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Galapagos and mainland Ecuador

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Jul 23rd, 2010, 05:45 AM
  #1
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Galapagos and mainland Ecuador

Back from a fantastic 2- week trip to the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador.

Itinerary and trip highlights:
Day 1: Quito: Old town and historic center

Day 2: To Cotopaxi national park in a private car arranged through a local travel agent. We had spectacular views of Cotopaxi along the way. Hiked up to Refugio Jose Rivas (alt. 15,000 feet) from the parking lot. Stopped at Hacienda La Cienega for a meal. The hacienda was impressive, however, the food was overpriced and not very good.

Day 3: Early morning flight to Baltra, to board the motor catamaran Anahi, our home for the next 7 nights.

Day 4-10: Galapagos Islands: Shore excursions included Santa Cruz highlands, Chinese Hat, Puerto Egas, Sullivan Bay, Bartolome Island, Bachas Beach, Plaza Island, Tijeretas Hill, Isla Lobos, Espanola Island, Floreana island and Charles Darwin Research Station.

There were snorkeling opportunities almost every day. Water was a bit on the cold side, and most of us needed wet suites.

The boat had 16 passengers and 9 crew members. It was an extra-ordinarily congenial group which made the visit very enjoyable.

The boat had simple, wholesome food. They accommodated our vegetarian dietary requirements.

Flora and Fauna were very impressive. Plaza Island and Espanola were my favorites.

Day 11: Fly back to Quito

Day 12: Early morning drive (2 hours) to Bellavista Cloud Forest lodge, our home for the next 3 nights.

Day 12-15: Bellavista cloud forest (alt: around 7,000 feet). Spectacular primary and secondary forest and a birding paradise. Rustic but comfortable accommodation with wonderful staff. We saw 15 different species of hummingbirds alone duriing those 4 days. Lots of hiking trails of around the lodge.
A personal highlight for me was a visit to the nearby lek to see the Andean Cock of the rock. My guide was Angel Paz, who is quite legendary in those parts. (See link below for his claim to fame)
http://birdingwithkennandkim.blogspo...whisperer.html

After visiting the lek, Angel Paz took me around the forest for birding. It was an amazing and humbling experience to be with Senor Paz as he summoned the elusive Giant Antpitta, and several other antpitts and other uncommon species with earthworms. We visited his house afterwards for a delicious ecuadorian breakfast.

Day 15: Drive back to Bellavista cloudforest to Quito airport.

It was a great vacation. Ecuador is beautiful. I don’t think much is known about this hidden gem apart from the Galapagos. It has lovely landscapes, great biodiversity, interesting cuisine and most of all great people.
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 06:14 AM
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Sounds wonderful. Did you experience any children on any of the tours .. if so .. what would you estimate was the youngest. We are wanting to plan a trip and I was just curious of your observations.

Did I say I was jealous?
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 06:59 AM
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We had our two sons on this trip, the youngest being 12. He loved the Galapagos particularly being so close to the animals and birds, and snorkeling with the sea lion pups. We had one other couple on Anahi with two kids, 15 and 13. I saw kids ranging from 8-10 in other groups during our shore excursions.
The cloudforest visit was also interesting for the kids since they had an opportunity to go ziplining. Bellavista had several families with children some as young as 7.
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 11:41 AM
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Sounds like a fantastic trip!What a great experience for you and your kids! I just wanted to add a bit in here about children in Galapagos. My personal opinion is that if you are going to travel with an infant, I d suggest doing some land based daily tours, just for safety reasons. The youngest child I have seen on a cruise was 6 years old. This particular girl wasnt really ¨into¨the whole nature thing, and (unfortunately!) preferred to play video games in her cabin, or watch DVDS. Her nanny often stayed on the boat with her while the rest of the group went out on the daily visits. The top deck and balconies need to be closed off and unaccessible to little hands and feet to avoid climbing or slipping over! HOw old are your kids?
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Jul 26th, 2010, 06:07 AM
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Waxwing .. thank you

Expert ... my kids are currently 5 and 6. We are avid hikers (although, not campers, I like a hotel and a shaower ) and our kids are really in tune to nature, not much into video games. I think we need to work on their swimming skills a bit and we do not travel with a nanny ..... We know it is an expensive trip, so we want to get them best experience for us all. any advise is appreciated.

Thanks to you both.
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Jul 26th, 2010, 08:59 AM
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HI Alexis...
Just to be clear, the "video gaming-nanny watched child" wasnt mine! LOL! i think your kids will have a great time, especially if they like nature and hiking. Are you thinking of doing a cruise or some island hopping while in Galapagos? My experiences cruising have all been great! The land visits that you do with cruises are generally about 2-3 hours, but not strenuous! The walks are well-paced and you often stop just to observe the amazing things going on around you. I´m sure your kids could do that no problem. They willlove the proximity of all the amazing and different wildlife: getting up close to the iguanas and sea lions, finding turtle tracks, hearing about pirates! They´ll love it! Definitely keep up the swimming practice, and practice with a mask and snorkel, too! The snorkelling is amazing, and it would be important for the kids to be confident in the water. SOme snorkel visits are from the beach, but others are off the dinghy, which means a climb down (or jump off!) into the sea, which can be daunting for some. When I cruised on Athala, the captain and guide authorized us to jump off the back of the ship when we were anchored in a safe place, and the kids on board (even the SPECIAL one!) had a great time doing that, with a life jacket on! The ship´s crew were great and even made special "child-friendly" meals for the kids who were on board. I would highly recommend it, I had a great time! (There is a jacuzzi on board too, and a sun deck (with safe siding) at the top of the boat, which was ideal for the kids who were on.
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Jul 27th, 2010, 01:42 AM
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Waxwing,

Many thanks for this report. My husband and I are also planning to go to Cotopaxi and Bellavista Cloudforest; please can you tell me where you stayed and what company you used to book the trip with.

Many thanks.

Regards,
Katerina
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Jul 27th, 2010, 04:14 PM
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Katerina,

In Quito, we stayed at the Hilton Colon. For Cotopaxi, we arranged a private taxi through Ines Ortiz, a Quito-based travel agent (e-mail: [email protected]). Ines could have arranged a guide for us as well, but we opted for just the car and driver since we knew what we wanted to do at Cotopaxi (climbing up to the Refugio from the parking lot and walk around). On the way back we stopped at a Hacienda for a late lunch.

As for Bellavista, I made all the arrangements directly with the lodge. Their website is www.bellavistacloudforest.com (e-mail: [email protected]). They were very prompt in replying to my e-mails and questions. Bellavista picked us up from our Quito hotel and dropped us off at Quito airport after 3 nights. Their package includes pick-up and drop-off from Quito, all meals, and naturalist-led hikes (3 a day)of varying difficulty levels. If you need to go to Mindo for ziplining or do anything else in the vicinity, you can arrange it through them after you get there.
We all loved Ecuador. You will have a great time there.
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