Galapagos Islands | Camels & Chocolate

Dream Trip: Exploring the Galapagos Islands

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After a couple exciting afternoons of birding in Panama, Samantha and I rejoined the ship and were at sea just one day before arriving at the northern tip of South America. Destination: Manta, Ecuador. Surprising revelation: only my second time in South America. Ever. And you guys think I have been everywhere. Psshaw.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateNow, I have been to every country in Central America, many of them twice or more, but Brazil aside, South America is completely uncharted territory for me. Ecuador is a pretty large country, and transportation on land isn’t that efficient—buses take a loooong time and all flights route through Quito—so I initially had planned to stay close to the ship and log some much-needed beach time during our three days at port. That is, until my boss at Enrichment Voyages asked if I’d like to go along to the Galapagos Islands (for free) and serve as the trip leader. As if there were any answer other than the obvious: “YES!”

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateSo, I found myself not only in Ecuador for the first time, but also the Mother Goose of 69 travelers of all age and origin—a group which included our voyage’s two keynote speakers Valerie Biden Owens (Joe’s sister/campaign manager and executive vice president of Joe Slade White Communications) and Marjorie Margolies (former Congresswoman, women’s activist and long-time supporter of the program), among other notable VIPs—who were off on a chartered jet to explore Santa Cruz Island for three days. I’ve had worse assignments. (Also, can we just talk about how ISE does everything in true jetsetter style? A chartered plane?! We so fancy.)

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateLucky for me, my co-worker Cindy—who is not only one of the loveliest, sweetest people I have ever met in my life, but also was my sister’s dean when she sailed on Semester at Sea two years ago!—had signed up, as well, so I wasn’t flying completely solo. And several of my young ship friends—six recent SAS alums, actually—were on the trip, too, so it was as if I had hand-picked my travel dream team (minus Samantha and our field office friend Chris, who chose to stick around Manta instead).

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWhat I will tell you is that even though the Galapagos Islands are just 600 miles from Manta, it wasn’t the quickest of trips. We left the ship around 8am, took a bus to the local airport, an hour-and-a-half flight to the islands, a bus to a barge, a barge across a waterway and then another bus a little more than an hour to our hotel in Puerto Aroya, arriving around 3pm. Yes, it was a bit of a trek!

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateBut worth every minute of it, of course. After all, sometimes the most scenery is that enjoyed while in transit.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateOur hotel was the Grand Hotel Lobo de Mar, a modest mid-range option with views of the ocean. It was a very Mediterranean-style lodging option with an open, airy floor plan, and I shared a triple with Katie—who, again, coincidentally was my sister’s friend from Spring 2010; even in the Galapagos Islands, I can’t escape from beneath my little sister’s shadow!—and Sue, a college professor from Florida.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateWe only stuck around the hotel long enough to get checked in and drop off our bags before reloading the buses and heading out to the Charles Darwin Research Station. After all, the entire purpose of coming to the Galapagos Islands is to mingle with the wildlife, right? And mingle we did.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateSmall camouflaged lizards darted in front of us on the dusty road, as cacti flanked the path.

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolateOne thing I wasn’t expecting to find on the islands was a desert landscape. But in parts, I could have sworn I’d teleported to Arizona. Of course, there was one iconic creature we encountered who convinced me that we were, indeed, in the Galapagos Islands. Can you guess who it was? Stay tuned for the answer….

Galapagos Islands | Camels & ChocolatePSA: If you’re looking to replicate our trip, the December 2012 Enrichment Voyage will also return to Manta, and although the field trip schedule has yet to be published, I have a sneaking suspicion the Galapagos Islands will be an option once more.

 

COMMENTS
  • July 11, 2012

    Amaaaaaaaazing! Eeek I can’t wait to see pics of the turtles. What an incredible experience!!!

    • July 11, 2012

      Oh yes, I made friends with MANY a tortoise in the Galapagos–and quite a few sea turtles, too! The islands were definitely not lacking in those kind of creatures =)

      (Also, hi! You’re back!)

  • July 11, 2012

    I’ve been waiting for the Ecuador posts for a while!!! Can’t wait to hear more about Galapagos!!! Did u spend any time in Manta? I want to go to galapagos on my next trip to Ecuador! Going to south America is so easy! Short flights, no jetlag, fun places! I’m sure thy you will enjoy it 🙂

    • July 11, 2012

      All I saw of Manta was the port as I was getting onto the bus and back off when we returned! It was such a rush trip for such an amazing country.

  • July 11, 2012

    Visiting the Galapagos was one of the highlights of my life thus far. We did an 8-day trip on a 14-person, 1st-class catamaran, and it was amazing. We waited to book our trip until we got to Quito, so we got a ridiculous last-minute rate (<1/2 of what everyone else paid). If you ever go back (maybe with SVV?), I'd highly recommend this option.

    I hope you got to spend a lot of time in the water hanging out with the underwater wildlife (especially the seals and penguins). That was my favorite part, though the on-land wildlife was incredible as well. It's just such a cool place! Did you get to see Lonesome George before he died? Can't wait to read more and see your pictures!

    • July 11, 2012

      I would have loved to see the Galapagos by catamaran; that’s definitely how Scott and I will do it one day–by liveaboard dive boat preferably.

      And yes! I “met” LG during the last month of his life! R.I.P. George.

    • October 30, 2012

      @ Theresa: How much did it cost you to get to the Galapagos from Quito (in USD)? I’m planning a South America trip and am trying to estimate my costs as closely as possible! Thanks 🙂

      • October 31, 2012

        I want to say most people I know have paid between $300 and $500 (USD) for a round-trip flight from Quito to the Islands…

  • July 11, 2012

    You truly had some great experiences on that ship, didn’t you? What a great way to see the world!

    • July 11, 2012

      Yes! I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend the ship and the overall experience to anyone!

  • July 11, 2012

    this would be a dream trip of mine as well – looking forward to hearing more about the galapagos and really enjoying your recap of this entire voyage! i saw on your “next up” list that you’ll be traveling to scotland and ireland in the fall. we’re heading to scotland for a week in october before scooting over to mainland europe so take some good notes! we went to n.ireland several years ago – would highly recommend it too, especially the causeway coast if you’ve never been. we spent our entire trip there talking about how this is where we would retire someday. apparently it cast a spell over us.

    happy travels! looking forward to any and all turtles on what appears to be a grand animal adventure (the sloth post was really interesting, but has kept me wondering. cute or ugly? i just can’t decide.).

    happy travels!

    • July 11, 2012

      I actually lived in Scotland in 2003 and have probably been back five times since then and to Ireland three times, but it will be my mom and sister’s first visit to both. We’re celebrating little sister’s last month of freedom before starting work as a CPA at E&Y in October! Feel free to email me a bit closer to then, and I’ll be happy to share with you our itinerary. Right now we’re still trying to figure out how to break up our eight days in each country. Though the Visit Scotland website put out some pretty cool driving itineraries based on theme in conjunction with the release of Brave.

  • July 11, 2012

    The Galapagos are definitely on my travel list. Looking forward to seeing more.

    • July 12, 2012

      I can just see you rolling up to the islands in your fifth wheel. I wonder if there’s a barge big enough to carry it across the waterway?

      • July 12, 2012

        What a great idea. Will you look into that? 😉

  • July 11, 2012
    k

    The Galapagos Islands hold the top spot in my must-see travel destinations!! I just need more time (just one more reason to move to Norway permanently – 5+ weeks of vacation…)

    • July 11, 2012

      Uh YES. Being Scandinavian–and being *required* to take your six weeks or more of vacation a year–would be the best option possible. And hello! Just the fact that you’re, um, LIVING IN NORWAY wouldn’t suck either.

  • July 11, 2012

    This is someplace my husband REALLY wants to get to, so I am sure we’ll get there someday and your post will come in handy…as ALWAYS!

    • July 11, 2012

      You should! And you should do it by boat. Enrichment offered a six-day island-hopping excursion by boat, which is the preferable way to see the islands, I think. So much of that iconic Galapagos wildlife you see in images can only be viewed by boat.

  • July 11, 2012

    What am amazing adventure. The Galapagos have always intrigued me. I know there is a university there. How did it look as a place to live?

    • July 11, 2012

      Surprisingly, the town of Puerto Aroya could have been any small town anywhere in the world. We were on Santa Cruz Island the whole time, and it was pretty hopping. A lot of agriculture there–and, of course, tourism.

  • July 11, 2012
    Cindy Zomchek

    … and I was the lucky one to get to spend time with the most wonderful and fun Krisitn Luna! It was a fantastic trip – made even more amazing with friends like you – Kristin! 😉

    • July 12, 2012

      Agreed, Cindy! We should do it again sometime. Europe in May 2013? =)

  • July 12, 2012

    The Galapagos Islands have always been number 1 on my bucket list. I promised myself I will get there in the next three years… somehow!

    • July 12, 2012

      You can do it! I have faith in you!

  • July 12, 2012

    The Galapagos for free? I’m SO utterly jealous!

    • July 16, 2012

      Yes! Working for this company definitely has this perks? (Not to mention, I just love what they do and stand for!)

  • July 12, 2012

    Wow, what amazing photos! I wanted to see the Galapagos when I was in South America last summer but I just didn’t have enough time. Next time for sure!

    • July 16, 2012

      Yeah, you really need multiple weeks. Three days wasn’t even enough to scratch the surface!

  • July 12, 2012

    I love the motorcycle on top of the ferry 🙂 The Galapagos are more and more on my radar…you, Kyle and some Chilean friends have all been this year. Rodolfo even went to Manta in December! Signs from the universe that we need to make a trip happen?

    • July 16, 2012

      What did he think of Manta? Alas, all I saw of it was the airport, the dock and the drive in between!

      • July 17, 2012

        He was there for handball, so he didn’t see much of Manta itself. He and some friends stayed after the tournament and went to Montañita, though, which they really liked.

  • July 17, 2012

    Dude. All the jealousies. I feel like the Galapagos are the the pinnacle of nifty travel. There’s just something so magical about the Islands there. Can’t wait to hear more!

    • July 17, 2012

      That should be the Galapagos’ new slogan now that Lonesome George can no longer be their selling point (though they do still have the boobies, an icon they promote proudly)!

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