With sea lions lounging in the sand, turtles nesting close to the water and marine iguanas sunning on rocks, saying the Galapagos is very different from other beach destinations is a major understatement. Usually, when you look into traveling to a beach destination, you think of simply lying on the shore while waves crash with a cocktail in hand. Visiting the Galapagos is very different. The cocktail in hand wasn’t different but the entire experience was so much more than just your typical beach vacation.
But I digress…this tour started in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Quito, Ecuador. Quito is isolated in the Andes at an elevation of 9350′. The city is spread along the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano. What first impressed me was how the city and its residential areas are all over the hillsides – everywhere you look. We arrived at night the city was lit up by houses from top to bottom with very steep streets. The lights seemed to glisten in every direction – it was the up and down that was so different.
First impressions can be positive or negative, as we all know. One of my first was the sincere warmth and welcoming of the Ecuadorian people. Of course we were American tourists, but this was the case throughout the entire trip from everyone we met – guides, storekeepers, artisans, waiters, hotel workers, individuals on the street and the staff on the boat. There is genuine politeness from the Ecuadorian people. I felt very comfortable in Ecuador.
The continuous rain in Quito wasn’t so nice but it’s called ‘travel’. We, nevertheless, went up the Quito Teléferico to see views of the Andes. Led by our guide, Paulo, we arrived at the top to see only clouds hovering over the mountain peaks. At 12, 943′, the air was thin but so fresh with all the rain. Some guests hiked up to the swing and just celebrated where they were. No view, just clouds but an invigorating experience, nontheless.
Dinner at Nuema Restaurant in Quito was something everyone raved about! It was 14-artisan courses prepared by an Ecuadorian chef, Alejandro Chamorro, who worked at Noma in Copenhagen & Astrid & Gaston in Lima. True perfection! Our group sat outside under a tent for dinner. The views of Quito at night were outstanding!
We flew to the Galapagos the next day. After a two-hour flight to Baltra Island, we transferred to Catamaran Alya. Our naturalist guide, Juanito, met us at the airport and a fantastic crew welcomed us on board. I was immediately struck by how impeccably this boat is run. Everything is in order, all procedures are in place and it operates without a hitch – emergency procedures, how to board the boat, how to get into the panga with a lending hand on moving seas, organization of wetsuits & and snorkeling equipment kept for each guest, maintaining a clean boat (they cleaned room 3x/day) – everything was performed with great attention to detail! We were in safe and capable hands as managed by the captain. He runs a tight ship and the crew pulls it off seamlessly with graciousness. For four days we had the privilege of being on this beautiful vessel and enjoying the experience of cruising the Eastern Galapagos Islands.
The pirates were the crew who surprised us by one evening by capturing each guest for a dance and to play ‘animals of the Galapagos’ charades. Silly and fun!
I can’t say enough about our certified naturalist guide, Juanito. He was born in the Galapagos and worked as a ranger for the Galapagos National Park. He is a great guy and unbelievably knowledgeable – a true local. What impressed me most was the respect he had for the animals.
The chef showed us how to make Ceviche using the freshest of fish and fresh lime juice. Don’t let it sit in the lime juice too long or it over-cooks the fish. This was delicioso!
Lastly, a tour is only successful when the guests’ expectations are met or surpassed. It’s safe to say they were happy and enjoyed themselves on this trip!