Delegates, observers, and participants traveled from across the globe to attend the Conference of the Parties in the Galapagos Islands. Travelers arrived in Quito or Guayaquil on continental Ecuador before flying six hundred and five miles to the lonely and storied bio-diverse Galapagos’ islands in the Pacific. Guayaquil, the city most United States travelers used, is the most populous city of Ecuador and also the country’s largest port. Prior to departure from the mainland, visitors to the Galapagos National Park are required to register with the Governmental Counsel who monitors visitors entering and leaving from the park. The Inspection and Quarantine System of the Galapagos Islands (SICGAL) also inspect travelers luggage to insure no alien fruits, food, plants, or animals are introduced to the islands as pests or invasive species potentially harming the delicate and treasured ecology of the islands.
Participants then flew from the coast of Guayaquil, crossing the Pacific ocean in three hours, depending on seasonal winds and ocean currents, to the Island of Baltra. Below are pictured airplanes arriving on the sandy, cactus laden landscape of Baltra. (The cactus pictured is identified by the scientific name of Opuntia echios and the common name of Tuna Cactus.)
María Belén Egas and Eduardo Espinoza greeted participants at the Baltra Airport. Eduardo Espinoza is the Director of the Galapagos National Park and offered a gracious welcome from the nation of Ecuador, this year’s Conference host. (See these greeters below.) To carefully preserve the delicate island environment, the archipelago has no bridges and so delegates and other participants took a bus across Baltra to the Itabaca canal, which separates the volcanic Island of Baltra and the Island of Santa Cruz. (This canal, home to lion seals, pelicans, and seashore life is pictured below from an overlooking cliff.) Once disembarked on the Ilsa Santa Cruz, the travelers were bussed to Galapagos’ largest city, Puerto Ayora. With almost 12,000 inhabitants, Puerto Aora is a lively town of interesting local arts and crafts stores and numerous restaurants serving local fishes and fruits. This bustling city provided a surprising contrast to the four thousands inhabitants of sleepy Guayaquil.