The Samoa Voyaging Socety (SVS) works to promote positive Samoan cultural values, respect for the ocean and nature, individual and social responsibility, discipline and integrity.

The SVS considers that the reintroduction of traditional sailing in Samoa will provide opportunities for youth development (sports, leadership), environmental awareness, cultural development and, potentially, tourism opportunities such as whale watching and adventure tours.

SVS is developing hands-on educational and training programmes in traditional sailing and navigation. The programmes will target young Samoan youth including school children, school leavers and other interested groups. The task of learning traditional sailing and navigation skills also develops leadership and discipline among the youth, leading to well-rounded young people capable of contributing positively to the growth of this nation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Galapagos Islands: A Pacific Voyager's perspective.

Where do I start. This is my immediate thought as we are sailing away from one of the most interesting set of Islands I have ever been to. Sailing back now into our home ocean, our part of the Pacific. Homeward bound. It’s a nice feeling, and one filled with reflections that only seem to come while back out on the water. I sit here in the stifling heat of our small galley getting some respite from the tropical midday sun, with little wind and shade around, and wonder where do I start in trying to explain some of the wonderful amazing things we saw, experienced and lived for the past 10 days in the Galapagos Islands. These are hard thoughts to articulate especially when the heat here seems to engulf you. Despite this I am sure of one thing - time flew by too quickly. There definitely wasn’t enough of it for us, with sail plan times restricting us to visit 2 of the 13 Galapagos Islands. The main Island of Santa Cruz and the largest seahorse shaped Island of Isabela.

Our first days in sighting the Galapagos captivated us. Literally. The first island we encountered did not seem to want to let us go. For over 2 days, winds and currents around the Island of Marchena toyed with us edging us close to its dark rocky lava field-filled shores. Over these 2 days the power supply from our solar panels were running dangerously low. At times we were going backwards in the 2 knot currents. Before times could get dire - and so that we were not late in getting to the main port of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island - we were forced to get a tow from our support vessel the Evohe. The Evohe came late one afternoon and towed us as well as the Maori Vaka, Te Matau A Maui, which was also in the same predicament as us, to Santa Cruz. Better to be towed than spend the next couple of days battling to get loose of the grip of Marchena island. After a 10 hour tow, and a hilarious ceremonial equator line stop for a quick baptism, we arrived with the others into Santa Cruz Island. The port town was about to be invaded by 96 pacific voyagers.

Santa Cruz Island was lush. It was volcanic, it was classic Galapagos. The harbour itself was framed by its highland volcano with a large collection of yachties scattered in the bay, serviced by an efficient system of cheap water taxis. This helped us immensely during our time here as there is no dock or marina. Re-provisioning of our fleet would be made a little easier in this manner.

The islands are the strangest set of islands I have been on. Not fully tropical, or temperate. Just a mix mash of both at times, which has plenty to do with the cold water currents that upwell around the island group. I’m not sure where else on earth you get a mixture of 500 year old cactuses, penguins and sea lions competing with fisherman for space and food at the fish market and on their boats, scaly black marine Iguanas swimming, sunbathing or just walking on the road, very large hissing wild tortoises that seem to have come from prehistoric times, extensive lava tubes and deep sink holes, pelicans, boobies (both blue footed and masked), and of course finches…lots of inquisitive finches. And that was just on Santa Cruz Island. Isla Isabella treated us to darting penguins, pink flamingos and one very large volcanic crater and lava field.
During my time I was also lucky enough to discover the underwater world that the Galapagos is famous for. I swam with sea lions, marine iguanas, rays, inquisitive hammer head sharks, Galapagos sharks, dolphins, a pod of pilot whales, turtles being cleaned in cleaning stations, large schools of bonito tuna and barracudas not to mention the hordes of tropical fish species you typically find in Pacific warm waters. The abundance of life was fantastic and not surprising when you think about the protection afforded the unique archipelago - the same protection that attracts many a wild life tourist.

Ecuador realizes the gem it has and as such the Galapagos Islands are under tight Ecuadorian tourist regulations. You cannot simply sail in and go anywhere you want to dive or snorkel. First you have to come in and register and then go through local tour operators to do most things in the Galapagos. At first glance this may seem very restrictive and over the top, but I like this system of control, as it regulates the total number of tourists visiting sites every day limiting their impact on sensitive areas as well as providing tourists with expert wildlife guides that inform and educate. This is sustainable tourism, and it has to be, especially where you have a pristine protected area that tourists flock to, and where their numbers are increasing by around 6% per year.

Unfortunately for us our time in Galapagos was short. 5 days in Santa Cruz and 3 days in Isabella. But this was enough to give us a taste of what Galapagos is all about. I will be back, and next time with more time.

Fa soifua
Schannel and the Gaualofa crew

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