When MI OLA brand ambassador Jen P. (@flentil) isn’t running marathons, SUPing her local lake, running her son to and from his activities, or working, she is getting out there exploring our beautiful world. Last year, Jen ventured to the Galapagos Islands with her family. How awesome is that? We were fortunate to catch up with this super busy, active mom to get the insider info on traveling to the Galapagos. Check it out!
Let’s Go, Galapagos!
Last summer, I had the rare opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands. If you love nature, exploring and travel, start saving now, because this trip is for you! The Galapagos Islands are home to many unique species that can only be found on these islands – in many cases, a species is only found on a single island even with the Galapagos. The wildlife is truly amazing, and even more incredible is that they don’t fear humans, which means you can view the animals in a much more intimate way than is normally possible. And if you are a photographer, you’ll be in heaven – photo ops abound!
What to do:
Cruise or land-based? To see as much of the Galapagos as possible, it is highly recommended that you choose the live-aboard cruise option. Mind you, these are not huge Carribbean-Cruise ships with hotel-like amenities, amusements and hordes of people…the largest ship carries 90 passengers and most are smaller. However, due to how vast the area is between the islands, you will only be able to visit certain islands if you do a cruise, as they can take advantage of the overnight hours to travel to a new location for the next day. To do a land-based visit, there are 3 islands (San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz) that offer hotel and overnight accommodations. Visitors can then book day trips to nearby uninhabited islands, but the range of islands you will be able to visit will be limited by distance.
Experiencing wildlife – up close and personal!
One of the wonderful aspects of the Galapagos is the opportunity to experience the animals up close. Most wildlife has no fear, and often little interest, in humans. This means you can take as long as you want to admire and photograph the island residents. Bring your cameras! In order to preserve this unique level of comfort with humans, interaction is carefully managed to ensure it remains respectful and minimally intrusive. All visits to the islands are accompanied by naturalists, who also serve as park rangers, and the areas that visitors are allowed to explore are restricted to a relatively small portion of the overall park lands. The naturalists who accompany you are a wonderful wealth of information about the wildlife, geology and plant life on the islands, so having them with you is super helpful. Most of the guides have grown up in the Galapagos, giving them a unique insight and appreciation for this special place.
The underwater world of the Galapagos is not to be missed. If you are an experienced diver, the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) has granted tour permits to a select number of operators. Contrary to many people’s expectations, the water in the Galapagos is NOT tropical in temperature. When I went in late June, the water was consistently in the low-to-mid 60s, and a wetsuit was needed for any snorkeling excursion (even then, after an hour in the water I was blue and shivering – all worth it, though!). However, it is this cold-water upwelling that brings in the many nutrients that the marine wildlife rely upon, so it made for wonderful snorkeling. Turtles, sharks, penguins, sea lions, countless fish were all in abundance, along with the unique marine iguanas and numerous bird species.
Yes, there are waves in the Galapagos! Bring your own board if surfing is your plan, you won’t be able to rent one. Surfing was not part of my visit, as I was on a cruise with my family, but I do have a friend who is an accomplished surfer who visited this past December and described the waves as world class. More on surfing in the Galapagos can be found here: http://surfgalapagos.com/index.html
Not Your Average Tropical Getaway
The air is warm, the water is blue…but this is not your typical island vacation by any means. Come to the Galapagos to learn, explore and appreciate one of the few remaining areas that haven’t completely been overrun by humans!
How to get there:
The Galapagos Islands are quite isolated, so travel is lengthy. Generally, you’ll need to allow 2 days each way. One day to travel to Ecuador, and a second day to travel from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos. Flights depart daily from the cities of Guayaquil or Quito to one of the two airports in the Galapagos – located on Baltra and San Cristobal.
I can take little credit for the planning of my excursion: my parents had organized this trip over a year ago to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and they wanted to ensure that all of their kids and grandkids would be in attendance. For smaller groups, that amount of lead time isn’t needed, but you should still plan this trip about 6 months ahead because access to the islands is limited, so advance planning is highly recommended.
(Jen traveled to the Galapagos with Linblad Expeditions. A little pricier than other options, Linblad offers an all-inclusive experience, meaning that you don’t need to worry about many extra expenses once on your trip. Trips start around $6,500 for ten days.