Every year I like to go on a trip with my son, who is now 29; somewhere different that neither of us have seen before. I thought The Galapagos Islands would be an excellent choice, since he loves the water and is a keen swimmer and surfer – unlike his mother!
We flew on Copa from LAX, through Panama City to Quito, which was easy and a good connection.
The old town of Quito, Ecuador's capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. With many churches. monasteries and cathedrals, it is a very cultural city at an altitude of over 9,000 ft.
We stayed two nights at Casa Gangotena, a hotel in the middle of the old town, and which was a former private home built in a lovely colonial style. It has one of the best restaurants in Quito, and we enjoyded dinner there both nights. We did an informative guided walking tour, and also stopped at the chocolate making stores which Quito is so famous for.
We took a 3-hour flight to the island of San Cristobal, where our catamaran awaited us. On our flight there was an Australian family, with two girls the same age as my son, and they were going on the same cruise as us, onboard the Cormorant.
The Cormorant is a small boat with only eight cabins, We arrived on board and met other guests from Germany, Switzerland, France and China, which made for a very international and eclectic group of travelers. We were only taking the 4-night cruise, while some were staying for 7 or 10 nights. This is the perfect boat to charter for a family vacation, which they do often. The crew was fantastic, and we had our own naturalist guide who was on the boat with us the entire time.
Every day we had a morning and afternoon excursion, and you could do as much or as little as you wanted to. With such a small group, everyone participated and it was like being in one big family, I loved it!
There was deep water snorkeling with sharks and manta rays, huge sea turtles and seals. On walking excursions we saw the blue-footed boobies, as well as the marine iguanas.
All the meals were family style and we sat at one large table. In the evening, our naturalist guide briefed us on what to expect the next day and we enjoyed exchanging stories and sharing what we had experienced that day.
We arrived at Santa Cruz Island and it was time for us to disembark. Our last excursion was to the Charles Darwin Breeding Center to see the giant land tortoise, which are a different species than the ones I had seen in the Seychelles!
We said good bye to new friends we had made, and set off for the land portion of the trip. My son had rented a boat and skipper to go surfing for the day and had an amazing time. I headed to Pikaia Lodge, where we were staying for two nights. This lodge is spectacular, located on the top of a hill in the rainforest overlooking the ocean, and a wonderful way to end our Galapagos vacation.
The drive to the airport of Baltra is approximately 45 minutes and very diverse and interesting. You see rain forest and dry desert-like areas along the way. The airport is on an island, and you can only get there by boat, so you and your luggage take a ferry boat to the island, then you are bussed to the airport.
This was one of my favorite trips, and I highly recommend it for anyone to do.