Ecuador, gateway to the Galapagos Islands
Bridgit and Heather recently travelled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in South America. They discovered a small country rich in culture, epic wildlife and natural beauty.
We flew into Guayaquil, the most important seaport and largest commercial city in Ecuador.
Explored the city by day and stayed at a beautiful historic hacienda just outside the city, Hacienda Danesa.
Steeped in history, this beautiful property has been run by the Olsen family for over 50 years and is a working cacao plantation and dairy farm. Highlights were making our own chocolate from the plantation’s cacao beans and galloping horses across the beautiful countryside.
We enjoyed a lovely farm to table dinner and a great night’s sleep in the beautifully appointed rooms.
It was then time to catch a flight to the Galápagos Islands for an 8 day expedition cruise on the M/V Evolution, a 32 person luxury ship.
Arriving on the volcanic archipelago known as the Galápagos Islands, we set off to retrace Darwin’s footsteps. We visited seven of the beautiful Galapagos islands and were treated to a daily showcase of unique wildlife, long sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters and magical sunsets.
Each day we set off in small pangas with local naturalists on a different adventure. Each day we saw a variety of flora and fauna – and experienced a combination of hiking, snorkeling and kayaking.
Journey highlights include: swimming and kayaking with curious and playful sea lions, spotting a rare Galápagos penguin speeding by underwater, hammerhead sharks, mating rays, giant turtles, iguanas, and lava lizards. And birds, so many birds!
We also saw flamingos, blue, red and Nazca boobies, golden owls, Darwin finches and frigates whose incredible puffed up red pouch attracts a mate. It’s incredible to be so close to creatures so unique to this part of the world. They are so protected and have no real fear of or concern for the people observing them!
Cruising is one of the best way to see a large variety of islands. If boating isn’t an option, it is also possible to stay in Puerto Ayora on the large island of Santa Cruz and make day trips. We experienced this staying at Galapagos Safari Camp, high in the hills.
With giant tortoises walking by and a killer view, this was a beautiful and restful stay before continuing on to Quito and a few days in the majestic Andes.
Quito is a classic colonial city and is a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site. It is rich in history and easy to see the beautiful sites on a walking tour. Two hours north of Quito in to highlands we experienced the amazing Andes scenery, including the famous Otavalo market.
We stayed at beautiful and historic Hacienda Zuleta. This is a 4,000 acre working farm that belongs to the family of the former president of Ecuador, Galo Plaza and set amidst stunning scenery.
Part of the experience and a highlight was visiting the Condor Husain’s Project on the property. This project seeks to protect and reintroduce the endemic and endangered Andean Condor to its natural environment.
We were also fortunate to taste the freshest local cheese made in the cheese factory on site.
For more on this new epic journey with suggested Galapagos Islands itinerary visit our Ecuador & Galapagos Islands destination page here