From June 22, 2016 to July 12, 2016, we took our 15 and 13 year old sons, and my 11 year old daughter to South America for three weeks. We spent two of those weeks in Ecuador, and one of those weeks in Peru. Our two weeks in Ecuador were divided into three parts:
- A five day stay in Quito:
- Our five day cruise around the Galapagos Islands; and
- A four day trip to the deep Amazon in Yasuni National Park.
If you are interested in Peru, I wrote about our week in two earlier blogs, Machu Picchu For Kids: An Amazing Week in Peru and Peru And Machu Picchu With Kids: Would We Do It Again? In this blog, I am going to highlight our itinerary from our five days spent cruising around the Galapagos Islands. I have also written another blog about our time in the Galapagos Islands. If you want more information about the cruise, what we liked and didn’t like, and whether we would do it again, please refer to my other article called Cruising the Galapagos Islands: Would We Do It Again?
Choosing Our Cruise
The Galapagos Islands are a province of Ecuador and is approximately 1000 km from its coast. There are 13 major islands and 6 smaller islands that comprise the Galapagos Islands. Over five days, we visited four of the major islands.
We booked our cruise with an agent through www.galapagosislands.com. Normally, I try to book directly with the service provider, whether it is plane fare, hotels or tours, but this did not seem possible for a Galapagos Island cruise.
We spent our five days on a boat called the Seaman Journey Catamaran. This was considered a “First Class” boat or a 4* (with 5* as the best). It could host up to 16 guests. It was advertised on www.galapagosislands.com to “provide maximum comfort, personal attention, the best naturalist guides on the Islands, and wonderful itineraries”. This boat also offered itineraries of different lengths. We opted for the 4 night/five day itinerary which picked us up on San Cristobal Island. Other passengers were already on the boat and had opted for the 7 night/8 day cruise, although there were even longer itineraries available. Accordingly, these passengers went to a few more islands than us before we joined them.
There were three other categories of boats above our First Class boat. Those were “Cruise Ships”, “Luxury Catamarans” and “High-end Boats”. Many of the boats in the higher classes were large cruise ships that held up to 100 people. These boats had many more amenities than our smaller catamaran. However, we wanted a smaller boat with better and more flexible access to coves and beaches. This was a personal preference. There were some smaller boats in the higher classes with more luxurious amenities than our boat. For the most part, they were much more expensive per person and not considered. Of course, there were less expensive, more basic boats in two lower categories, but we were not interested in those either.
Day 1 – San Cristobal: Interpretation Centre
We flew from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to San Cristobal Island. This was not a direct flight but flew through Guayaquil, on the coast of Ecuador. We were picked up by some members of the crew and transferred to the boat by dingy.
We met the other passengers and had lunch. After lunch, we went back to the shore and went to the Interpretation Centre. We were led through expositions on natural history, human history, and conservation by our naturalist guide. Afterwards, we had free time. We were able to walk to a nearby beach where we had our first interaction with sea lions, and then to the small town for drinks. It was a cute town with beautiful views of the water. However, it was one of the inhabited islands and did not reflect the natural wonders that we would be exposed to in the days ahead.
Day 2 – San Cristobal: Galapaguera and Witch Hill
Morning – Galapaguera
This morning, we got up very early and did a wet landing onto the beach at Galapaguera, a remote part of San Cristobal Island. With our naturalist guide, we did a four hour return hike in search of tortoises in their natural habitat. We did not see another person on the beach or on our hike, other than the passengers from our boat. It was a difficult walk because the path was uneven with stones of different sizes scattered throughout and it was very hot. There was little to no shade. However, it was worth it when we began to find enormous tortoises tucked away in all sorts of places along the path and saw dozens more on higher ground.
Afternoon – Witch Hill
This afternoon, we went to Witch Hill, another deserted spot on San Cristobal Island, and spent a couple of hours:
- snorkelling off the beach;
- playing in the sand;
- watching, in awe, the sea lions playing with each other;
- avoiding the sea lions who seemed hell bent on making us scramble out of their way;
- watching birds fearlessly dive head first into the water for fish;
- searching for marine iguanas both in and out of the water; and
- counting the crabs who seemed to swarm the rocks around the water.
It was a fantastic afternoon.
Day 3 – Espanola: Gardner Bay and Suarez Point
Morning – Gardner Bay
This morning, we did a wet landing onto the beach at Gardner Bay. There were three other small boats anchored off the shore, so for the first time, we shared our beach time with around 30 other people. The naturalist guide left us to wonder around the beach and spend time with the sea lions. It was similar to our afternoon on Witch Hill, but not as warm and with more people around.
Later that morning, we took the dinghy from the boat and went snorkelling in a couple of smaller coves unaccessible by land. We wore a wet suit but the water was still too chilly for me and I was only able to stay around 30 minutes in the water. It was good snorkelling with some interesting sightings. A couple of the passengers stayed longer in the water. They ultimately were able to swim and play with a small sea lion.
Afternoon – Suarez Point
This was by far my favourite place in the Galapagos islands. We arrived mid afternoon and spent a couple of hours exploring it with the naturalist guide. There were a couple of other small groups on the island at the same time, but there was so much to explore and we were never crowded together in one spot.
We spent time with many animals and birds, including blue-footed boobies and albatrosses. We easily hiked to the top of cliffs with unbelievable views of the water. There, we watched water explode out of a blowhole, which was hard to take your eyes off, especially as the sun was setting at the same time.
Day 4 – Floreana: Cormorant Point and Post Office Bay
Morning – Cormorant Point/Champion
This morning we did a wet landing on the beach. With our guide, we did a short hike inland to a lagoon with a large flamingo population. We spent a lot of time watching these magnificent birds. Afterwards, we did a 20 minute hike to another beach where dozens and dozens of rays were swimming in the waves near the shore, and frigate birds dove endlessly into the ocean around us.
Afternoon – Post Office Bay
We did a wet landing at Post Office Bay and did a short walk inland with our guide. In the 18th century, whalers passing through the islands placed a wooden barrel there as a mail box. The tradition continues today as visitors leave addressed postcards in the barrel and sort through other postcards that have been left behind for delivery once you are home.
Later that afternoon, another snorkelling trip was offered, after a quick dingy ride from the boat, to an isolated rocky outcrop. My husband and youngest daughter swam with a sea lion. They loved it.
Day 5 – Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station and Transfer to Airport
We packed our suitcases and all passengers left the boat very early in the morning. After a one hour bus ride, we visited the Charles Darwin Station where large land tortoises are kept. You can walk near them, but you need to keep a respectable distance and not touch them.
Afterwards, we were taken to the airport for our return flight back to the mainland.
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