Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands is a bucket list destination for most travelers. Finally visiting this incredible part of the world was one of the highlights of Sue Estabrook's travel experiences. She is one of Bon Voyage Travel's top advisors and knows adventure better than most.
Seeing the Galápagos Islands with Metropolitan Tour on their "Ecuador Educational" land tour made it all the more memorable. Here is Sue's recap of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
When I first arrived in Quito, I was amazed by the friendly and open people. The airport is brand new and was very nice, though it is located about forty minutes from Old Town. I arrived late, and after a very long flight discovered that my luggage had not made all of my connections. A driver and a guide from Metropolitan Tours met me with a bouquet of roses, and assured me they would follow up on my luggage.
I stayed at Hotel Gangotena in Old Town, and upon my arrival I was given a glass of champagne and check in went smoothly. The Hotel Gangotena is a historical mansion that has recently been renovated to its former glory. The hotel concierge was already informed about my lost luggage and had a t-shirt and some toiletries ready for me, and also reassured me that they would continue to follow up with the airport.
I spent two days in Quito touring the city on foot. This type of touring really brings you up close and personal with the people of Quito. Everyone was open and friendly, and posed for pictures willingly. They seemed eager and happy to share their culture with us. The weather in Quito was very cold with highs in the 60’s, so I was extremely happy when my luggage arrived on the third day. The hotel and Metropolitan Tours really came through for me by staying on top of the situation.
That morning we left for our Cloud forest experience (with my luggage!) Three hours north of Quito there is an area called Mashpi where we made a brief stop at the equator and took some great pictures! The Cloud forest was recovered from loggers that had already destroyed 20 percent of the forest. Their goal at Mashpi is to preserve this pristine and beautiful area, and give people the chance to experience one of the last cloud forests in the world. Many efforts were made to make the Mashpi Lodge ecologically friendly.
The service at Mashpi Lodge was some of the best I have ever experienced. I loved the guided walks because the guides we so knowledgeable and were able to point out things that would have otherwise been hidden from out view. We were greeted at the hotel after our vigorous walks with a cold drink and a wet cloth; what service! I truly enjoyed my time there and look forward to going back one day.
Next we went back to Quito to stay at the Hacienda Rumiloma, which overlooks the city. Each casita is a minimum of 600 square feet, and all are filled with a mix of antiques, art and collectables from the far corners of Ecuador. All the rooms are beautifully appointed with hand-crafted walls of adobe and stone made or mined right on the property. One thing to remember is that we were at about 11,000 feet so measures should be taken to avoid altitude sickness. Water and dark chocolate work wonders!
The next morning we headed to the airport for our two and a half hour flight to the San Christobal Island in the Galápagos. Upon arrival we met our guide and headed over to our new home for three nights – the La Pinta. The La Pinta is a 48-passenger yacht that does 3, 4 and 7 day sailings. Our adventure began immediately with an excursion to Cerro Colorado, a breeding center for the highly endangered giant tortoise.
The staff on board were very friendly, and gave nightly lectures on what we were going to see the next day. This process gave us the opportunity to sign up for what most interested us. Each day brought a new adventure with sightings of unique birds and animals. It was very active, and we often went out on “pangas,” a type of modest-sized, open fishing boat common in much of the developing world. We did wet and dry landings, and this is when my Tevas really came through for me. After our cruise we flew to Guayaquil and spent our last night at the Hilton. The population of Guayaquil is 2.6 million, and the city is very busy. Land iguanas there measure up to one meter long! This was the perfect location for those flying to and from the Galápagos Islands.
My trip was adventurous, active, exciting and informative. These destinations have many different layers to them, and I feel I have been privileged to travel to such diverse places on the planet!
Tips for a similar trip:
- Bring an extra set of clothes in your carry-on.
- Bring two swimsuits - one to wear while the other is drying.
- Invest in good water shoes, like Tevas.
- Be prepared for long hikes, which at times are very challenging.
Contact Sue about this vacation
- (520) 232-5583
- [email protected]