Belly down on the sand, you come nose-to-whisker with a sea lion pup. In a kayak, you race with penguins, though it’s not really a fair contest. With your cameras in hand, you can track a flock of pink flamingos across a lagoon. As surely as anyone who’s ever headed to the savannahs of Africa, you’ll been on safari. It’s just that yours will be on the Galápagos Islands. And unlike the people who go an African safari, you’ll really see all the animals you came to see.
That up-close and personal interaction with the fauna is why the readers of AFAR Magazine named this trip “Best Wildlife Encounter.” That’s a fantastic recommendation when you’re faced with choosing from all of the different options that are out there.
If you and your kids love wildlife — especially the kind that’s really living its life in the honest-to-goodness wild — this is the trip for you.
In an environment that lacks apex predators, the birds, mammals and reptiles in these islands off the Ecuadorean coast show little natural fear of humans. But though you get remarkably close, don’t expect a petting zoo. Our local naturalist guides know where and how to put you in intimate proximity and can answer any question you have about the natural wonders you’re witnessing. But our guides are also guardians of these singular islands. They help your family understand and respect the boundaries… though you will be absolutely amazed by how close you can get to the animals.
On any wildlife trip to the Galápagos, the star of the show is a giant land tortoise. A healthy specimen can weigh half a ton and be 100 years old. And you can see a whole herd (group? flock? passel?) of them at once, near enough to hear their raspy breaths that my sons still insist sound like Darth Vader. Blue-footed boobies are happily blasé if you catch them in the middle of their mating ritual. Marine iguanas won’t even give you a second look when you float by in your snorkel mask. (Doesn’t everybody like bobbing in the Pacific?)
Another cool thing about this Galápagos trip is how active it is in ways that will push everybody’s happy buttons. You’re out there on Pacific islands in a mellow climate where many of the star attractions live or play in the waters. That’s where you’ll end up, too! There are tons of opportunities to snorkel, swim, kayak, and body surf – with the added benefit that it’s frequently the best way to encounter species like penguins and sea lions.
Our Galápagos wildlife trip is island-based, meaning your accommodations will be in luxury boutique hotels. The properties nuzzle right up to the beach where you can go for a walk anytime you like. There are great swimming pools and elbow room that the many cruise-based visitors to the islands can only dream about. (Okay—many African safari camps also have luxury accommodations, and they swear that the lions that roar at night almost never eat the guests. Give us a friendly iguana any day.)
In kids’ everyday lives, squirrels and pigeons are about as wild as it gets. You’ll see that they are mesmerized by the super-cool natural display in the Galápagos. You all learn a lot without ever feeling like you’re in a biology class. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the opportunities for included activities—like mountain biking or paddling into caves in search of pirate gold—make the trip downright fun.
If the Galápagos is on your bucket list, you should go. You won’t be disappointed. Even better, this makes a very unique, engaging and memorable vacation that travelers of every age can get into big time.
Thanks to See the World contributor Edward Piegza, founder Classic Journeys.