Learn more about #Galapagos volcanoes ht


Learn more about #Galapagos volcanoes http://ow.ly/mpG2G

Come look at my red feet! #Galapagos #Ec


Come look at my red feet! #Galapagos #Ecuador http://ow.ly/i/2py6Q

Energía eólica en #Galapagos http://ow.l


Energía eólica en #Galapagos http://ow.ly/mbq5t

#Galapagos scientists bid to revive Lone


#Galapagos scientists bid to revive Lonesome George tortoise species http://ow.ly/m8TGL

Galápagos sapiens – Por qué las Islas Galápagos son especiales?


Yate La Pinta y kayaks en Isla Floreana

Las Galápagos son un archipiélago de islas e islotes volcánicos que se alzan desde el fondo del Océano Pacífico a 1000 kilómetros (600 millas) al este del Ecuador.  En un globo terráqueo o en mapas de Google se las ve como unas cuantas pecas en la mejilla del océano, extrañas y totalmente inesperadas.  Emergieron del océano solamente ayer, en tiempo geológico, creadas por una grieta en la corteza terrestre entre dos placas tectónicas, lo que en la ciencia se conoce como un punto caliente volcánico.  Un punto muy caliente.

Las Galápagos son especiales porque nunca han estado conectadas con el continente.

La flora y fauna que arribó a las costas de las islas –por cierto, antes de cualquier intervención del hombre- primero debían sobrevivir a cientos de millas de océano.  Casí ningún mamífero logró completar el viaje.  Durante millones de años, solo una pequeña rata lo logró.  Los reyes de la fauna de las Galápagos son los reptiles.  Y cómo llegaron aquí?  Fueron arrastrados desde las orillas de los ríos en el continente por crecidas súbitas, y flotaron sobre balsas de vegetación empujadas al capricho de las corrientes  marinas durante semanas, para finalmente desembarcar, fortuitamente fecundada.

Durante millones de años, estos reptiles, y muchas de las aves marinas que también se posaron en estas islas volcánicas, se adaptaron a su ambiente.  En palabras de Charles Darwin – es el subtítulo de la primera edición de El Origen de las Especies – su supervivencia siguió el principio de “La Preservación de las Razas Favorecidas en la Lucha por la Vida”.

Iguanas marinas calentandose

Así, una tortuga que comenzó siendo un tantito mayor que su pie, creció hasta el tamaño de un niño de seis años; un cormorante se olvidó de volar, ya que tenía la ventaja de obtener su alimento buceando en vez de volando; una especie de pinzón llegó y se adaptó tan bien a su ambiente que hoy hay 13 especies; y una mutación de iguana terrestre cuyos hijos eran buenos nadadores prosperó y se repordujo, creando una iguana marina, única de estas islas. La flora también mutó y se adaptó. El árbol de escalesia, por ejemplo, que llega a alturas de 10 metros en la parte alta de algunas islas, es de la misma familia de los girasoles.

Las Galápagos son especiales porque las islas son un laboratorio viviente de evolucíón.

Los animales de Galápagos evolucionaron y se desarrollaron en aislamiento durante milenios. A pesar de que las islas fueron descubiertas por el Obispo de Panamá –cuando su embarcación fue llevada fuera de curso por las corrientes- a mediados de los 1500s, no fue sino hasta el siglo 19 que el hombre se fijó en estas ‘islas encantadas’. De hecho, los marineros las detestaban. Las ‘encantadas’ de los folletos turísticos, para ellos significaba ‘embrujadas’. Cubiertas por la bruma de la garúa durante la mitad del año, negras y amenazantes, ocasionalmente lanzando fuego volcánico, y con muy pocas fuentes de agua fresca, ningún marinero que se precie querría pasar ni un día en el archipiélago.

Pero el negocio de los balleneros cambió este panorama. La Corriente de Humboldt que acarrea nutrientes hacia el norte desde los frígidos mares de la Antártida, atrae a grandes escuelas de peces y cetáceos. Para los balleneros, que vendían el aceite de ballena a los ciudadanos de las florecientes ciudad de Norteamérica y Europa, la fama de Galápagos creció tanto como la de San Francisco, California, durante la fiebre del oro.

Los balleneros causaron estragos en los ecosistemas de las islas. Soltaron allí a animales domésticos para uso futuro, cortaron bosques para usarlos como combustible para quemar la grasa de ballena y se llevaron cientos de miles de tortugas gigantes, de cuya carne fresca se nutrirían durante sus largos viajes por el mar. Las tortugas eran apiladas como carga, hasta cinco, una encima de otra, en las bodegas de los barcos, y podían vivir hasta tres meses sin agua.

Sin embargo, estos tristes eventos palidecen cuando se los compara con la depredación del hombre, durante milenios, del ambiente de América del Sur. Luego de solo unos pocos miles de años luego de que el homo sapiens cruzara el Estrecho de Bering, todos los grandes animales terrestres del continente (con un par de excepciones) habían sido exterminados. Los sobrevivientes desarrollaron un miedo innato al hombre. Los animales terrestres le huían. Las aves volaban por su vida. Este es el mundo como lo conocemos ahora; la relación con el mundo natural que hemos llegado a aceptar.

Las Galápagos son especiales porque no animales no le temen al hombre.

Piquero de patas azules

Afortunadamente, entre el arribo de los balleneros y la creación del Parque Nacional Galápagos en 1959, las criaturas de las islas no desarrollaron la característica congénita o hereditaria de temer al hombre. No nos consideran un depredador o causa de alarma – ni siquiera se molestan en, subrepticiamente, hacerse a un lado para dejarnos pasar. Esto se debe, en gran parte, al hecho de que no hay carnívoros grandes en las Islas – el Gavilán de Galápagos es el mayor depredador. Al contrario, cuando uno explora un sitio de visita en las Galápagos, debe tener cuidado de no atropellar a una familia de iguanas marinas que se asolea, de no pisar el nido de un piquero de patas azules o tropezar con un lobo marino.

En Galápagos, los animales están dichosamente ignorantes de que solo a pocos cientos de millas de distancia, sus parientes pueden ser apaleados, degollados, desplumados, despellejados, hervidos con algunas patatas, o vendidos por algún humano más rápido de lo que se puede decir biología evolutiva.

Las Galápagos no son solamente el “origen del Origen de las Especies”, sino que son uno de los pocos lugares del planeta donde puede observar a estas especies cuando desee, confortablemente, con suficiente tiempo para poder contemplar sus notables características, y reflexionar sobre nuestro lugar en el gran árbol de la vida: darnos cuenta de que somos solo una ramita al final de una rama de este árbol; reflexionar sobre nuestra responsabilidad hacia ese árbol; entender que no tenemos más derecho a estar en su copa que cualquier otra criatura.

Tropic bird

Compartir el tiempo con las criaturas de Galápagos es un oportunidad privilegiada para la reflexión. Durante este viaje, me sumergí en el mar, para jugar dando vueltas y giros, con un joven lobo marino, una y otra vez, entre salidas a tomar aire. Me senté a observar a las iguanas terrestres, pequeños dragones, debajo de los cactos. Me paré al borde de un acantilado, contra el viento, para observar a las aves tropicales, pelícanos, piqueros, gaviotas de lava y petreles surcar las corrientes de aire sobre un mar plateado brilloso. Y ninguna de las aves se fijó en mi para nada.

Las Galápagos son especiales porque nosotros, con nuestra sabiduría, hemos decidido protegerlas tal como son. Ojalá durante mucho tiempo continuemos siendo tan sapiens.


Por Dominic Hamilton, Head of Communication, dhamilton AT metropolitan-touring.com

Para explorar las Islas Galapagos con Metropolitan Touring, ver http://www.metropolitantouring.com/GalapagosIslandsTours/

Galapagos sapiens – Why the Galapagos Islands are special


Yacht La Pinta and kayaks at Floreana Island

The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands and islets that rise up from the bed of the Pacific Ocean 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) west of Ecuador. On a desktop globe or on Googlemaps, they look like a set of freckles on the ocean’s cheek, incongruous and entirely unexpected. They emerged from the ocean just yesterday in geological time, created by a crack in the Earth’s crust between two tectonic plates, known to science as a volcanic hotspot. A very hot spot.

The Galapagos are special because they have never been connected to the mainland.

The flora and fauna that reached the islands’ shores – before the intervention of Man at any rate – had to survive the hundreds of miles of ocean first. Mammals failed almost entirely to complete the journey. Over millions of years, only a small rat made it. The kings of Galapagos fauna are reptiles. How did they get there? They were washed away from the banks of rivers on the continent by flash floods, floated on rafts of vegetation skippered by whimsical ocean currents for weeks, and finally disembarked, fortuitously impregnated.

Over millions of years, these reptiles, and many of the marine birds that also alighted on these volcanic isles, adapted to their environment. In the words of Charles Darwin – in fact, the sub-title to the first edition of On The Origin of Species – their survival followed the principle of “the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.

Marine iguanas warming up for the day's activities

Thus a land tortoise that began little bigger than your foot grew to the length of six year-old child; a cormorant became flightless as it gained an advantage by fishing underwater rather than flying; one species of finch arrived and adapted to its environment to such an extent that there are today 13 species; and a mutation of a land iguana whose offspring were good swimmers thrived and reproduced, creating the marine iguana, unique to the Islands. Flora too, mutated and adapted. The scalesia tree, for example, which reaches heights of a good 10 metres (30 feet) in the highlands of some islands, is from the same family as the diminutive daisy.

The Galapagos are special because the islands are a living laboratory of evolution.

The animals of Galapagos evolved and developed in isolation for millennia. Although the islands were discovered by the blown-off-course Bishop of Panamá in the mid-1500s, it really wasn’t until the 19th century that Man took any notice of these ‘enchanted isles’. In fact, mariners hated them. The ‘enchanted’ of the tourist brochures is really a mistranslation of the Spanish ‘encantadas’ which should really translate as ‘bewitched’ in this context. Cloaked in garúa sea mist for half the year, black and foreboding, occasionally spewing volcanic fire, and with very few sources of fresh water, no seaman worth his salt wanted to spend any time in the archipelago.

But the whaling trade changed this. The Humboldt Current that carries nutrients northwards from the frigid seas of Antarctica brings vast schools of fish and cetaceans. For the whalers who sold whale oil to the citizens of the burgeoning cities of North America and Europe, Galapagos’ fame grew almost like that of San Francisco in the midst of the gold rush.

The whalers wreaked havoc on the islands’ ecosystems. They let domestic animals loose for future use, chopped forests for burning down whale fat and carried off tens of thousands of giant tortoises, whose meat would sustain them on their long sea voyages. The reptilian tortoises, stacked five-high in the holds of the ships, could last three months without water – the ideal meals-on-shells.

These sad events, however, pale into nothingness when compared to Man’s millenarian depredation of the South American environment. Within only a few thousands of years of homo sapiens crossing the Bering Straits, all of the continent’s large land mammals (with a couple of exceptions) had been exterminated. The survivors developed an in-born fear of Man. Land mammals ran a mile. Birds flapped for their lives. This is the world as we know it; the relationship with the natural world we have come to accept.

Galapagos are special because the animals have no fear of Man.

Blue-footed boobie close-up

Fortunately, between the whalers arriving and the establishment of the Galapagos National Park in 1959, the Islands’ creatures didn’t develop an ingrained or inherited trait of fearing Man. They do not consider us a predator or cause for alarm – they don’t even surreptitiously shuffle sideways to get out of our way. This is due in greater part to the fact that the Islands don’t have any large carnivores – the Galapagos hawk is the biggest predator. In fact, exploring a visitor site on Galapagos you have to take care not to trip over a family of basking marine iguanas, step on a blue-footed booby’s nest or stumble over a sea lion.

In Galapagos, the animals are all blissfully unaware that just a few hundred miles away their kin would have been clubbed, clobbered, feathered, skinned, boiled up with some potatoes or sold by the likes of us faster than you could say evolutionary biology.

Not only are the Galapagos the ‘origin of the Origin of Species’, but they are one of the few places on the planet where you can observe these species at will, in comfort, with enough time to contemplate their remarkable characteristics, and to reflect upon our place in the great tree of life: to realise we are just one twig at the end of one branch of that tree; to realise we have a responsibility to that tree; to realise we have no more rights to be up in its canopy than any other creature.

Tropic bird in flight, Galapagos Islands

Sharing time with the creatures of Galapagos is a privileged chance for reflection. On this trip, I dived down underwater and did loop the loops and twisted and turned with a young sea lion pup, over and over with new lungfuls of air. I sat observing dragon-like land iguanas beneath prickly cacti. I stood on a wind-swept cliff edge and watched tropic birds, pelicans, boobies, lava gulls and storm petrels ride the precarious currents above the glinting, silvery sea. And none of them took the slightest bit of notice of me.

The Galapagos are special because we, in our wisdom, have decided to protect them as such. Long may we continue to be so sapiens.

By Dominic Hamilton, Head of Communication, dhamilton AT metropolitan-touring.com

To join Metropolitan Touring and explore the Galapagos Islands, see http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/GalapagosIslandsTours/

Let’s Tango…!


I don’t like the word “show” very much… It somehow says “artificial and superficial”. During our past trip to Argentina (Mac, Soñita, Paito, Andre, Kari, Moni, Dom – you are fab travel mates, by the way…thanks for an unforgettable trip!) our itinerary included the visit of a Tango-Show in Buenos Aires. I was keen to see the Tango and not the show, to be honest… It is common to combine Dinner & Tango (superb concept, by the way) and we chose the “Tango Porteño” at the Porteño Theatre on Corrientes, formerly a cinema-theatre owned by Metro Goldwyn Meyer.

The place is big (like so many things in Argentina…); all the tables are well laid (you can chose to either come just for the Tango, or include dinner); the food is delicious, wine good and the ambience perfect to immerse oneself back to the golden decade of the 1940s, when Tango had its heyday. For over an hour and a half, we are taken back in time, to a glamorous Buenos Aires, full of passion & love.

I am surprised by the staging, orchestra, dancers, singers, costumes, music – all is of fantastic quality – I am dazzled by the moves, the energy, accuracy, flow, dynamism, elegance, passion… There is this one scene, modern, where the performer dances blindfolded (!) with her lover… we witness the utmost perfect, and sensual, declaration of love of two top performers who seem to read each other’s minds constantly, not one movement has room for failure, a mastery of bodies that provokes in me pure admiration and stir the humble feeling of being so privileged to experience this breathtaking show. And wanting to share it immediately with my family, especially with my daughter, who is devoted to dancing, singing and spectacles of any description.

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Tamara giving tango a try in San Telmo

Buenos Aires and Tango: thank you for a more extraordinary encounter with my inner passion for music and dance. I´ll be back, that is a promise! I know that I have just had a glimpse of a great city and part of its culture, and crave more!

There are more Tango places, of course, that our office in Argentina recommends, such as Tango Gardel, El Viejo Almacén, and Rojo Tango at the Faena Hotel – what a place!

It is impossible to separate Buenos Aires from the culture of Tango: you can feel it, hear it and sense Tango on every corner… next time I´ll take lessons and give it a try myself!

By Tamara W. de Karolys, Commercial Director, MT Ecuador. tkarolys AT metropolitan-touring.com

Discover Tango in Buenos Aires, and wines in Mendoza, with Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=2159

Wine-tasting in Buenos Aires


As the saying goes: “When in Rome…”

It would have been churlish of us not to have spent at least one night concentrating on one of Argentina’s finest, and probably most famous, exports – and tourist attractions – this was a ‘fam’ trip, afterall. Research, research…

So we descended the metallic spiral staircase of El Querandí restaurant (www.querandi.com.ar) in downtown Buenos Aires, to the wine cellar called La Cava, for an evening of deep appreciation of one of the finer things in life.

The evening was hosted by the affable, skinny and funny Sebastián, an Argentine sommelier in his late 20s who wore his knowledge lightly and had a Roman nose apt for his job.

With him, we tasted three wines in all, aided by a map of Argentina projected on the wall, which helpfully explained the three main wine-growing regions in the country: the North, the Centre and the South. Each region produces different types of wines – nearly all of them more alcoholic than other countries – with different-tasting varieties of the same grape in some cases.

To give you an idea of just how important wine is to Argentina these days, you need to know that it’s the world’s 5th-largest exporter and 7th-largest producer, generating an estimated $600 million for the economy every year, with over 1,300 wineries employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Now, to get an idea of how important wine is to the average Argentine, you need to know that they rank 8th in the world’s top drinkers (although Sebastián said 6th, I checked and it’s 8th – no surprise perhaps, in the porteño exaggeration), knocking back around 30 litres each a year. That’s quite a bit.

We were introduced to the Torrontés grape , which I hadn’t tasted before. The one we had was La Pumila, a green-tinged white wine that was refreshing when combined with a nibble of meat, but too acidic for my linking. Interestingly, when we were in the Salta region later on the trip, we were invited to try a different Torrontés and it was sweeter. I preferred the second one.

Then came a Pinot Noir called Malma, which had some body and some kick, and would gone down all-too-easily on a sunny day for lunch. It comes from the southern Patagonian wine-growing region, from the NQN bodega, which can be visited in the famous Neuquén wine region.

Passing along via another nibble provided by an excellent waiter, we moved on to my preferred territory of the dark, richer reds: Finca Intimayo from the Mendoza region, the central part of the country that produces really what many now regard as the world’s best Malbecs. This was the highlight of the night for me. Excellent bouquet – you can’t help get into the terminology…  — not too sharp, not too heavy, an astringency that played on the palate, leaving you with a delicious, lingering taste. Following a glass of that, we then passed on to the main course, a fine – and almost mandatory in Argentina – steak.

Gabriel Nicolai, Manager of Metropolitan Touring Argentina showing us how it's done

All in all, an excellent way to pass an evening among friends: a bit of learning, a bit of tasting, good food, cool decor, fine wine. Salud!

By Dominic Hamilton, Head of Communication, MT Ecuador. dhamilton AT metropolitan-touring.com


To experience ‘tango and wines’ with Metropolitan Touring, see: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=2159

For more images of wine-tasting at La Cava, see our Flickr gallery

Useful info:  www.winesofargentina.org

The Iguazu Falls are awe inspiring!


Iguazu

Iguazu

Visiting Iguazu from the Argentinian side is just perfect. The panoramic views from the upper circuit are amazing, you can get pretty close to the waterfalls and nature as well (from the Upper Iguazu River).

You will be thrilled with the wonderful opportunities this place offers to get a zillion photos of different views every step along the trails (keep these lovely images and sounds in your brain as well!!).

When taking the train trip along the Upper Iguazu River a huge adventure is about to begin. It is certainly quite difficult to understand how the calm Upper Iguazu River that goes with you along the trail suddenly changes its form and takes shape of an impressive and massive waterfall -the Devil’s Throat- which is a mixture of noises, views and energy. An indescribable experience not to be missed!!

The Devil's Throat

The Devil's Throat

by Sonia Lopez, Metropolitan Touring

Discover Iguazu with Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1300

More images of Iguazu in our Flickr gallery

Las Cataratas de Iguazú son impresionantes!


Iguazu

Iguazu

Visitar Iguazú desde el lado Argentino es una experiencia única. Las panorámicas  desde el circuito superior son formidables, permite un acercamiento importante a las cascadas y la naturaleza (del alto río Iguazú).

Estarás fascinado por las magníficas oportunidades que este lugar ofrece pues podrás realizar innumerables fotos una muy distinta de otra a cada paso por el sendero (guarda estas encantadoras imágenes y sonidos en tu memoria también!).

Al tomar el recorrido del tren en el alto río Iguazú comenzarás una gran aventura! Es muy difícil comprender cómo aquel tranquilo río que circula junto a ti a lo largo del sendero de repente cambia su fuerza y forma, tornándose en una impresionante cascada gigante -la Garganta del Diablo- que ofrece una mezcla de sonidos, vistas y energía. Una experiencia indescriptible que no puedes perder!!

Por Sonia Lopez, Metropolitan Touring

Iguazu - Garganta del Diablo

Iguazu - Garganta del Diablo

Conozca Iguazu con Metropolitan Touring: http://www.metropolitan-touring.com/content.asp?id_page=1300

Mas fotos de Iguazu en nuestra galeria Flickr