Monkeys are similarly abundant on either side of Ecuador’s central Andes mountain range. Following on from last week’s blog on inhabitants of the Amazon jungle, we’ll now look at four species of the Pacific coastal regions. The following text is adapted from the Ministry of Tourism’s official observation guide, Primates of Ecuador.
Brown-headed Spider monkeys [Ateles fusciceps] – Also known as bracilargo (long arms) or chuba (Afro-Ecuadorian), these measure from 31-63cm (without tail). It lives in primary or old secondary forests, where it prefers tall, thick trees with wide treetops and overlapping branches. These features provide it with good visibility of the forest and rapid traveling. You might also find it on the ground eating clays in salt licks, which are natural mineral deposits that exist in nutrient-poor ecosystems. It can travel up to 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) per day; its body is well designed for this. It has a complex social organization that consists in groups that stick together or separate depending on food availability. Larger groups travel in times of abundant fruit.
Frigatebirds are some of the most iconic inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands, especially when dramatically inflating their red gular sacs to attract mates. When not breeding or caring for young, however, they can be well out of sight — soaring up to 2.5 miles high in the air!
This would be impressive for any seabird, but the truly amazing fact is that frigatebirds have been tracked by GPS flying continuously (without any rest) for 56 days! Averaging 260 miles per day with 400 miles possible in perfect conditions, that would be a global round-trip in 95 days.
Most seabirds (albatrosses, petrels, sulids, etc.) glide for maximum efficiency. A frigatebird’s heartrate when soaring at altitude, flapping once every 6 minutes, is similar to when resting in a nest. Updraft currents allow them to ride upwards before swooping, in rollercoaster fashion.
July and August are the peak months for whale watching in Ecuador, as hundreds of humpbacks put on spectacular mating displays, physical and audible. They’ve come all the way from Antarctica for the warmer waters of the equatorial Pacific coastline, and boat operators haven’t seen a peak in human interest yet. Tourists are still on the rise, year on year.
Tours are normally an afternoon, or a whole day, usually with 6-12 passengers. Needless to say, longer tours increase whale viewings and the chance of a perfect encounter: a giant adult male exhibiting powerful displays at the ocean’s surface: arching, chest flapping, exposing flippers, tail-waving/slapping, head-slapping, and breaching (the most dramatic of all).
< Click the image to view the full infographic :)
So you’ve decided that a cruise boat, rather than a hotel stay or island-hopping, is the best way to see a great variety of Galapagos wildlife with the minimum of fuss. Itineraries range from 4 to 15 days, visiting 4-15 islands (more or less!) and almost everything is included.
Now, whatever your budget range, there will be at least half a dozen options. Prices roughly correspond with boat size, because spacious cabins allow for queen/king beds, large sundecks allow for a jacuzzi, and it is preferable to have separate dining, bar and lounge areas.
The vast majority of boats can accommodate 16 passengers, though on most cruises the actual number on board is less. The standard of service provided by the crew, and especially the guide which leads tours on land, is universally high — but can vary markedly.