The idea of spending significant time on a boat does not appeal to me. Once, when Rachel was two years old, Rafael and I took her on a Disney Cruise, figuring that we could survive a three night tour surrounded by Mickey Mouse and friends. Not so much. I spent the first evening ill in our cabin while my husband fended off a single mom looking for action at the dining table. Now, although I no longer get seasick, Rafael and Rachel do. So when I started planning our trip to Ecuador and Galápagos, I knew I had to get creative. A one-week tour on a ship just wasn’t going to work for us.
Santa Cruz Island is home to Puerto Ayora, the most populous town in Galápagos. It turned out to be a great home base for exploring all that Galápagos had to offer. We found a wonderful Bed and Breakfast named Jean’s Home. A quick water taxi from the town center, Jean’s Home had everything we needed, comfortable rooms and bathrooms, a relaxing living area, outdoor seating to enjoy the garden and a homemade breakfast to start the day. It also had Gundi, the owner and a local whose ancestor was one of the first explorers of the area. Nothing beats the inside knowledge of a local.
We were in walking distance to Las Grietas, a water-filled volcanic rock formation that was a blast to snorkel in. We walked to the Darwin National Park to learn about the history, flora and fauna of the islands. We did a longer hike to the peaceful Tortuga Bay, home to marine iguanas, turtles and fearless little birds, who hopped around our towels and picked up crumbs from our picnic. We sampled the local cuisine at a different restaurant every night of our week stay. One day, we took a cab to the center of the island where the giant tortoises live. Since they’re not exactly speed demons, we could get fairly close to them. Some weighed as much as 500 pounds! This was also the place to see the land iguanas that are endemic to Galápagos. You won’t see them living anywhere else.
We did get on a boat a couple times. There’s no way around it. To see more than one island, you have to go by sea. We did a whole day trip to Bartolomé Island, where we hiked around and got to see the famous Pinnacle Rock, and then on to Santiago Island for snorkeling. Getting in the water is amazing around these islands. Where else do you swim with sea turtles and penguins at the same time?
A day trip to North Seymour Island brought us up close and personal with Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies. Seeing these birds in their natural setting was a real treat. All of the animals on Galápagos are protected, which makes them fearless. They don’t seem to mind people getting close for the perfect photograph.
If you want an otherworldly experience, go scuba diving in Galápagos. Wow. We did a trip to dive near Floreana Island, and it was the best of our lives. We saw penguins, turtles and rays. There were hammerhead sharks, reef sharks and Galápagos sharks, playful sea lions and huge schools of barracudas. We even swam into the middle of a school of fish that was so numerous they created a solid-looking wall around us. The dive of a lifetime!
Galápagos is one of those bucket list items for people who love adventure travel. Combined with the rest of Ecuador, it has everything you could ever want in a vacation. Beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, delicious food, friendly people, a welcoming culture and adventure around every corner. Exploring Galápagos by land allowed us the freedom to move around and enjoy the sights without being seasick or stuck on a boat all day. I highly recommend it!
Can I do this adventure?
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.
Courage Level: 1 There is nothing scary about this trip. Anyone can do it!
Fitness Level: 2 As long as you can walk on uneven ground and swim, you can do everything we did. You need to be scuba certified to dive.
Do I need special gear? As with most adventure vacations, it’s best to pack light. It’s not a fashion show, so you are better off having sturdy clothes and shoes that can be worn in any setting. People do not get dressed up for dinner here. A shockproof/waterproof camera is great to have. Small binoculars are also helpful.
We stayed at Jean’s Home B&B and thought it was great. You need to take a water taxi to get there (bring lots of quarters!) but it is a great location. Gundi is a wonderful host. https://www.jeans-home.com/