It is also the only one with a private pool and direct access to a secluded beach. This makes it a perfect option when visiting Galapagos with kids. Enjoy this and many other perks in the best hotel in Galapagos, selected by TripAdvisor. Check out our rooms and suites!

More About Divine Bay

Located very close to Academy Bay and buzzy Puerto Ayora, you’ll find the quiet and wildlife-rich Divine Bay. Named after one of the islands first settlers, this beautiful cove is protected from the swells by natural reefs on one side, mangrove trees on the other and cliffs created by the uplift of the lava plateau. Divine Bay provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife, and kayaking is one of the best ways to discover it! Watch the herons cross the Bay and the noddy terns nesting in the cliffs alongside the blue-footed boobies. If you watch carefully, you might even spot a sea turtle grazing in the ocean floor or a curious young reef shark.

How Long Does the Activity Last?

It can last from 1 to 2 hours. It all depends on how fast you row or how you want to go about your trip. Some want the ride to feel more like a stroll in order to observe the coastline with ease. Others like to do it for the sport and they take the opportunity to test their strength and speed. Either way, you will be able to enjoy amazing landscapes and observe the unique wildlife of Galapagos.

How Technical and Demanding is the Activity?

The Kayaking Program is a really friendly activity and can be enjoyed by young and old. On a scale from 1 to 5, our kayaking activity has a medium-level difficulty of 2. Keep in mind that it can feel a little strenuous on the arms if you haven’t been exercising much, but it’s not too hard to handle. This activity that combines sport, adventure and sightseeing is a definite must-do!

What Kind of Kayaks do you Use?

We have open, tandem, sit-on-top kayaks. This means you can do it by yourself or share the experience with a friend, partner or family member. If you do it amongst two, you will have to get in sync with your rowing. Once you find your pace, you will feel like you are flying on top of the water.

Kayaking at Divine Bay, Galapagos
Kayaking in Divine Bay!

What Does the Activity Include?

It includes paddles and life vests. You can rent a wetsuit if you are one to get cold easily, but you really won’t as you will be moving your muscles all the time. We do recommend wearing a hat, sunscreen and a long-sleeved t-shirt in order to protect your skin from the equatorial sun.

Is it a Guided Activity?

A guide will be provided if the group has 6 or more people, as per Galapagos National Park rules. However, anyone can request a guide, no matter the number of people.

What is the Minimum Age Allowed for This Activity?

For this activity, kids of all ages are allowed. All minors younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. As safe as this activity is, like any other aquatic activity organized by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, we always like to remind the parents that the minor’s safety is their responsibility.

Kids kayaking in the Galapagos Islands.
Kayaking in Galapagos is a fun and safe activity for kids!
Are you interested in exploring the ultimate secluded destination?

Nathalie Moeller

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May 10, 2018 0

When you live and work in a natural paradise such as the Galapagos Islands, there are many things to consider. But when you work at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – one of the world’s leading GREEN hotels – you know things are done differently. We strive to be a leading example of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices not only for the people of the Galapagos, but for our guests as well. This month, we went deeper into what sustainable Galapagos food ought to be like and even welcomed the visit of a very interesting guest. Read on to learn more about what’s cooking at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!

Finch Bay's organic garden
The chakrita is our own organic garden which provides us with herbs and spices for our dishes!

Investigation & Sustainable Galapagos Food

Our team at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel dedicates itself to numerous different projects in order to protect the amazing environment of the islands. One of these is our sustainable Galapagos food project, which sees us continuously investigating the diversity of local produce and ways of encouraging farmers to grow more sustainably. At the Finch Bay, we try to buy local as much as possible in order to lower our environmental footprint. We also send our teams out to investigate the fruits and vegetables that are grown on the inhabited islands. We even talk to fishermen and learn about their fishing techniques, along with the species of fish, crustaceans and/or mollusks that they catch. Once we’ve gathered all this knowledge, we bring it back to our kitchen and put it all into our creative efforts that help develop our menu that represents the best of Galapagos food and Ecuadorian cuisine. We know that we can only grow as a restaurant and a company so long as our community grows with us.

As part of our ongoing efforts to leave less of a carbon footprint, we have even created our own organic vegetable garden. The “Chakrita,” as we call it, is home to a varied selection of flowers and herbs that we use in all our recipes, either as garnish or the main ingredients.  To have all these amazing and fresh greens at our disposal allows us to develop our creativity, which is a crucial component in allowing our “crazy” chef minds to continuously grow.

During my time here, I have seen a growing interest and curiosity from our guests, cooks, and chefs, about all things organic and local, especially when they come directly from the islands. It’s something we look forward to working on constantly!

A Visit From a Gastronomic Icon

Last month we were fortunate enough to receive a visit from famous chef Juan Luis Fernandez and his girlfriend Dolce Nida, owners of the restaurant “LÚ Cocina y Alma” in Jerez, Spain. They stayed at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, during which time they cooked with us, experimenting with our ingredients and updating our understanding of cooking techniques. Juan Luis, also known as JuanLu, spent several years working at the famous “Aponiente” restaurant (3 Michelin stars), where he himself learned the latest gastronomical techniques for preparing seafood in the best way possible.

After spending a day looking for the best ingredients and sharing our expertise with JuanLu and Dolce, we were delighted to share our kitchen with them. They couldn’t have been more generous! They taught us about the techniques they use at their restaurant, and we even got to learn about new cooking methods that we can apply to our own recipes and products here at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!

 

We Are All Cooks

I love how the world of food and cooking has no frontiers or barriers. In life, we are all cooks! However, when you are a chef, and so long as you cook with passion, it doesn’t matter where you are – you always have to give it your best! At the Finch Bay, we give each meal and plate our best, every single day, so that our friends and guests learn and fall in love with our products, our country, our people and our cuisine.

Finch Bay's guests cooking with our chef
Our guests and chef cooking Ecuadorian traditional food.

My team and I, we never get bored: We are always improving and looking forward to coming up with new and magnificent flavors, using all the wonderful natural ingredients that the Galapagos Islands has to offer us.

Join us on our journey! We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live!

Nathalie Moeller

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March 15, 2018 0

The Galapagos Islands have something for everyone! Explorers, adventurers, curious travelers and even those who are just looking to relax and unwind (or a combination of both!) will fall in love with this magical place. The archipelago has it all, and the way you decide to discover it is entirely up to you! Whether it be aboard a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, you can rest assured you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime! For a land-based option, head to the only beachfront hotel on Santa Cruz Island – Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – and unravel the mysteries of the islands with your friends and family! If you are looking to explore the amazing highlands of Santa Cruz and do some sports while engaging in a fun and safe activity, then biking in the Galapagos Islands is the activity for you! Read up and ride on!

Family biking on Santa Cruz in Galapagos.
Enjoy biking with your kids through the highlands of Santa Cruz.
Where to stay in Galapagos?
While the Galapagos Islands offer plenty of accommodation options on both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, there’s truly no better option than the Finch Bay Hotel. This hotel in Galapagos is the only one with sustainability practices both in its operation and cuisine. It is also the only one with a private pool and direct access to a secluded beach. This makes it a perfect option when visiting Galapagos with kids. Enjoy this and many other perks in the best hotel in Galapagos, selected by TripAdvisor. Check out our rooms and suites!

Biking in the Galapagos Islands: How to do it?

Biking is an activity available at the Finch Bay upon request. Depending on how much time you’ll be spending in the archipelago, you can make this activity either a full-day or a half-day activity. Biking in the Galapagos presents a unique opportunity to discover the highlands and enjoy some amazing views of Santa Cruz Island, in our case. Once you book the activity, we take care of everything else!

Bikes and helmets will be waiting for you at the dock. Our Naturalist Guide will be in charge of the activity, and a car and driver will take you all the way up to Bellavista – the highlands’ biggest town and where your adventure begins. Once there, we’ll bike down to the beautiful beach of El Garrapatero, so remember to put on your swimming suit at the hotel before leaving, as there are no changing rooms at the beach! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel will provide you with water and a beach towel for you to take with you in your backpack!

Couple biking on Santa Cruz Island
Get ready to bike away!

When do we go biking in the Galapagos?

We leave in the morning at 9 a.m., giving us time to enjoy the Finch Bay’s delicious breakfast buffet. Load up on pancakes, omelettes, fresh fruit, coffee and other local delicacies and get ready to roll!

Once your car drops you off at Bellavista, you will gear up and, following your guide’s instructions and briefing, you will begin your biking journey in Galapagos! Enjoy the view, feel the refreshing wind in your face, let endorphins flow as you pedal to the beach, and anticipate an invigorating dip in the Pacific Ocean! That’s the proper way to end a biking trip in the Galapagos Islands! You will hang out at El Garrapatero for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half. Afterward, you’ll hop in the car and head back for lunch. Whether you choose to eat in the town of Puerto Ayora or back at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is entirely up to you!

El Garrapatero beach on Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos.
El Garrapatero beach will be waiting at the end of your bike ride.

How physically demanding is biking in the Galapagos? Is it safe?

Our biking activity is designed to be enjoyed to the fullest by both young and old guests. The whole activity takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. We drive you up to Bellavista, and from there all you do is bike down towards the coast. We pedal on a flat asphalt road that descends to El Garrapatero beach. We take safety very seriously, which is why, before beginning the activity, your Naturalist Guide will brief you on all safety measures. We will remind you to keep to your right at all times (to let eventual cars pass by), and to wear a helmet. We also have knee pads for anyone who might want a little extra protection.

Your Guide will accompany you during the entire trip. While biking, he or she will sometimes be at the front of the group and sometimes at the rear, making sure that everyone is doing OK. If, for whatever reason, you feel a little tired or unwell, our driver will pick you up as our car will be following the group all the way from a safe distance, ready to assist anyone who should require it. You will be pedaling for about an hour downhill. How fast or slow you go is totally up to you. In the Galapagos – as you will see – there is no need to hurry! You don’t have to be the fittest person in order to partake in this activity, which is why we always recommend biking in the Galapagos to families traveling with children, or couples and groups that want to discover the islands in a different way!

Land-based activities in Galapagos.
Explore Galapagos and don’t worry about a thing! We take care of everything else!

Traveler’s tip: Remember to wear sunscreen at all times, as the sun on the equator is really strong! Also: keep your eyes open while you bike, as Galapagos giant tortoises are frequently seen crossing the road or ambling alongside it!

Other Biking Options

If you are looking to find an amazing view of Santa Cruz Island, we recommend that you visit Cerro Mesa. This viewpoint that’s located atop a crater is the perfect spot for photos. On a very clear day you can see all the way to Itabaca Chanel! Just like with our Bellavista-El Garrapatero biking excursion, a driver and Naturalist Guide will pick you up in town and drive you up to the viewpoint. From there, you will bike down to El Garrapatero beach.

If you opt for a full day option on either of our Bike Tours, lunch will be included at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. On our Bellavista-El Garrapatero full-day tour, you will also visit El Manzanillo, a Galapagos giant tortoise reserve where you will be able to get close and personal with these gentle giants!

You also have the option to explore Santa Cruz Island on a bike on your own. Let us know and will make all the arrangements!

 

Finch Bay's guests biking at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.
Biking in the Galapagos Islands: the adventure of a life-time.

Are you up for it? Let us know in the comments below!

Nathalie Moeller

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January 29, 2018 0

Stargazing in the Galapagos! Think about this for a second. Few things make us marvel at our own existence more than staring into the night sky. The vastness that surrounds us reminds us of just how small we are, helping us appreciate the planet we live in a little more. However, when we live in the city, the night sky tends to go unnoticed. More often than not, our hectic lifestyles keep us from remembering to look up. We jump from one activity to the other, from one meeting to the next, and by the time we get home, we are too tired to even consider admiring the beauty of the stars that linger overhead. Should we ever actually manage to look up and discover a few twinkling lights trying to catch our attention, we’ll soon realize that in the city at least, they are hard to perceive. The artificial lights coming from urban areas are often too strong and too many to truly appreciate the stars.

Stargazing in the Galapagos! Observe the Stars of Two Hemispheres in One Place!

When we finally leave the city, one of the first things that catch our attention is the brightness of an unpolluted night sky! Where we choose to admire the night sky from greatly affects our experience: the clearer the starscape, the more engaged our senses are, the more relaxed we are, the less we think about time, and the better we even feel sometimes. Did you know that, when you observe the sky from the equator, you have the rare opportunity of discovering the stars that are seen in both hemispheres? You might recognize the Big Dipper, but have you ever admired the Southern Cross? Better yet: have you ever seen them both at the same exact time? It’s something that can only happen in Ecuador! And where can we reconnect with the greatness of the universe again, one star at a time? In the Galapagos Islands, of course! Where life, time and space remain virtually untouched! Visit Santa Cruz island’s only beach-front hotel and discover it for yourself!

Where to stay in Galapagos?
While the Galapagos Islands offer plenty of accommodation options on both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, there’s truly no better option than the Finch Bay Hotel. This hotel in Galapagos is the only one with sustainability practices both in its operation and cuisine. It is also the only one with a private pool and direct access to a secluded beach. This makes it a perfect option when visiting Galapagos with kids. Enjoy this and many other perks in the best hotel in Galapagos, selected by TripAdvisor. Check out our rooms and suites!

Fall in love with the night sky at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel

The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located in front of Playa de Los Alemanes, one of the only beaches in the town of Puerto Ayora, and is accessible via a very short panga ride and a 10-minute walk. Even though the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located in the archipelago’s most populated town, it has the advantage of being situated in its least populated neighborhood across the bay – Punta Estrada. Surrounded by mangroves, marshes, frankincense trees and a few houses mostly owned by European families, light pollution in this area is almost non-existent, and the night sky is seen from the Finch Bay practically a stand-alone top feature of the hotel itself. If you are into stargazing, or you simply like to admire the beauty of an immaculate starry night, then the Finch Bay is the place for you.

Galapagos night sky from Finch Bay Hotel
Starry night in Galapagos.

If you want to make sure you locate the sky’s most important stars, planets, and constellations, then we also recommend that you download some apps to help you with this task. We recommend Star Chart, SkyView Free or Night Sky Lite (they are all free!). At the Finch Bay, there’s all Wi-Fi so you will have absolutely no problem using them! Talk to our Expedition Leader before sundown so that he can set up Finch Bay’s telescope – it’s very easy to use and you will be able to observe some amazing things! If it’s a moonlit night and the stars are less visible, then you should definitely take a peek at the moon’s craters and soak in its beautiful light! Because you are on the equator, on certain nights when the moon is at its zenith, you will find it casts no shadow!

The night sky is seen from Finch Bay So sit back, order one of Finch’s signature cocktails and be blown away by the beauty and greatness of a starry Galapagos night!

Be enchanted by the Galapagos Islands

Nathalie Moeller

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April 13, 2017 0

Three Santa Cruz Must-Visit Beaches

Santa Cruz is home to some beautiful spots you certainly have to visit during your stay at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. Even though you will be staying at the only beach-front hotel of the island, these three other locations should be on your Santa Cruz must-visit beaches.

Garrapatero Beach

Garrapatero beach is but a 20 minute bus-ride from town. Going through the highlands of Santa Cruz, you will pass the town of Bellavista. Enjoy a different view made up of above-the-shoreline flora that will grab your attention, like the beautiful scalesia tree –a giant member of the daisy family!

Once you’re at the entrance of the beach, get prepared for a pretty easy 15 minute walk to the sandy shore. Local fauna and flora will be waiting to surprise you along the way. Finches, lava lizards, mangroves and the very common Poison Apple tree make up most of the landscape. Right before reaching the beach you will see a small pond where many species stop to find food. Almost any time of the year, you will be able to see pink flamingos, herons, oyster catchers and ducks.

Couple walking on Garrapatero beach in Galapagos
Couple walking on Garrapatero beach in Galapagos

You will get a glimpse of the beach right away. So make sure to apply sunscreen, take off your shoes or sandals to feel the sand between your toes, find a nice place to place your towel, and go for a relaxing swim amidst the waves.

Las Grietas

This really is a magical location! Picture yourself swimming amongst lava crevasses – where its Spanish name comes from – in crystal clear water. Sound like an image right out of paradise? Lucky for us, this place actually exists and it is just a 20- minute walk away from Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!

 

A trail that could perfectly belong on Mars leads the way to this site, but not without first going through a forest of beautiful Opuntia cacti that have grown as tall as trees. When you reach the spot you won’t immediately see the three, rectangular-shaped pools right away. You will have to go down a set of artificial stairs, from which you will get a nice view of what awaits you. Just be careful when you reach the rocky bottom of the crevasse: sandals, backpacks and sun glasses have been known to slip down into the rock’s unreachable crannies. Get ready for a refreshing plunge through emerald waters!

Swimming in las Grietas, a natural pool in the Galapagos Islands
Swimming in las Grietas, a natural pool in the Galapagos Islands

Tortuga Bay

It is no surprise that Tortuga Bay came in at #10 on Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in the World. Go up the stairs to the entrance of the protected area, which is only a 5-minute taxi ride away from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. Make sure you register yourself before going, as this is a requirement by the Galapagos National Park whenever you visit a protected area without a naturalist guide.

A scenic path will lead you to the first beach called Playa Brava (Angry beach). It is a 30 minute walk but it is totally worth it. From this first beach, where guests and visitors are advised not to swim in due to the force of the currents and the waves – hence the name of the beach – it will take another 25 minutes to get to Tortuga Bay. This second, more secluded bay with mangrove-covered shores will welcome you. Its calm waters strongly contrasted with those of its neighbour and are perfect for a nice, long swim. Find a shadowy spot under one of the many Poison Apple trees, and get ready to have native finches steal some of your snacks. Have your snorkel equipment ready, too! You won’t want to miss what’s hidden underwater, amongst the mangrove’s roots. Did someone say white-tip reef shark?

 

Couple at Tortuga Bay beach in the Galapagos Islands
Couple at Tortuga Bay beach in the Galapagos Islands

Nathalie Moeller

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March 15, 2017 0

A common question when on Santa Cruz Island: What are the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora? Though Ecuador is not yet widely chosen as a gastronomic destination, everyone who visits the country marvels at the immense variety of ingredients, the richness of flavors and the culinary options particular to each region. An homage to this country’s heritage and culture is reflected in every dish, be it a delicious locro de papa (a creamy potato soup with cheese and avocado) from the Andes region, to a perfectly acidic and savoury ceviche from Esmeraldas or Manabí, to a maito or river fish cooked inside a plantain leaf with herbs and spices from the Amazon region. Whatever dish you try, Ecuador’s cuisine will surprise even the most refined palates.

Galapagos, having been inhabited longer after continental Ecuador, did not develop a culinary tradition of its own. Instead, it brought the best from the continent and took advantage of what resources were already readily available – fresh fish and sea food.

While on Puerto Ayora, you have the chance to taste some of Ecuador’s most traditional flavors and get a little more entwined with the local culture. Here we present you a list of some of visitors’ favorite places that are definitely worth trying!

Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel Restaurant

While on your visit to the islands, we recommend that your first culinary stop be at the best restaurant in the Galapagos – the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel Restaurant. While it might be off the main path of Puerto Ayora for some, it is only a 5 minute boat ride away from the docks of town. You will disembark on the pier that takes you to the famous “Las Grietas” and “Playa de Los Alemanes”. It’s a pleasant path that traverses Galapagos flora and will lead you directly to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – the only beachfront hotel in all of Santa Cruz. It’s hard to miss!

Where to stay in Galapagos?
While the Galapagos Islands offer plenty of accommodation options on both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, there’s truly no better option than the Finch Bay Hotel. This hotel in Galapagos is the only one with sustainability practices both in its operation and cuisine. It is also the only one with a private pool and direct access to a secluded beach. This makes it a perfect option when visiting Galapagos with kids. Enjoy this and many other perks in the best hotel in Galapagos, selected by TripAdvisor. Check out our rooms and suites!

Their Le Cordon Bleu certified chef will awaken your senses with his very own twist on local and international dishes. We recommend their famous fresh tuna fillet, sealed with a black sesame seed crust; and finally, for dessert – the rum-macerated fig pie! Don’t miss this luxurious experience!

 

Ecuadorian food at Finch Bay Hotel.
We find inspiration in the uniqueness of the islands.

Isla Grill

When walking around town, we recommend stopping at Isla Grill. This family-friendly restaurant is known by both tourists and locals as one of the best grills in town. For anyone looking to diverge from the more commonly-served seafood menus, Isla Grill is a nice change. Even so, their grilled seafood is not to be missed. Some of their most popular dishes are the grilled beef cuts and barbecued pork ribs. For seafood lovers, you will not want to miss the tsunami parrilla (grill) featuring filleted tuna steaks, octopus, shrimp, and squid.

Il Giardino

If a more international menu is what you are after, Il Giardino is a good option for you. This open-air Italian trattoria sports a rustic décor that gives it a close-to-home sort of feel. They offer everything from steaks to pastas, but are quite known around the island for their decadent desserts and delicious coffee. Find a seat on their lovely dining patio and savor a creamy Italian ice cream as you watch locals and visitors walk by.

La Garrapata

This casual and open restaurant is one of Puerto Ayora’s oldies but goodies. Even though it is named after the bug we all know as the tick (or garrapata in Spanish) its name has nothing to do with its culinary offerings, which range from chicken curry, grilled seafood platters, fish in coconut sauce to a delicious local lobster. All of these options can be accompanied by some white wine from Puerto Ayora’s best wine list. There are options for every palate. In addition to these, you can also find very good sandwiches and pasta dishes on the Garrapata’s menu.

Nathalie Moeller

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October 31, 2016 0

In comparison to the remarkable underwater scenes and towering cacti forests that stretch across the Galapagos Islands, the dull little bird that pecks its way around the archipelago is really quite unremarkable in appearance; nevertheless, this bird has played an extremely important role in society’s understanding of evolution and man’s position in the world. Galapagos finches, also known as Darwin Finches, are a key piece of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and are one of the most iconic animals in the Galapagos Archipelago.

There are very few physical differences between the 13 or 14 species of Darwin Finch, a reminder of the birds’ common origin. In general, the birds have small rounded wings and short tails and are covered in either a dull black, olive or brown plumage. Neither can the color of their beak help differentiate species from each other, as all Galapagos finches in their non-breeding stage have yellow/orange beaks, and those of breeding age have deep black beaks. However, the key to their differences lies principally in their beaks, more specifically their size and shape, which varies according to the specific niche in which the bird lives.

Darwin Finches.
Finches drawn during HMS Beagle’s journey. Photo by John Gould via Wikipedia Commons.

 First observations

 At first Charles Darwin took little notice of the Galapagos finches, which are very similar in appearance to the common garden finch. In fact, it was not until he began to study his collections (with help from specialists) back in England that he realized all 13 species were related. Upon further study, he recognized that these birds are endemic to the islands and that each species displays only slight variations as if the “species had been taken and modified for different ends.”

Evolution

The modern understanding of evolution, which is heavily influenced by Darwin, is based on the idea that a new species evolves when one population is divided into two or more. The now separated populations undergo distinct natural selection pressures as a result, and consequently different evolutionary processes, resulting in a new species. Galapagos finches are an exceptional example of this process.

There are 13 or 14 species of Darwin finch, and each one evolved from the same ancestor that arrived to the archipelago only a few million years ago. Because the finches have only had a relatively short amount of time to evolve, they are strikingly similar and experts have yet to determine one method of classifying the birds. In general, the finches can be divided into tree-dwelling seed eaters and tree-dwelling insect eaters (Tree Finch), ground-dwelling seed eaters (Ground Finch) and the cactus-dwelling seed eaters (Cactus Finch), but there are a few that cannot be sorted into any of these categories, such as the Warbler Finch and the Woodpecker Finch.

However, similarities between the species are exactly what makes them such an excellent subject to study. As we have noted, the general differences between the species lie in their beaks; the beaks of finches that consume medium-sized seeds differ from those of finches that consume large seeds and those of finches that consume insects, etc. The beaks are a key tool in their diet and a direct reflection of what they eat, i.e. if they eat large seeds they will have large, powerful beaks to break open the husk, while those that eat insects have smaller, pointed beaks to quickly snatch up the insect.

Natural selection

The variations that exist between finch populations (beak, behavior, etc.) are a result of natural selection. In this process, random and ever so slight differences occur between individuals, which produce either unfavorable or favorable results for the individual and may potentially determine the reproductive success of the individual. If the trait is successful, it will be passed on to future generations, and over time proliferate throughout the population. All of the finches in the archipelago evolved from a seed-eating, ground-dwelling finch, but over time as populations were divided and faced different habitats and circumstances, they evolved to favor that circumstance.

Finch adaptive radiation

Geospiza magnirostris (1) adapted into three other species of finches that are found in the Galapagos Islands. Photo Credits: Jackie Malvin via Wikimedia Commons.

Research

Extensive research has been carried out on finch populations in the Galapagos Islands, but two works of literature stand out in particular. Ecology and Evolution of Darwin’s Finches by Dr. Peter R. Grant is an excellent read and helps in understanding the importance and complexity of natural selection. His most recent work, How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches is also a masterpiece. The second, The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, has won the Pulitzer Prize and provides a clear explanation of natural selection. They may be easily located at Powell Books, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Nathalie Moeller

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September 4, 2015 0

Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe offers one of the most beautiful and sheltered coves in the archipelago. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. The island lies to the southeast of Santa Cruz within sight of Puerto Ayora. Like North Seymour, Santa Fe has been uplifted, and you can see where underwater lava once cooled off (pillow lava).
A wet landing on a sandy white beach brings us into contact with one of the many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right to be Beach Master, while smaller males masquerade as females and make stealthy mating moves. Galápagos hawks are often easily approached, perched atop salt bushes.

The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name, with tree-sized trunks! Our goal is to spot one of the large species of land iguana, native to Santa Fe. Beige to chocolate brown in color with dragon-like spines, these huge iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs.

An indigenous species of rice rat also inhabits the thickets, and lucky hikers can spot harmless Galápagos snakes. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than a swim in the calm waters of the bay, a great snorkeling opportunity with diverse marine life. We visit this beautiful Island every Wednesday.

Are you interested in exploring the ultimate secluded destination?

 

Santa Fe Iguana
The Santa Fe Iguana can only be seen in Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos.

Nathalie Moeller

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July 29, 2015 0

Santa Fe Land Iguanas, a member of Galapagos Big 15

As its name indicates, the Santa Fe land iguana (Conolophus pallidus) lives only on Santa Fe, a small island southeast of Santa Cruz. It’s one of the three endemic land iguana species on the Galapagos. According to research on this particular species, its populations on Santa Fe are stable, but the CITES – (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) lists it as “vulnerable.” Fully grown, this land iguana species has no natural predators, although Galápagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) may feed on juveniles and even young adults. Visitors can see Santa Fe land iguanas trying to warm up or cool off on a rock, in the shade of the typical Santa Fe giant Opuntia cactus or simply in the middle of the visitor site’s hiking trail. When freshly hatched, these iguanas base their diet on insects and other arthropods, but while they grow, they become mostly herbivorous. Adults love the Opuntia fruit and leaves; it’s amazing to watch them remove the big spines of the fruit, called tuna, by scratching it lightly on the ground and then eating it, disregarding the remaining small spines.

This cactus provides the majority of the nutrients and water these iguanas need to survive in this arid land. They complement their diet with insects, arthropods, and even carrion. Females pick holes in the grounds to nest and can deposit between two and 25 eggs, but just 10% of the hatchlings reach maturity.

Santa Fe land iguanas have an interesting symbiotic relationship with Darwins’ finches and Galápagos mockingbirds. When iguanas lift their feet, they allow these birds to remove ticks and other parasites that they can have on their scaly species. This is one of those species that make the Galápagos special and a living witness to the marvels of specialization.

Santa Fe iguana spotted in Galapagos
This species can be found at just one place in the entire world: Santa Fe Island.

We have designed a complete program that will allow you to observe Galapagos Islands’ wildlife. Or, you can also  customize your own travel package. Get in touch, you are in good hands.

Nathalie Moeller

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July 22, 2015 0

13 reasons why the Finch Bay is an Eco Hotel in the Galapagos Islands.

* Finch Bay’s staff and operation are fully committed to strictly follow Galapagos National Park’s conservation rules and policies.

* Because of its sustainable practices, Finch Bay was selected as a Pilot Project when the Smart Voyager Certification started in the Galapagos Islands.

* Finch Bay’s design and colors (green and beige) enable a mimetic blending to the surrounding environment. The use of local materials is always a priority when it comes to building, redesigning, or refitting.

Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel in Ecuador
Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel

* Finch Bay is the only hotel in Galapagos with its own sewage treatment plant. Active bacteria consume biological waste before becoming treated water. Treated water (greywater) is used to irrigate the hotel’s gardens.

* Finch Bay collects its rainwater for watering the gardens too. This has resulted in a reduction of 6% of its freshwater consumption.

* As part of Metropolitan Touring’s efforts with Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador, Finch Bay adheres to our company’s environmental policy and supports rubbish handling, classification, and recycling. * Solar panels at the hotel supply energy for water heating.

* Outdoor illumination is supplied by movement-activated light-bulbs. Light bulbs in most public areas are energy-saving units. * All new appliances are certified energy-efficient. * Water consumption is constantly monitored, keeping daily records of consumption and supplying periodical checks to the whole piping system. * Introduction of alien species to the Islands is strictly and carefully prevented when acquiring goods and supplies.

* All soap, detergent, and shampoo supplies are environmentally-friendly and manufactured with biodegradable ingredients.

* Finch Bay staff undergoes specific environmental training. This allows them to understand how their daily practices at work benefit the environment.

* Finch Bay leads the reduction of plastics needs from the mainland: in 2009, it replaced plastic bottles with refillable water bottles, reducing the number of plastic bottles imported to the islands by 6,360.

* In September 2008, Finch Bay developed its own vegetable garden. Local production has eliminated the need for importing items from the mainland, and so far over 1,000 Kg of fresh produce has been produced at our own farm. This reduces systematically the use of man/time, fuel, CO2 emissions, agrochemical sprays, and packaging materials. Naturally, it makes the hotel more cost-efficient, too.

Organic products collected from our chakrita
Organic products collected from our chakrita.

* Finch Bay dries most of its linen and towels under the equatorial sun and reduces the need for local energy for heavy-duty driers.

* Finch Bay is committed to restoring its location’s coastline. The reforestation of mangroves is a top priority, and to date, 500 button mangrove seedlings have been planted in the surrounding area.

Are you interested in exploring the ultimate secluded destination?

Nathalie Moeller

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