US Travel Writer, Kimberly Bloom, travelled to the Galapagos Islands with her family. Here, she writes about her trip giving the top handful of reasons why it should be your next family destination.
“When you decide to plan a trip to the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the number of choices can seem daunting. There are more than 70 ships that take over 200,000 passengers through this incredible archipelago each year. However, the choice of company/ship becomes much easier when you look more closely at the options available.
After time spent researching the many alternatives, we (my 13-year-old son Ethan, my 6-year-old daughter Makenzie, and I) chose to travel with Ecoventura on their luxury expedition yacht, the Origin, for an 8-day/7-night cruise to the Southern & Central Islands (Itinerary A). It was absolutely the right choice —- truly phenomenal.
As both owner and operator of their fleet (which apparently is a dwindling situation in the Galápagos), Ecoventura can offer an unsurpassed level of service and experience. We would not change a thing about our adventure, except perhaps to stay an additional week to also experience itinerary B!!
Here are the top 10 reasons to travel the extraordinary Galápagos Islands with Ecoventura on their Origin or Theory yachts:
A visit to the Galápagos Islands is a trip of a lifetime and the most enjoyable way to see what these incredible islands have to offer is on a small vessel. Ecoventura’s luxury yachts, the Origin and the Theory, take a maximum of 20 guests on each trip that they offer. Would you rather be traveling with 100 people or just 20? Travelling with such a small group creates a special, unique, and peaceful experience. No long lines when embarking/disembarking a zodiac. No difficulty hearing the guides explain the landscape and wildlife on hikes. No throngs of people waiting for meals. No fighting for a relaxing spot on the sun deck. With no more than 20 guests, your trip feels very exclusive.
2. GUIDE TO GUEST RATIO
A huge bonus of travelling with Ecoventura is that there are two expert naturalist guides for twenty passengers – one guide for each group of ten people. Small groups provide the opportunity for detailed, interactive discussions and “up close” encounters which is the best way to take in all of the amazing landscapes and wildlife in the Galápagos Islands. Importantly, you are not “assigned” to a guide for the entire trip but do hikes and activities with both guides.
Ecoventura employs absolutely top-notch guides. Their guides are passionate, enthusiastic and well-educated on all aspects of the Galápagos Islands. The detail with which our guides, Ilo and Victor, explained the history, landscape, and wildlife during each of our activities was impressive. Thorough, informative, expert overviews presented with a sense of humor!
In addition, our guides were wonderful at engaging the children. They asked them specific questions about what they were viewing, explained wildlife behavior patterns, demonstrated wildlife sounds, taught them to identify the male and females of each species, and highlighted that many of the wildlife is not found anywhere else on earth. My children left the Galápagos with a thorough understanding of the importance and fragility of these islands, the need to preserve and boost declining species, and the realization that we can each help to make a difference in these efforts.
We chose the Central & Eastern itinerary (Itinerary A) and it was wonderful. Due to Ecoventura’s careful itinerary construction, the majority of the time it felt like we were the only people on a particular island and we saw EVERYTHING we wanted to see. I can confidently tell you that both of Ecoventura’s itineraries are awe inspiring.
Ahhhh. The yacht. The Origin is gorgeous. Who knew life on the water could be so comfortable? The yacht is well-designed, tastefully decorated, and quite spacious with spectacular ocean views throughout. The Origin features:
Beautiful wood interior, Air-conditioned cabins with comfy beds, plush towels, bathrobes/slippers, large windows with beautiful views of the ocean, and the ultimate in luxury – a rainfall shower with a view! Yes, really!! A lovely dining room with huge windows, A comfortable lounge area for briefings, cocktails, and just relaxing, 4 outside areas to enjoy the sun and the breeze: Level 1 – 6-person hot tub and comfy seating, Level 2 – a seating area in front of the bridge and tables/chairs/benches at the stern where we enjoyed delicious snacks and fresh juices every afternoon upon returning from activities, and Level 3 (my favorite) – the sun deck with tables for lunch, a bar area, an outdoor shower, hammocks and lovely chaise lounge chairs for relaxing while gazing out over the beautiful ocean or watching the sunset. Even a small but highly functional gym so you can keep up with your regular fitness routine.
The design of the Origin allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the Galápagos whether in our cabin or in the public areas of the yacht. Doesn’t a cabin with beautiful ocean views sound much more appealing than a dark, dank cabin with small potholes or no windows at all as is often found on larger ships? The yacht’s layout is well-balanced to provide plenty of space for relaxing quietly or spending social time with family and new-found friends while taking in the spectacular views.
What makes the difference between a “good” and a “great” Galápagos trip? I believe it is two things: your guides and your yacht’s crew. An experienced and friendly crew is one of the most important aspects of a great Galápagos adventure. Ecoventura has one of the most experienced crews in the Galápagos. They carefully choose each and every member of their crew and many have been working with the company since its inception. The crew is knowledgeable, professional, dedicated and friendly. I was impressed with their consistent attention to detail and effort to create a very personalized experience.
Just a few examples: Captain Gerardo provided a tour of the bridge to my children and allowed them to watch him command the ship as we left the dock for the first time. Jairo remembered my preference for coffee or tea in the morning and that I loved a Pisco Sour in the evening. Concierge Daniela ensured all of our needs were met and even took the time to play Uno with the children. Victor took group photos on every excursion. Ilo made a video of our snorkeling adventures. Most impressively, when Makenzie wasn’t feeling well and wanted a banana, they sent a Zodiac to another ship to get one! From our very first “on board” briefing, the crew talked about being our family for the week and they truly were.
7. RELAIS AND CHATEAUX
Have you ever stayed in a Relais & Chateaux hotel? It is the ultimate in luxury, service, and exquisite cuisine. As such, I was quite impressed to learn that Ecoventura’s yachts, The Origin and Theory, are the first boats to receive this prestigious designation. Relais & Chateaux, a 65-year-old association of more than 560 landmark hotels and 100 restaurants (and now yachts) in 60 countries on five continents, applies it’s difficult-to-obtain stamp of approval on only those properties that are truly unique, have luxurious facilities, and meet strict admission standards for features and service. What does the Relais & Chateaux designation for the Origin and Theory mean to you? It means that you can count on a truly exclusive experience, the highest standards and the best service, facilities, and cuisine for your Galápagos adventure.
The Origin offers delicious, fresh, locally inspired gourmet cuisine, appetizing hors d’oeuvres and freshly squeezed juices after excursions, afternoon tea with delectable pastries, chocolates every night in your cabin, a 24-hour snack, coffee and tea bar, and a generous open bar policy (to name just a few of the delights!). What better way to experience the pristine Galápagos? Each day you explore all that this wildlife paradise has to offer via hikes, zodiac or glass bottom boat tours, kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkeling and come back to the comfort of a prestigious 5-star hotel with stunning views.
Each night, one (or both) of our guides would hold a “briefing” in the lounge area. This became a favorite time for the guests. We would discuss the highlights of our day, share our favorite “moments”, review photos/videos the guides had taken of our adventures, and talk about the schedule for the next day. Our guides would tell us about where we would be landing, the length of the activity, what to expect, what to wear, and what to bring along. Each day was busy with typically two hikes, and the option (depending on the location) of one or two snorkel sessions, kayaking, paddle boarding or a glass-bottom boat tour. The snorkeling gear and wetsuits that Ecoventura provided were high quality and available in all sizes – even a perfect fit for a 6-year-old!
A bonus of traveling with Ecoventura is that they recognize the wide range of guest abilities and can tailor the options based on the group of guests. If a hike is too long or strenuous for a particular guest, they offer an alternative — perhaps a shorter or less steep hike. If you don’t snorkel and have no desire to do so? Perhaps a zodiac tour. No desire to kayak or paddle board? Perhaps glass bottom boat tour. This approach is particularly desirable for multi-generational families. Everyone gets to experience the beauty of the Galápagos, but in a way that best fits with their desires and abilities. Our yacht had two families travelling with three generations, ranging in age from 12 to 85-years-old and everyone raved about their experience aboard the Origin.
In addition to our daily nature excursions, there were often fun activities for the children mid-day while we motored from our morning to our afternoon location. Examples include: a ceviche demonstration, ice cream sundae creation, and pizza making. One evening after dinner, we were surprised with a party! Ilo and the crew sang some original songs, there was a surprise pirate visit and all the guests and crew were enticed to dance! From a 6-year-old to an 85-year-old on the dance floor!
An important consideration in selecting our Galápagos adventure was finding a company with integrity and ecofriendly practices. I was happy to learn that family-owned Ecoventura, led by owner Santiago Dunn, has been a pioneer in environmental efforts in the Galápagos as well as in adopting sustainable practices.
A company with an excellent safety record was of the utmost importance to me when I was planning our Galápagos trip. I was travelling with a 6-year-old. How could I feel comfortable and be able to relax on this amazing vacation if I wasn’t confident from a safety perspective for 8 days on the water? I was pleased and relieved to find that Ecoventura has an exceptional safety record. I felt even more confident when our first briefing on board the Origin was focused on safety guidelines and safety procedures in the event of an emergency. Each cabin was equipped with Orange Type I Offshore Life Jackets. We were required to wear life vests on all zodiac transports and tours, glass bottom boat rides, and kayak and paddle board expeditions (no exceptions!). We were instructed on how to properly embark and disembark from the zodiac to the yacht and to the shore (for both wet and dry landings) and vice versa. There was always one crew member on the zodiac and one crew member on the yacht or shore helping everyone with the boarding and disembarking process. The crew always had an eye on everyone, particularly the children, and made me feel extremely comfortable. My concerns about being with a 6-year-old on the ocean quickly dissipated once I saw the crew in action.
Honestly, there are more than 10 reasons to choose Ecoventura for your Galápagos adventure which you will discover if you decide to choose them for your trip of a lifetime. We love to travel and have enjoyed a number of wonderful vacation adventures. I can honestly say that our week in the Galápagos with Ecoventura has been our best vacation yet. We are thrilled we chose this impressive company and their gorgeous yacht, the Origin, to explore the indescribable beauty of the Galápagos. Our trip was an awe-inspiring, “closer-to-nature and wildlife than you can imagine” adventure. I’m not sure how we will ever top this vacation. Unless, of course, we return for a week on the Origin or Theory for Itinerary B!!!! My children have been asking to return since the day we left! I think that says it all.”