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Wanderlust Wednesdays: Galapagos Islands


I’m sure all that know me will not be surprised that I’ve picked yet another beach destination for Wanderlust Wednesdays!  I just can’t help it!  Look how gorgeous this is!!  The Galapagos Islands have been on my bucket list since before the term “bucket list” was invented.  🙂

The Galapagos Islands tourism destinations

The Galapagos Archipelago is currently made up of 18 main islands, 3 small islands and 107 rocks and islets

Originally named “Insulae de los Galopegos” or Islands of the Tortoises, the Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic  islands that straddle the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador.  I first heard of this interesting destination in elementary school when we learned about Charles Darwin and the research he did on the islands that led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Over 97% of the archipelago’s land mass has been deemed a national park and 27,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands is a marine reserve and whale sanctuary.  While I knew that the number and variety of wildlife both on land and in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands was enormous, I had a hard time actually coming up with a number for this article.  Geographic isolation, lack of human contact (relatively speaking!), ongoing seismic activity and location at the confluence of three major ocean currents all contribute to the development of unusual plant and animal life, making this archipelago a particularly unique and valuable spot for scientists.  Nearly 1 in 4 species live only in the Galapagos chain and have not changed much since prehistoric times.

 

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The Galapagos sea lions breed exclusively on the islands and are slightly smaller than California sea lions

Flamingos.

Galapagos flamingos can be elusive but you might catch sight of them around saline lakes

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The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the islands and is the only penguin that lives wild north of the equator

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The Galapagos Giant Tortoise can reach weights of almost 900 pounds and live in the wild for over 100 years!

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The blue-footed boobies get their cool coloring from pigments in the fresh fish they eat. The health of the bird can be initially determined by how dark their feet are.

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Galapagos Marine Iguanas are the only iguanas to swim in the ocean. The male iguanas found on Espanola Island are brightly colored with a red tint and change to a green color during mating season.

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The frigate bird, related to the pelican, inflates his red gular pouch during mating season to attract a mate.

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Female frigate bird – think she’s impressed?

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Galapagos Albatross or waved albatross breed primarily on Espanola Island

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Everyone enjoys a little time sunning themselves!

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The beaches are kind of crowded around here…

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But what a great experience for unique family bonding!

Thinking of traveling here?  

Normally I’m a DIY’er when it comes to travel.  I like to plan all the stops, pick the accommodations, and research all the activities on our trips; we rarely go on guided tours as we like to do things our way.  However, please note that the majority of the Galapagos Islands are a national park and they have rules you must follow.  Unlike the national parks in the US, you can NOT go in alone.  There are only certain sites you are permitted to visit with marked trails to stay on and you must be accompanied by a certified naturalist guide.  It may seem a little strict to us, but they are doing what they feel they must to conserve this precious piece of Earth!

 

Other great info if you’re interested in reading more about this fascinating place:

Charles Darwin Foundation

Galapagos Conservancy

Ecuador Explorer – Galapagos Islands

United Nations World Heritage Centre – Galapagos Islands

10 bizarre facts about the Galapagos Islands

 

 “…by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings…I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted.”  Charles Darwin – Voyage of the Beagle

I would love to tour these islands with National Geographic Expeditions or Lindblad Expeditions.  WOW what an experience that would be!  Time to get back to reality though.  Until next time, bon voyage, friends!

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Travel Fact Friday: Where can you drive through 8 ecosystems in 1 day?


Answer: Hawaii Island (aka the “Big Island”) is home to one of the most diverse environments in the entire world – 8 of the world’s 13 ecosystems!  

On the famous Road to Hana you can experience 8 different ecosystems such as deserts, dry forests, tropical rain forests, and tundra as well as salt and fresh water marine environments, mountains, and lava fields.  Micro-climates are created across the island caused by a unique combination of its location in the Pacific Ocean, the trade winds, and the altitude difference on the island.  How cool is THAT?! 

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Credit for this info goes to our kids.  They mentioned it at the dinner table one night and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since!  This is definitely on the Bucket List!

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Wanderlust Wednesdays: Bora Bora


According to Wikipedia, Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.  A couple of Wednesdays a month I’ll feature a spot I’d really love to visit.  If you’ve ever had the chance to visit these places, I’d love to hear from you.  Since this is my first installment of Wanderlust Wednesdays, I figure I’ll start off big!  Bora Bora has always seemed to be the most exotic destination in the world.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want to stay here???


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This isn’t a place I’d likely go to with my kids.  Not that they wouldn’t appreciate it but, to me, it’s a primo couple’s vacation – tranquil, romantic, and exotic.  This is also not a place we will probably visit until the kids are long grown and out of the house because, frankly, once I get there I don’t know if I’ll be able to leave!

Road Trip (Part 2 – Magnetic Moments)


I hope you all enjoyed the first half of my road trip ramblings.  I have a few more boredom busters to share that will make your ride the highlight of your trip rather than an endless dentist visit!  As I said in the first part of this series, I really like to find ideas to entertain our kids that don’t involve electronics.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with electronics!  You can get educational apps, fun games, and even audio books to entertain for hours – and keep the car blessedly QUIET – but I don’t want our kids to tune completely out.  I want them to pay attention to the drive, engage in conversation (maybe a few rounds of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain!”), break out a coloring book or go old school and play some travel board games.  So before every road trip I always hit up our local dollar stores to find some fun things to surprise them with.  A few items that always seem to be a hit with our kids at every age include:

  1. New markers – sure we have plenty around the house but a new box always makes them happy.  Make sure they’re WASHABLE markers and please for the love of your car and your sanity, don’t bring crayons!!  They’re wax.  Wax melts in heat.  Summer is hot.  Someone is bound to drop one under a seat.  Do the math.  Learn from my mistakes.

  2. Coloring and puzzle books at the level appropriate for your kids.  Dollar stores of all varieties have plenty of options.  Even teenagers like to color.  Sticker books are always a huge hit with young children!  Empty sketch books are also a great option if you’ve got an artist.  Writers will love a new journal to document the trip or just write about how awful their parents are for dragging them away from their friends!

  3. Extra ear buds – again lots of varieties at the dollar stores and you won’t be mad when they get lost because you only spent $1 on them.  Guess how I know this one?

  4. Inflatable balls, jump rope, or other small physical activities they can do when at rest stops.  Even people with short legs can get tired of sitting in a car.  So make sure your stops include not only bathroom breaks and food but a few minutes of activity.  Get the ants out of the pants and maybe even wear them out enough for a nap!

  5. Window markers – I think these are so cool and FUN!  We always loved making signs for our windows on road trips “Beach or Bust!”  These won’t block the driver’s view like signs do and they wash off easily with soap and water.

  6. If you’re heading out on a long road trip with young children, it’s often difficult to get them to understand how long the drive will be.  You can use something like The Dating Divas Road Trip Countdown and give kids a small treat at each milestone.  Use brown lunch bags and throw in a dollar store toy, a piece of candy or favorite treat (not too much sugar!), and maybe a clue about the next stop or something along the way.  Mix up the bags with something pretty special every other bag like a new book or souvenir money.  The kids will see the brown bags waiting for them and be intrigued by the mystery of what’s inside.  If there’s too much “are we there yet?” you can tell them they won’t get their treat at the next milestone unless they stop asking.  Here’s another great idea for keeping the fighting and “are we there yet?” at bay – thanks to This Lady’s House our next road trip is sure to be peaceful one!

  7. For older kids, I strongly suggest giving them the map.  Everyone should know how to read a map!  GPS devices and apps are fantastic for step-by-step directions and especially useful if you’re lost and looking for your way back on track.  But we all know that technology fails and usually at the least opportune time.  So do your kids a favor and teach them to read a map (BTW, no one can fold a map properly so don’t worry about failing them on that lesson!).  Mark off the route you plan to follow and they can keep track of your progress as you go.  If you’re a AAA member, have them prepare a TripTik for you.  I fondly remember being my mom’s navigator on many a trip with my TripTik in hand.  Maybe that’s why I got a degree in Geography and Cartography!  On the same note, ask your teenager for help planning stops (you may be surprised at what they choose!) and assign them the task of putting together a playlist of songs the whole family will like.

On our last long road trip, I found a GREAT idea for DIY travel games on Thrive.  Using a metal cookie baking sheet you have a great platform for hours of game play.  I think I enjoyed making these as much as the kids enjoyed playing with them.  In fact, they spent the large majority of our 14 hour ride just playing these games!  SCORE!  You can get all the details and step-by-step directions in the link above but here are a few pics of our version – you can tell how much they were loved by how beat up they are!  

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I happened to have a chess set with small pieces that we were tossing out was in the yard sale pile so I simply put magnets on the bottom of the pieces and they worked great on the metal baking pan.  This was definitely the fan favorite of the bunch.  I also “laminated” (I used clear contact paper) a Yahtzee score sheet and a couple of other games.  They used dry erase markers and wiped off the boards when they were done with one game and started another.

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 For more amazing road trip ideas, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to helping you make great family memories and not nightmares!  Until next time, friends, bon voyage!

“Life is a journey, not a destination”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday Facts – What Country Covers the Most Time Zones?


If you count everything, including all of it’s overseas territories, France covers the most time zones – 12.  Next up is the United States with 11 and Russia with 9.

France is also the most visited country in the world.  In 2013, 84.7 million international travelers arrived in France.  The United States hosted a mere 69.8 million.

Road Trip! (part 1 – the book of FUN!)


Nothing says summer time like a good road trip!  As a kid, I just LOVED the excitement leading up to a road trip.  We’d leave very early in the morning and my mom would drive until lunch.  Then she’d break out the cooler she’d packed with lunch supplies – we’d never waste money on fast food or snacks – and we’d have a picnic at a roadside rest stop.  At the time, I only cared about going on vacation.  Now, I realize how much effort it is to pack up the whole family, plan for meals during the entire trip, and drive the whole stinkin’ way all by yourself!  WHEW!  But she did it for us and I’ve done it for my kids (though I admit we often go the fast food route!).  

I have to say our kids are pretty AWESOME on long road trips!  Thank goodness for small miracles, right?  There are lots of short road trips for us during hockey season (less than 3 hours one way) and we usually take a long road trip once every summer or so.  Our last long drive was in August of 2013.  For the second time, we drove from Buffalo, NY to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  My hubby couldn’t get the time off work so I was driving solo but we did bring Grandma along for the trip – it’s best not to have the kids outnumber the adults, if ya know what I mean!  😉  Driving there never seems to be a problem for me.  I’m pretty motivated to get to the beach; you may have noticed that already about me!  But let’s face it, it’s a 14 hour drive (without traffic) and doing that with one driver is rough.  The last time we drove this we hit MAJOR, HORRIBLE, MIND MELTING traffic and I think it took 20 hours to get there…or maybe it was 37 – I lost count!  Still, the beach was waiting at the end of the torture so I powered through.  Coming home wasn’t as easy.  I wanted desperately to get it done in one day but I had to accept my limitations, suck it up, and pay for a hotel.  The kids just loved that though…hotels are such an adventure – until the wifi doesn’t work!  Got any road trip horror stories of your own?  Share them in the comments section below.

For this last trip, I did a lot of research online to find fun things to keep the kids busy that did NOT involve an electronic device.  There are some FANTASTIC resources out there in blog land, people!  I don’t want to pass off any of these ideas as my own so I’m really glad I bookmarked these great sites.  I compiled pages from each of these sites into books for each of my kids.  I used 3 ring binders with a “custom” cover for our books – get it here and edit for your family trip!  Some pages were the same in both books but others were specific to their personal interests.  My daughter likes Mad Libs so her book contained a few of those.  My son likes Greek Mythology so he had a few word searches and crossword puzzles geared towards that.  Everyone got in the fun of looking for license plates (I do that whenever I’m driving!), playing road sign bingo, and competing in the scavenger hunt.  I also added some blank pages for hangman and tic-tac-toe. These old school games are still loads of fun despite our high tech world. The custom books were a hit with my 11 and 14 year old kiddos and really helped to kill the time.  They especially came in handy when we were unexpectedly parked on the interstate!

Here are just some of the amazing resources I used:

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Road Trip Bingo from Oopsie Daisy Blog

We used the road sign printable because my kids are older but I love that she’s got a few for younger kids too.

“Road Trip” Date Printables from The Dating Divas

For this trip we only used the license plate game printable but if my kids were younger, I would have used the countdown technique too.  What a great idea!  When you’re driving for so long, the last thing you want to hear is “are we there yet?” so their technique could be a life saver!  On a subsequent road trip this fall with just me and the hubby, I pulled out The Dating Divas “Road Trip” Questionnaire.  We had alot of fun with it and it sparked some great conversations.  Thanks ladies!

“Fun in the Sun” Car Games from Kiki & Company

Another great set of FREE printable car games for the kiddos.  Seriously you bloggers are so creative and generous!

Road Trip Scavenger Hunt (get mine here for FREE!)

I ended up making my own version of this that I thought would cover the areas that we were traveling but the idea came from these two lovely sites: 

Mom’s Minivan Scavenger Hunt (check out this WHOLE site for many more road trip ideas!)

Roadtrip Scavenger Hunt

Word searches, puzzles, etc

Classroomjr.com is an AMAZING site full of FREE activities for every season and topic you can imagine.  I used their summer, beach themed puzzles for our books (did you expect anything else?!)

Most importantly – MAKE IT YOUR OWN!  Hunt down topics you know your kids will be interested in.  Research places you’ll be passing by and look for educational websites that offer printable games, coloring pages, or info sheets.  Most state and national parks, monuments, and memorials have websites and educational documents available.  (I’ll be writing about the National Park Service Jr Ranger program in a future post)  My goal on a trip is always to have fun but also to educate.  Sshhh….don’t tell my kids!

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Saint Augustine