As a travel agent I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most exciting places in the world, but this was my first trip to the unique and wonderful Galapagos Islands. I have watched programmes, seen pictures and heard colleagues tell stories of the Galapagos Islands so I was excited from the outset. Ecuador is a beautiful country, with world-class cities and kind people. I was expecting the Galapagos to be amazing (which they were), but what surprised me most was how much I loved the rest of the country.
I started my journey in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The city is surrounded by mountains and snow-capped volcanoes. It is also at a high altitude, of 2850 metres so take it easy when you get there and drink lots of water. A guided walking tour took me around Quito. The city itself sprawls, it really is large and with plenty to admire; ancient paved streets, colonial churches, buzzing plazas and regal government buildings. The tour ended with a walk up to El Panecillo, The Virgin of Quito Statue, which boasts impressive views across the whole city and a worthy photo-finish of the tour. Nearby Otavalo’s colourful markets and the Mindo Cloud Forest for butterflies, orchids and birds, provide a deeper insight into life in Ecuador.
After a short early morning flight I arrived in Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. I boarded the Odyssey, my vessel for the next 5 nights. The boat having just been refurbished was beautiful and only had 9 cabins so could easily travel around the small islands. The food was delicious, fresh and we were never short of it! Bonds and friendships were quickly formed among guests as we all dined and explored the islands together.
However the Galapagos Islands are not all about your boat and the food! The unique nature and wildlife and amazing activities to interact with it are the real highlights. Every day we explored a different island, each very diverse. We visited the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the conservation and nature of the islands. Kayaked along smooth shores as blue footed boobies flew above. Took a gentle hike across lava rocks to the Sierra Negra volcano. Visited beaches with nesting sea turtles, giant tortoises, crabs, penguins and much more. Snorkelled with playful sea lions, a magical experience as they try to play with you. Observed sharks (from the boat!), marine iguanas and colourful fish. The wildlife remains unworried by visitors and is one of the few places where little has changed since Darwin’s visit 200 years ago.
At night light pollution was so minimal that stargazing was phenomenal. Myself and other guests grabbed a blanket and headed to the top deck one evening, to enjoy a nightcap with views of the Milky Way and other pretty star constellations. A perfect place to reflect on the day’s activities.
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are incomparable with many other holidays. The intimate experiences with one of a kind nature, scenic landscapes and well-preserved history make for a magical trip for even the most discerning traveller.
My top highlights from my trip
1. The Lava walk across the Sierra Negra Volcano
2. A delicious dinner at La Venta de Sancho overlooking Quito
3. Meeting many playful sea lions
4. Chatting with guests admiring the bright stars above our boat
5. Seeing all the amazing wildlife so close!
Contact Lucy to hear more about her trip and for her to prepare an itinerary for your own special holiday to Ecuador.