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Ecuador: The Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos Islands was by far our hardest trip as parents.  Dylan was just about 18 months at the time and totally cutting one of those canine teeth the entire time we were in the Galapagos.  We felt so bad for him!  The high fever, rash, sleepless nights and lethargy during the day, drool... oh the drool!!  The poor kid was a mess.  Thank goodness, Matt and I had already experienced "teething Dylan", or else I would have been freaking out that it was something more serious!
***We did pre-book evacuation insurance since the Galapagos are so desolate and have limited medical care.  I would DEFINITELY recommend getting insurance if you plan to travel with your family... just in case.  :)
To add to the difficulty of toting our sick baby around, we also didn't realize how taxing the tours we booked would be.  (You can see which tours we booked in my "Details" at the end of this post!☺)  Of course we had to go swimming with sea lions and see the lizards, crabs, turtles... etc!  What nobody told us was that the boat tours required getting on a motored raft at shore which would transport you to the boat that we would take for the day and also how big the waves could be!!!  Picture me, wearing Dylan in a baby carrier, and Matt, with all our stuff and the CAMERA (oh Matt, please don't get the camera wet) loading on to and off of these tiny rafts to bigger boats in the middle of a turbulent ocean.  Then once on the boat, we would drive to different islands.  Of course, since the waves were so big, Matt got horribly sea sick (nothing like taking care of two sick babies 😂)  
So the boat tours would stop at different places.  At one point we got off on these cliffs but we had to wait until a wave came to lift the boat high enough to reach the cliff.  Then we all took turns getting off the raft as the driver hit the motor full speed into it.  I was scared to death!  Another time, visiting a beach, we had to take turns getting out of the raft and into knee deep water.  Of course you had to wait until after a wave passed so that the water level was low and make sure to get out of the boat at the exact same time as the person across from you so as not to tip the raft.  It was all a little crazy. But looking back on everything, we are like, it was TOTALLY worth it!  Too bad for Dylan that he wasn't really in the mood to see wildlife, or walk around a dessert looking for lizzards and blue-footed boobies (yes, that's what they are really called).  But it was all wonderful and different from any trip we've ever been on.  
Best part, swimming in the water with the most playful sea lions (unfortunately, Matt and I had to take turns in the water).  Oh, and while Matt was taking his turn in the water, he wound up getting to swim with a school of sharks!  Thank goodness he didn't tell me about it until after we left! Lol!  Anyway, if you have small kids and want to experience the Galapagos Islands, go for it, but just know what you are in for... or wait a few years until everyone has all their teeth and can swim- and you will LOVE it!



One of our highlights inland was walking around the fields where the Galapagos giant tortoises live.  They are spectacular creatures, the largest in the tortoise species and can weigh up to 900 lbs!  If you want to see them, you have to go to the Galapagos or Aldabra (an island east of Tanzania)!


We also explored a lava tunnel, which was pretty different from anything we normally do.  It was definitely more difficult to carry Dylan and all of our things around a dark cave than our normal city, flat surface, walking trips. ;-)

Of course the highlight, as parents, was seeing Dylan absolutely LOVING the waves.  It was one of the only times we saw him smile the entire trip!! After playing in the water with Matt, he immediately passed out on my legs at the beach and it was pretty much mama heaven for me!

Quito & Mindo

In addition to the Galapagos Islands, we spent a few days before and after in Quito the capital of Ecuador.  One of my best friends, Joy, lives there and she is pretty much amazing and we really wanted to see her and learn more about what she does working for Faire Collection a fair trade jewelry company.  You can read more about Joy and the amazing adventures she has experienced living in Ecuador here.  Quito was beautiful and it was so fun having Joy take us around along with our mutual friend, Kasey, who happened to be visiting that same time as well!  We loved having Joy show us places and yummy foods that we probably wouldn't even know about if we were there by ourselves.  She took us to the equator line, the basilica del Voto National in Ecuador and a butterfly conservatory, chocolate tour, and hike in Mindo.  Also, my favorite part was watching her spontaneously jump off a cliff into the bottom of a waterfall in Mindo with only a little harness on (they would never allow something like this in the states!)

Although Ecuador would have been SO much easier if we had gone without Dylan, we have no regrets.  It was so worth it to experience such a unique corner of our world and I love that we did it with a baby.  We are parents now, so nothing is ever going to be "easy"; you just learn to roll with the punches and enjoy it...  And hopefully our kids are learning the same thing.

Details:
Places: Quito, Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz Island, Seymour North Island, & Santa Fe Island), & Mindo
When: December 2015
Duration: 8 days
Weather: Hot, 80ish degrees Fahrenheit
Transportation:
Taxi (around Quito & Galapagos Islands)
Private Driver (2.5 hour drive from Quito to Mindo)
Ferry (from airport in Galapagos to the mainland)
Boat (tours)
Accommodations:
Galapagos:
Hotel Solymar
This place was fantastic. It has everything: location, view, service, etc, etc. It was expensive, but it was worth it. The day trips in the galapagos are really tough, it's really nice to have a relaxing place to spend the evenings.
We were greeted with a welcome drink on arrival, and some free snacks in the room. We had some issues with the wifi, and the staff jumped to their feet to help. The hotel restaurant is great... the view of the bay from the room is wonderful, and it's great to be right in the middle of the main tourist street, without having to worry about noise or anything like that. Highly recommended!
Hotel Fiesta
Santa Cruz is a busier town than you would think, the main street is a typical tourist street like you would find in any beach town. This hotel is a street or two off of that, which can be a nice change of pace. It is nice and quiet, with a beautiful pool and a resort like atmosphere. We stayed in one of the villas, which was nice and big, clean and comfortable. We had a lot of bang for our buck here! The breakfast was good and it changed a bit day to day. We also booked a few tours here and the staff was very nice and helpful. They even adjusted the price DOWN for me, which was completely unexpected!
I don't really have any negatives here, except for the wifi... very slow and hard to use in your room. We stayed at a different place on the island that was much more expensive, and nicer... but again, if you aren't looking to break the bank and don't mind staying a little bit out of the heart of the city, this is a great option.
Mindo:
Dragonfly Inn B&B
The best part of this place was the food. We had a fantastic breakfast... simply fantastic! We also ate dinner here and it was great. It was probably worth it all just for this.
Mindo is an interesting town and I would guess this is one of the nicer hotels. That being said, there wasn't any air conditioning, which wasn't a big deal, but surprising. The rooms are all unique, not a typical hotel, but more of a cabin type setup. I'm not saying that's a negative; it fits the town well, but just don't expect a normal hotel here.
We arrived late, around 9pm and the place was closed. We found some towns people that helped us out and we didn't have any issues. Make sure you get there before 6pm or let them know you will be late!
*Linked are our tripadvisor reviews of each stay!
Highlights:
Galapagos: Lava tunnel, Sea/Land safari (animals we saw): Galapagos tortoise, iguana, blue footed boobies, albatross, frigate bird, finch, cormorant, crab, shark, stingray, sea lion
Quito: Equator line, Basilica del Voto National
Mindo: Butterfly conservatory, chocolate tour, hike in cloud forest
Tours:
Lava Tunnel (at Royal Palm)
Rancho El Chato- Galapagos Tortoise
Land & Sea cruise to Isla Seymour Norte and Baltra
Sea only cruise to Santa Fe island and Santa Cruz

Comments

  1. One odd thing of this trip was how we had to pay for one of our tours. We pre-booked our trip to North Seymour Island, but nothing else because we wanted to make sure they weren't too much for our baby.

    Because the islands are so remote and because they get so many cancellations, we had to pay via Western Union, and it seemed to be a common practice. I'd never used this service before and was pretty "scam-worried"; you're basically sending cash to the Western Union office on the island, and you have to pay for service charges and all that. You are completely out of luck if someone is trying to fool you.

    It ending up working fine with us, I was in communication with the tour agency via email, so that put my nerves at ease. I did end up screwing up the person's name that was collecting the money though... like many South American counties, their surname and middle names are in a different order than what we are used to in the states. Make sure you double check that!

    If you have to pay with Western Union, don't be too alarmed, but be smart and do your best to make sure it's not a scam!

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    Replies
    1. I'm curious if you have a premium card like an Amex Platinum, Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire Reserve, whether the concierge service would be able to book that tour for you and let you avoid Western Union altogether.

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    2. That would be AMAZING if that is true! We don't use any of those credit cards but were looking into Amex Platinum yesterday, actually! Do you have it??

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  2. So much loved hanging out with both of you! Really fun reliving all those great moments. It meant so, so much to have you come and see this corner of the world which has become so special to me. And really, I credit you, Sarah, with getting me started on this path - you got me that very first job in Santo Domingo! love you friend! You guys were really fantastic visitors, really able to go with the flow with everything (like changing dippers in the middle of the main square in old town!). love you friend!

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    Replies
    1. I love you Joy! I think you are amazing and admire your independence to live away from all of us and do everything you do! But that being said, you need to visit again soon ;-) Love you friend!!! xoxo

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