We recently decided that we were not going to wait until the “right” age for our children to do the big bucket list trips we have been dreaming of. Our reasoning was that there is never a perfect time. So, we based our decision on the health of our family and with the imminent environmental changes, also the health of the host destination. So, with both of those boxes checked, off we went to the Galapagos this past Feb, 2018.
PS. If you like this post, make sure to check out my next post about how we combined this trip with an additional week volunteering with street children in Quito! But for now, let’s talk Galapagos!
I would love to say that we did tons of research to find the perfect tour operator. But in reality, a friend did. And when EcoVentura was recommended, it checked all of our boxes: Eco-friendly, one week trip over February vacation, small group of 20 people with 2 dedicated naturalists, family focus and guests. In terms of price, the Galapagos are not cheap. This is definitely a trip you need to budget for. But the level of service, amount of activity, knowledge of guides and attention to and conservation of the Galapagos islands was amazing. This trip will go down in the record books as a one of a lifetime. Ecoventura maintains several boats. We sailed upon the LETTY. This boat is expected to be retired in the next 1-2 years to make way for the newer, Origin, boats. The Origin boats are definitely more upscale, but with that, comes a larger price tag. The LETTY was perfect for our family.
Getting To and Around Quito
Getting there was fairly straight forward. Quito is on the same time zone/EST which made things easy. Ecuador also runs on the US Dollar and uses the same electricity plugs, removing the need for adapters. Given the crazy weather of the east coast, we chose to arrive Friday night, even though our tip did not begin until Sunday morning. This gave us a day to relax, see the sights of Quito and allow for any unexpected weather delays. We stayed at the Sheraton, in north Quito and checked out Ciao Bambinos List of Top Things to do in Quito With Kids and decided that the Old town and Midi Del Mundo (Equator) were top of our list. We used the Sheraton hotel driver to guide us. In the morning, we made our way to the Equator/Midi Del Mundo which is 45 minutes from town. There are two museums/attractions to see there and I recommend both. One is the monument and actual “line” that shows the equator (below) and the other is an older museum that also includes interesting history on the people of Ecuador (including real preserved shrunken heads from an ancient Amazon tribe). Later that afternoon, we wandered through “Old Town Quito”, and visited the infamous churches and plazas. Who knew that Quito had the third largest church in the world, The Basilical Voto Nacional. And the beautiful golden, ornate La Compania de Jesus Church is definitely worth seeing. We finished the day with a late lunch at the Hasta La Vuelta, Senor restaurant in the main plaza which was a perfect way to wind down from the day.
Galapagos Islands Wildlife
Sunday morning, we were up bright and early to get to the airport and catch our 9am flight from Quito to Guayaqil and then Guayaqil to San Cristobal, where we caught our boat. We were on board the Letty boat by noon and ready for our first snorkel after lunch! There are two main itineraries to see the Galapagos and we were on the Southern route. There was no lack of activity aboard our boat and every day began bright and early with a hike on one of the islands, followed by a snorkel, then lunch and an afternoon snorkel, hike, or paddleboard/kayak. There was always an hour or two here and there to relax, but overall, we were busy and it was great. We always divided in groups of 10, each with an incredibly knowledgeable naturalist. We visited islands that included so much land and marine wildlife that I could barely keep it straight. The Galapagos lay at the center of 4 large ocean currents that over millions of years, have deposited various species on its islands. It is this unique position along with climate and remote terrain that make for the abundance of unique sea and wildlife.
The highlights of the wildlife we saw included the Bluefooted boobies, frigate birds, sally light foot crabs, marine iguanas, pink flamingos, and the great tortoises while the marine life included sharks (white tipped reef, black tipped reef, Galapagos, and hammerhead), tons of fish, sting rays/manta rays, turtles, and even penguins!
Blue Footed Boobies
The blue footed boobies were such a treat to see. We too a great hike on Espanola island and walked by one every few steps. I especially loved to see them nesting over their eggs and doing the infamous “booby dance” where they rocked from foot to foot.
I wish could remember all the ways that the naturalists taught us how the Galapagos sea lions are different than Seals. But I don’t. What I do know, is how fun they were to see EVERYWHERE we went!
Mating Frigate Birds
To see a male/female frigate bird in the process of mating is quite the sight. Here, the male frigate bird is showing off his red neck to the female.
Swallow Tailed Gull
The white tipped beak on this gull allows for chicks to see the parent and “open up” at night during feeding.
Sally Light Foot Crabs
These little crabs were scampering everywhere in their bright orange shells!
These guys look so ferocious and were so plentiful on the islands, that I was constantly in fear of stepping on them!
Although we couldn’t get up close to the pink flamingos, we made it fun by applying a green filter to the picture.
T the Darwin center, we got to see the giant Galapagos tortoises and hear the stories of Diego and Lonesome George. Spoiler, Diego is named after the San Diego zoo where Diego was from and he is credited with repopulating the Galapagos with 200 of his offspring and saving the species from extinction. Lonesome George on the other hand, remained lonesome until his dying day.
Galapagos Islands Sealife
The kids much preferred the snorkeling and the quantify of sea life did not disappoint. My favorite was swimming up close with the sea li0ns while the kids loved swimming with the sharks. We saw everything such as sea lions EVERYWHERE, sharks, tons of fish, sting rays/manta rays, turtles, and even spotted and swam next to a few penguins! Wearing wetsuits kept us warm and out in the water for much longer.
Although they said they weren’t dangerous, I had a tough time remembering that when I swam with this guy.
We saw a variety of white tipped reef, black tipped reef, Galapagos, and hammerhead.
The Galapagos penguins is the only penguin that lives in the wild, north of the equator. Other penguins can be found in Antartica and coast of Africa. Carried by the cool Humbolt current millions of years ago from Antartica, the penguins have adapted to the Galapagos. They are found primarily on Fernandina island.
It was great to spend a few afternoons paddleboarding or kayaking in the shallow reefs…perfect for seeing sea turtles!
Bring a Go Pro or water proof camera with something that attaches to keep it afloat if you drop it. You AND the kids will want to be taking pictures all the time.
You don’t want to drop it!
It is great if you can find something that ties in with your trip. We were able to get this book right before we left and loved it. It is a historical fiction adventure for 8-12 year old boys and follows their adventure for the missing Incan treasure throughout Ecuador and Peru.
Adding on to Your Trip
Going to Ecuador, is a big trip. So big, that we wanted to take advantage of being there to do some additional things. So we made this a two week trip and took the kids out for an additional week. I thought a lot about visiting other parts of Ecuador such as the Amazon and the Andes. And although they looked amazing, we decided to do something really different, a volunteer vacation working with street children in South Quito. Stay tuned for my next post about the boys and I volunteering in Quito!|
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