• Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

    See More When You Travel in Ecuador

    <h2>A new adventure starts at sea level in the Galápagos then soars into the Andes.</h2>   <p>When you <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">travel in Ecuador, be sure to take in everything from the islands to the mainland</a> to see all this amazing place has to offer including the diverse wildlife. In the world of birds, there are no more unlikely cousins than the Andean condor and the blue-footed booby. One surfs towering thermals in South America’s highest mountains. The other <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">dances on Galápagos beaches</a>. A condor is bald, and a booby has electric blue feet. One is a little comical. The other is as stern as a bird can be. About the only thing they really agree on is calling Ecuador home.</p> <p>As the unofficial mascots of the newest Classic Journey, they capture the mind-boggling diversity in culture, environment and history that you encounter when you <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">split your visit between the Galápagos Islands and the Ecuadorian highlands</a>.</p> <p>ISLANDS OF A FEATHER</p> <p>Chances are, you’re acquainted already with the idea of the Galápagos. Marooned on their remote islands, spiny iguanas and giant land tortoises defy time. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuadorfamily/" target="_blank">Sea-lion pups glide up to us in our snorkel masks</a>, not quite sure just what or who are — but totally unafraid of finding out. There are bays to kayak, lava trails to walk and a coffee plantation where we can always score a sip of something freshly roasted. While cruise ships prowl the coast and stage their daily invasions, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/hotels/" target="_blank">we settle into boutique hotels with pools and room to knock around</a>. Of an evening, you can walk barefoot into town on streets paved in sand.</p> <p><img alt="Iguana on the beach" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lX&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oM3" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br> </p> <h3>FLYING HIGH</h3> <p>But get ready for a real re-boot when you <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">fly back to Quito and head two hours north into the highlands</a>. We base our time here at Hacienda Zuleta, a 4,000-acre working family farm. In a way, the hacienda is an island, too, afloat in a sea of Andean peaks. But the fittest survivors here are direct descendants of a past Ecuadorian president or two. The old family spread, parts of which date back to the 17th century, is as cordial an inn as you could imagine. Sprawling organic gardens feed the workers and guests. A 300-cow herd supplies a creamery with all the butterfat it needs to create great cheeses.</p> <p>Life here is rooted in human history, traced back through the Spanish conquistadores, the Incas and even earlier pre-Columbian people. Oblivious to the wars and crumbling civilizations below, Andean condors soared over them all. They are too rare these days, but the hacienda’s Condor Huasi Project fights for their preservation. On foot or horseback, we follow a trail up a valley lined with steep slopes and semi-tropical rainforest to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">reach one of the only places in the Andes where you can see these great birds today</a>.</p> <p>Other symbols of Ecuadorian culture thrive. Take the Otavalo Market. It’s an organized riot of ancient crafts with beadwork and textiles, as well as produce, fish and great baskets of quinoa. The local currency is now the U.S. dollar, but everything else about the scene is utterly Andean: the women in embroidered blouses with their heads wrapped in <i>fachalinas</i>, the suckling pigs with roasted smiles, the mix of ancient languages.</p> <p>Even if the people and places of Ecuador aren’t exactly birds of a feather that is fine by us. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">Nothing beats a week of travel in Ecuador</a> that lets us do a deep dive into natural history and get a taste of high-altitude Andean culture — all inside the borders of a single country.</p> <br> 

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  • Blue footed Boobie, Galapagos Islands

    If You Want to See the Real Galápagos, Here are 5 Reasons to Skip the Ship

    <p>When my family and I go on vacation, we really don&#39;t like to sit through PowerPoint Presentations. A friend who cruised in the Galápagos recently sent me a photo that shows the naturalist briefing on their ship – and it looked like a cross between a school lecture and a business meeting. It’s not wrong or bad. But if I’m close enough to a blue-footed boobie to hear it, I’d rather not be looking at pictures of it on a TV screen instead! And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how kids and teenagers feel about vacations that feel like thinly disguised school courses.</p> <p>I love to compare that pic to the photo below that we’ve taken on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos tours</a>. They show our head guide, Alfredo, who is a very knowledgeable naturalist. He’s with Classic Journeys’ guests 24/7 from seashore to the edge of a volcano. His up-close on-the-ground commentary about the flora and fauna is exactly what you hope for when you visit a place this different and exotic. We have him to ourselves for the whole week. (And there are only 10 or so of us vs. the 40-50 people in that cruise ship lounge.)</p> <p><img alt="Naturalist guide Alfredo leading tour in Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lpf" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It’s just one of the top reasons why an island-based exploration <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos</a> tour is a completely different animal (pardon the pun) to a Galápagos cruise. Here are the other five top reasons:</p> <h3>1. <b>LUXURY BOUTIQUE HOTELS BEAT SHIP CABINS</b></h3> <p>A flock of great new hotels – small, eco-sensitive and very, very comfortable – have opened recently in the Galápagos, and we stay in them. You’ll see some photos below. They have pools. They are in terrific waterfront locations. And most of all, they have elbowroom. At the end of the day, you go for a walk on a beach or on the sand streets of a nearby town. On a ship, you can only make circuits on the deck. We just feel like staying in hotels allows us to be ourselves and spend our down time the way we want to without being hemmed in. Don’t get us wrong: the companies that send cruises to the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos</a> are fine. But by definition, they force you to be a day-tripper. You see the islands, but you’re not a part of them the way you can be when you’re based on shore.</p> <p><img alt="Hotel room in Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lpk" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><img alt="Hotel pool in Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lpp" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>2. <b>YOUR OPTIONS ARE WIDE OPEN </b></h3> <p>What if you want to shop in town, your spouse wants to have a massage, and your friends prefer a walk on the beach? On a ship, the answer is easy. Only the massage is possible, because with the fixed schedule of the boat, you’re not permitted to stay in town or linger on a beach for a walk; the zodiacs have all returned to the boat so that it can get under way toward the next port of call. This means that your ability to customize a trip to your own preferences is nil. In contrast, on a Classic Journeys <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos</a><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank"> tour</a>, based on the islands in boutique hotels. During the day, the trips are loaded with a range of activities from snorkeling to mountain biking, lounging by the beach to hanging out with giant land tortoises. On many days, we offer simultaneous alternatives.  </p> <p><img alt="Kids snorkeling in the Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lpu" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></p> <p><br>One night, our group of nine went in nearly as many directions. My wife and a friend walked the white sand beach that stretched for miles with no other people on it, a friend and his son threw a ball to one another, one guest had a massage at the hotel, two others went out with a guide to try their hand at surfing, another curled up with a glass of wine in an overstuffed chair and read a book on her iPad, and another followed a boardwalk path behind the hotel into national parkland shooting photos of the iguanas who cross from the wetlands to the beach. The result was greater than the sum of its parts, as everyone returned to the hotel for dinner invigorated and with stories to tell of their alone time.</p> <h3>3.<b> YOU GET TO SPEND TIME IN THE CULTURE </b></h3> <p>On a cruise ship trip to the islands, you’d be forgiven for thinking this place is about nothing but wildlife. But heck, people live here too. A luxury when staying on the islands is time to get deeper into the landscape. The highlands are often the most interesting and least explored part of the islands. It takes a little longer to get up into the highlands, and so a landing party from a ship will often miss these great opportunities.<br>  <img alt="Guests at a Galapagos plantation" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lpz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>We, on the other hand, have time to visit a local family on their plantation called Hacienda ‘El Café Trapiche.” We spend time with them and the workers to learn about growing coffee, sugar cane and fruits. The volcanic soil is fantastic for agriculture of all kinds, and it’s very interesting to get a feel for what it’s like to live and work in a place where you’re so extremely out-numbered by the wildlife! Meanwhile, back at the hotels, we’re easy walks to shops and cafes and the like. Back on the ship, you’d be eating meals based on recipes from the U.S. or Europe. On the island, you can try the local specialties like ceviche, made by local hands to order for us.</p> <h3>4. <b>YOU CAN WATCH SUNSET WITH THE SEA LIONS</b></h3> <p>4:30 pm on the island brought two startling contrasts. On the one hand, Zodiacs full of passengers buzzed out of the harbor to return to their ships. Their day of exploring was over. But on the beach near our hotel our group was returning on foot from a walk to see frigate birds and snorkel in the lagoon where Charles Darwin first landed in the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Galápagos</a>.</p> <p><img alt="Sea lion at sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lq4" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>Crossing the white sand (now turning purple and orange with the late afternoon light), we came across a colony of female sea lions, many with pups at their sides. A lone male called out to any other male in the area that this was his harem. Our group stopped, laid down on the sand, and spent the next 90 minutes at the same eye-level perspective as the mothers and babies. Since they have no natural predators, they weren’t spooked by our presence and we could crawl right up to them. It was unplanned, it was wonderful, and it took the kind of time and patience that no cruise ship guide can afford to give you.<br><br> </p> <h3>5. <b>NINE IS GREATER THAN 105</b></h3> <p>Our final day found us on our way to see the giant land tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. They’re amazing, weighing upwards of 500 pounds, living 150+ years and walking 5km or so each day in search of their favorite food. Our destination was the national park and the watering hole where the tortoises socialize and keep cool. Our guide Alfredo let us know that it would be about an hour walk each way, and we’d see tortoises along the way and an incredible number of them once at the muddy gathering spot. (See my blog about &quot;<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">vadering</a>&quot; to read more about the sounds they make.)</p> <p><img alt="Guest posting with tortoise" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lc&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lq9" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>As we were driving along a country road in our 20-seat minibus, we came across three 45-seat blue behemoths. I asked Alfredo what they were and where they were going. He answered that they were from one of the famed expedition cruise ships and they were going to see the tortoises too. Each was filled with 35 people, making a total of 105 passengers in the three buses. Panicked, I imagined our little group of nine guests plus two guides being overrun by a heard of cruise passengers piling off the buses and scaring the tortoises into their shells. </p> <p><br>“Not to worry,” said Alfredo. “They’re not going where we are. They go into a private farm where they only need to walk 10 minutes to a watering hole and where they have facilities for large-scale tourism.”</p> <p>We finished our incredible visit to the watering hole in the national park, and saw dozens of tortoises enjoying themselves in the mud and flowery algae. About five other explorers shared the experience.</p>

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  • Kayakers and Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

    Embark on a Guided Galápagos Vacation

    <h2>A gaggle of guides, naturalists, outfitters and other experts tame the Galápagos just enough.</h2> <p> </p> <p>In the five years of his voyage on the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin actually spent more time on land than at sea — albeit not on a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">deluxe, guided Galápagos vacation</a>. Before reaching the islands, he’d been in Rio, the Falkland Islands, the Andes and four-years’- worth of other ports. But the trip wasn’t about Darwin. He was on board as much to be a companion for the captain as for his naturalist skills.</p> <p>Today, like Darwin, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">we spend our time in the Galápagos primarily on land</a>. Cruise ships give us cabin fever. Still, without the ability to spend five weeks exploring, some serious logistical support is in order. Fortunately for <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys guests, our island-based crew includes a few dozen local pros</a> who make your trip seamless and effortless.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/dates/" target="_blank">Download an itinerary today for your Galápagos getaway!</a></p> <p>The trip includes four species of naturalist. From island to island, the plants and animals are subtly different. Our naturalist guides are too. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos-tours/" target="_blank">In addition to the lead local guide who accompanies your group, an island-specific naturalist joins us on each of the three shores we visit.</a> If the wind’s from the west, where are the penguins likeliest to be? What’s happening at the coffee plantation on San Cristóbal? How should you approach the giant land tortoises to get the closest respectful look?<br>These experts have the answers.</p> <h3>ISLAND HOPPING</h3> <p>You need some wingspan to move between the islands, too. Believe it or not, the Galápagos has two airlines. The planes may be rarer than frigate birds, but they are just as deft at catching the currents for the shift between islands. Instead of hoisting anchor and cruising from San Cristóbal to Isabela, we save precious time with pilots who handle the island hop. The <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagosfamily/" target="_blank">views are insanely beautiful as you glide over waters so clear that you can see the sea life</a>, even from a few thousand feet up.</p> <p>Back down at sea level, ideal kayaking is sometimes just a paddle from a lodge’s dock. But not always. On those days, the captains of private motorboats zip us in to place with kayaks in tow. When it’s time to board our kayak armada in search of sea lions and giant sea turtles, specialized guides are there to coach, look out for everybody’s safety and comfort and lead us to prime territory. And if wielding a paddle isn’t your thing, the captain welcomes you to stay on the canopied deck of the boat.</p> <p>Those shallow waters are stunningly clear, and the sights below the surface are not to be missed. Even if you’ve never donned a mask and snorkel, our patient and skilled snorkeling guides — one on each island we visit — will get you up and silently “oohing” at the reef fish and marine iguanas. Really, there is no cooler way to see Galápagos penguins than on a swim off the shore of Las Tintoreras. Want to do a little surfing … or give it a try for the first time? Our friend Billabong (that’s really his name) joins us on the best surfing beach in San Cristóbal to make it happen for you.</p> <h3>PEDAL POWER</h3> <p>Next up — mountain biking. Yes, mountain biking. After all, there’s plenty of amazing terrain away from the beaches. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagosfamily/" target="_blank">The Multisport Family edition of our Galápagos trip</a> includes a day when we cover more ground than Darwin ever dreamed of. A dedicated mountain bike guide takes us for a spin on trails that wind through a wild volcanic landscape. And everything is ready at exactly the right moment — you don’t worry about tire pumps or renting a bike. We do it all.</p> <p>How can we be sure a bike of exactly the right size is waiting for you that day? <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/approach/?utm_campaign=embark-on-a-guided-galapagos-vacation&amp;utm_source=sojourn&amp;utm_medium=blog/" target="_blank">Our team plans ahead!</a> When you <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/reservations/" target="_blank">book your trip to the Galápagos</a>, we’ll ask you for heights, sizes and other personal data that we need to be sure right-sized equipment is reserved in advance and ready to go. From small enough snorkel fins to an accurate kayak count, the details are dealt with by us. And our local team of experts has your back every step, paddle and dive of the way … so you can focus on the experience without thinking about logistics for a second.</p> <h3>TWO-LEGGED GALÁPAGANS</h3> <img alt="Man looking at lizard" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lj&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002n0t" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img> <p>Of all the rafts (of penguins), bobs (of sea lions) and lounges (of iguanas), the inhabitants who may surprise you most are the people of the Galápagos.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ecuador/" target="_blank">Our island-based trip is a unique opportunity to meet these people.</a> At sunset, you can stroll with them in the soft sands of their village streets. In the remote countryside, you get to meet and chat with the family that operates a coffee plantation.</p> <p>At <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/hotels/" target="_blank">our fine eco-lodges</a>, you’ll appreciate the arms-wide-open hospitality of the people who call the islands home. That’s a level of insight and pleasure that cruise ship visitors miss when they chug back out to sea every day.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/catalog/" target="_blank">REQUEST A CATALOG TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR GALÁPAGOS TOUR OPTIONS.</a></p>

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