Child’s play – why a Galapagos trip with the kids shouldn’t be missed

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

Children have an innate ability to be impressed by the world, with a natural curiosity and eagerness to explore that hasn’t been dimmed by the responsibilities and routines of adult life.

This desire to learn and discover can be encouraged and stimulated in so many ways, but one of the most effective is through exploring the natural world, learning about different parts of the planet and coming face to face with the wildlife we share it with.

After all, there are fewer more memorable experiences for an impressionable young mind than being up close with new and exciting creatures they have only seen before in books or on TV.

And what could be more memorable than a cruise and wildlife safari in one of the natural world’s most iconic locations?

An Ecoventura luxury expedition cruise in the Galapagos Islands combines nature, adventure, beaches, and watersports into one incredible holiday – the perfect place to take energetic youngsters who want to explore and learn about the wider world.

What ages work best for a Galapagos voyage?

Ecoventura accepts children as young as 5, with several designated family departures scheduled to coincide with the US school vacations. One of our two Relais & Chateaux luxury yachts, Origin or Theory, is set aside for families traveling with children during these weeks so that the children on board will have like-minded company (leaving the adults to enjoy the open bar!).

Origin & Theory are ideal for families since all 10 staterooms are located on the main deck (no going up and down a flight of stairs to check on the kids). Rooms feature two twin beds (that convert to a king-size bed) and two sets of cabins have a inter-connecting door and two have a pull-down berth to accommodate triples – perfect for families of 3, 4 or 5.

The 7 to 11-year-old age range is a great stage. Children typically are open-minded and receptive, but active and energetic enough to really make the most of everything an expedition cruise has to offer.

We have seen it hundreds of times on past voyages; children of this age take huge delight in seeing iguanas darting across the sand, giant tortoises lumbering through the grass, sea lions frolicking in the waves and blue-footed boobies clown-footing around the trails.

Our paddleboards and double kayaks are the perfect way to explore the bays and coves of the archipelago – searching for rays, turtles, and other sea-life in the waters below in the company of a parent, a sibling, or family member.

Families with teenagers are perfectly placed to make the most of the huge array of excursions and activities. Snorkeling trips, hikes, and in-land visits are all popular with this age group, and for those feeling particularly energetic, our guides can keep them busy with extra hiking and snorkeling in deep water to look for sharks. But for any teenagers prone to a mope, fear not! The sun deck jacuzzi and sun loungers are perfect for those looking for a chill-out day.

Our guides can offer engaging and informative talks designed for younger children and older teenagers; an excellent opportunity for learning and interactive games and stories that keep them curious and add an educational element to the trip.

And once back on board, the fun doesn’t stop there! Kids can visit the bridge to learn about navigational charts and tie nautical knots with our Captain. Our chefs can organize an ice cream social, pizza-making classes, and cake decoration activities – perfect for hungry little ones who have worked up an appetite!  On itinerary B, we celebrate the crossing of the equator with a King Neptune-themed costume party, and on itinerary A, there is a pirate theme party to keep children (and adults) entertained into the evening.

It’s all about the build up

Generating a bit of excitement pre-trip is a great way to make sure children are excited and engaged from the outset.

For older children, you can keep them involved in the planning process by letting them help to pick the itinerary – we have two, itinerary A or itinerary B to choose from. Perhaps enroll them in a Spanish class at school or online in the weeks up to departure, or invest in a guidebook, books, or movies so they can learn a bit more about the destination – see below for a few suggestions.

Once Covid is behind us, we will resume a cultural exchange with Ecology Project International offered on family departures. We arrange for teenagers to spend a few hours with the local teens from Mola Mola (an eco-club) and participate in scientific or conservation projects.

The best part – children up to age 17 are entitled to a 15% discount from the cruise rate. In addition, children 11 and under get a reduced rate on airfare and the park entrance fee.

And did we mention satellite Wi-Fi is included in the cruise rate? We supply all guests – young and old – with gear, including wet suits, masks and snorkel, fins, binoculars, and water bottles. There is also a library on board with board games, movies, and guidebooks.

For larger family gatherings, guests can charter the entire yacht for their own private use (with charter discounts currently on offer), so everyone can enjoy the wonderful experience of a Galapagos cruise – what a great way to celebrate a big family event!

Suggested reading and other travel tips

For younger visitors, see below for some suggested reading/viewing:

Books we recommend for ages 11 and under

Galapagos George, by Jean Craighead, tells the story of Lonesome George

Island, A Story of the Galapagos, Jason Chin, explains geology with evolution

Galapagos Means Tortoises, by Ruth Heller featuring illustrated creatures

Books we recommend for ages 12-17

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos, Andy Swash and Robert Stills, pocket-size guide

Lonesome George, the Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, Henry Nicholls

Reef Fish Identification Guide, Galapagos, Paul Human, a classic to identical marine life

My Father’s Islands, A Galapagos Quest, Johanna Angermeyer

Movies we recommend (for older children):

Galapagos Affair, Satin came to Eden (2013) murder mystery documentary

Creation (2010), starring Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Jennifer Connelly as Emma Darwin

Master & Commander, The Far Side of the World (2003) starring Russell Crowe

In addition, we have published a recommended reading/watching list for all visitors that may offer some inspiration.

Packing tips

Don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen, a rash guard (to wear underneath or in place of a wet suit), hats, sunglasses, a scarf, gaiter or bandana.

For a full list of packing suggestions see this guide, plus some tips on how to pack sustainably here.

By teaming up with the non-profit organisation Pack for a Purpose, we encourage guests to bring additional supplies to donate to local communities. Ecoventura delivers the contributions directly to the beneficiaries; the Alejandro Alvear School and Corazones Unidos School for kids with special needs. Support education by saving space in your suitcase for crucial school supplies specifically requested by Galapagueños.

For any other advice, or to book your own family voyage, get in touch with the team and we would be delighted to help!