Starting off the Ecuador portion of the trip, we were all eager to be heading out to the “Mitad del Mundo”. The day also began with happy 16th birthday celebrations for Carly and Sarah S. as they woke up to banners hung on their doors to kick off the celebrations. At the “Middle of the World” trip members were given the opportunity to straddle the hemispheres as we visited the Equatorial Line. We also got to have a quick informative tour about Ecuador and participate in some neat science experiments involving the equator. In the afternoon we headed to Quito’s colonial Old City, which is one of the largest and best-preserved Colonial centers in South America. One of the highlights of this tour was when we went up to the El Panecillo Lookout where the Virgin of Quito statue overlooks the colonial sector. It was interesting to see the difference between the old and the new city. Many of us also took this opportunity to explore the markets surrounding the lookout, browsing for Ecuadorian souvenirs. At dinner we celebrated our birthday girls once again with two delicious chocolate cakes!
The following day was one for adventures! In the morning we took off into the Mindo Cloud Forest and explored the canopy by zip-line. The zip lines were exhilarating, and the views were outstanding! In the afternoon we took to the river via rafts made of tubes tethered together. The tubing was certainly a thrill. Once we were settled into our tubes, we were off, with guides bringing us down the river. For some of us, this was a serene, zen experience where we enjoyed the scenery, while others – such as those of us in Reed’s raft—enjoyed the river by hooting and screaming with every rapid. After the exhilaration of tubing we were grateful for a relaxing swim and hot tub at the local pool before heading back to the hotel.
The next morning we said goodbye to Quito and hopped on a plane to San Cristobal—one of the islands in the Galapagos archipelago. On the plane we learned about some of the rules of the Galapagos, such as: give the animals at least 6 feet of space; no flash photography; and take nothing and leave nothing behind. By the time we arrived we were pumped to experience this natural paradise and we were not disappointed! In the afternoon we visited Tijeretas, where we explored the interpretive center and learned about the history of the islands and animals. We then followed a short path to a secluded lagoon where we had our first Galapagos snorkelling experience. It was incredible! Within seconds of entering the water we encountered so much life. Sea lions were twisting and turning around us, trying to get a closer look before darting away. Slow moving turtles swam beneath us, seemingly undisturbed by our excitement. Even when these larger creatures were not visible, the ocean was filled with hundreds of species of colorful fish. This first snorkelling experience really set us up for the next few amazing days in the Galapagos.
Next up was a morning of rest and relaxation at Playa Mann beach. When we arrived, we realized that we wouldn’t be alone in our relaxation as a family of sea lions was already fast asleep on the beach! In the afternoon we headed out for a short walk to explore the beaches and cliffs of the island. Our exploration was greeted with a crazy number of wildlife sightings. One of the most frequent was the Marine Iguana, a raccoon sized reptile that is endemic to the Galapagos. After our hike we visited La Loberia beach for another afternoon of snorkelling. “La Loberia” means “sea wolves” and it quickly became clear why, as the entire beach and bay was filled with frolicking sea lions. Once we made it into the water we were greeted by many curious sea lions eager to play. We tried to keep the 6 foot space limit between us and the animals, but they didn’t seem aware of the rule and they frequently swam right up to us. It was an absolutely incredible experience!
The next day was one that many of us had been looking forward to since our arrival in Ecuador. We were fitted for wetsuits and hopped onto boats heading out to the gorgeous Kicker’s Rock. The day started out great with an early sighting of a blue-footed boobie, and only got better from there. This was our last snorkelling experience of the trip and our local guides had informed us that we would see many familiar faces including sea lions, sea turtles and tropical fish. However, this far out in the ocean we might also have the opportunity for some new and exciting wildlife sightings including spotted eagle rays and two shark species. Within seconds of jumping into the water we saw huge tropical fish including tuna and parrotfish, which we had learned about from our Galapagos guides. Our guides led us through a gap in Kickers Rock which was about 50 meters wide and about 200 meters long. It was on this swim that we spotted a small Galapagos shark and hammerhead shark swimming deep below us. It was pretty breathtaking to watch these creatures swim out of the blue and then, a split second later, back into it.
We enjoyed a thoughtful lunch provided by the crew while boating to Manglesito Beach, which we had largely to ourselves apart from a few sea lions. Our afternoon at the beach consisted of relaxing, spotting marine iguanas on the rocks, and watching two juvenile sea lions chase each other through the water. It was magical and a great end to our time in San Cristobal.
We can’t believe this incredible adventure has come to an end!
The Westcoast Blogger
Do you want to experience the beauty of South America? Find more about our amazing 21-day Peru, Ecuador & the Galapagos Adventure!