A trip to the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so make sure it is planned to perfection
The choice of tour operator is of particular importance in the Galapagos. This trip was arranged through Londonbased Jacada Travel, which specialises in African and South American luxury travel, and its local partner, Metropolitan Touring, which operates La Pinta. The yacht offers three tours—of three, four and seven nights—each taking in a different sector of the archipelago. The seven-night Western Galapagos Islands itinerary (as described in this feature) takes in the islands of North Seymour, Fernandina, Isabela, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Rabida and San Cristobal. Hardcore naturalists can combine the tours for an itinerary of up to 15 days. jacadatravel.com
While a cruise is almost certainly the best way to see the Galapagos, it is not the only option. There are a number of small hotels on Santa Cruz, the archipelago’s commercial centre, including the Finch Bay Hotel, a modern, well-appointed bolthole reachable only by boat. From these you can arrange day trips, diving lessons and more, returning to terra firma each night. The Galapagos Safari Camp provides an alternative for those who want to see another side of the islands and aren’t keen to spend so much time on a boat. Set amid the lush greenery of the Santa Cruz highlands, this small eco-resort features nine large luxury tents, an infinity pool with sea views, a central lodge with a roaring log fire, and great food. finchbayhotel.com galapagossafaricamp.com
Rules of Engagement
As you might expect, conservation is top of the agenda in the Galapagos, and there are various regulations designed to minimise the impact of tourism. Visitor numbers are limited, and groups visiting individual islands must be no larger than 16. Touching or feeding the animals is prohibited. Visitors must also stick to the marked trails and be accompanied by a registered naturalist guide on all island excursions.
Most visitors pass through Ecuador’s capital, Quito, on the way to and from the islands, and it’s worth factoring in a couple of days to explore this fascinating and beautiful city. The Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site replete with elaborate churches and picturepostcard squares, all watched over by the Virgin of Quito, a 46-metre statue perched on El Panecillo hill. Flanked by towering volcanoes, Quito itself sits at a lofty 2,800 metres, making it the second-highest capital in the world. Stay at Casa Gangotena, a gorgeously restored historic mansion on the corner of pretty San Francisco Square. casagangotena.com
elegant exploration One of the best ways to see the Galapagos is by yacht, and La Pinta offers customised tours