January 20th 2018

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Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands

 

Continent: South America. Country: Ecuador. City: Quito.

Ecuador And The Galapagos Islands

By Chrissi Knights, Explorer Travel

Everyone heading for the Galapagos must first land in Ecuador but very few stay long enough to savour what delights the mainland has to offer. Before our Galapagos cruise we decided to make the most of our pre-cruise time by touring around.

My husband and I landed in Quito, Ecuador’s capital a few days before New Year’s Eve and stayed in the centre of Old Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Old Quito is typically colonial Spanish with its narrow cobbled streets and large busy squares. From Quito it is possible to make several day trips and these include the Equatorial Line Monument and Otavalo’s lively handicraft markets. Further a field, but definitely worth one or two night’s stay is Mindo and the Cloud Forest, home to 325 species of birds. Birders will be in heaven when they spot the brightly coloured quetzals and sweet little hummingbirds!

From Quito we flew to Coca for the next part of our adventure at the Napo Wildlife Centre in the Amazon Basin. We spent four days in the tropical rainforest and mostly in a canoe. Our local naturalist guides were brilliant finding and pointing  out wildlife such as snakes (including the most poisonous), woolly and howler monkeys and beautiful parrots at the clay licks. After our short flight back to Quito we headed down to Riobamba on the Pan American Highway and through the breathtaking snow-capped Andes known as the Avenue of Volcanoes. It is also possible to visit the region of Cotopaxi by train. Indeed this part of our journey was to head down to Alausí and the Devil’s Nose Train.

We headed back to Quito for one last night before our flight out to the Galapagos. Nine days was not enough time to take in all the wonders of Ecuador and we regret not visiting Cuenca in the south. It is possible to travel from Cuenca to Guayaquil and then fly direct from Guayaquil to Baltra in the Galapagos, with a shorter flying time than from Quito.

Saving the best until last, our seven night Galapagos cruise on Celebrity Xpedition was without doubt the best part of our trip. Xpedition caters for 94 guests and is one of the largest vessels in the Galapagos; most vessels cater for 16 passengers. Celebrity’s team of highly qualified naturalists and friendly staff help to make the experience easygoing and fun. The food on Xpedition is wonderful with a great choice, even catering to my vegetarian fads. Because of recent regulation changes, Xpedition offers 2 itineraries and we sailed from Baltra on “B” visiting a total of eight islands and fourteen locations. Getting to the islands was by panga (tender) with both wet and dry landings. The wildlife is extraordinary and so fearless of humans. Although we were told, “do not get too close to the wildlife”, it was sometimes difficult when you discover you are being followed by a curious sealion. The marine iguana is another strange but wonderful creature. To be able to survive in the Galapagos they have adapted to live and forage in the sea, they then snort out the salt, leaving their noses all streaked, I just knew I should have taken some spare hankies! 

My most favourite of all were the tiny little Galapagos penguins. Such little comics frolicking about in the water, getting close to snorkelers, and then suddenly diving before I had a chance to snap them on camera. Many of the creatures are endemic, such as the giant tortoise, waved albatross and the flightless cormorant that has lost its ability to fly yet dries off its wings after every dive. Many of them are in abundance such as the blue footed booby, iguanas and sealions. In fact the sealions have a habit of taking over. If you see a bench and fancy taking a rest, you can be sure you will find it laden with sealions having their siesta and they are not going anywhere.

I can truly say that every day in the Galapagos was filled with surprise and delight. These islands are truly extraordinary and if there were not so many other places in the world to visit I would be back again this year!


Chrissi Knights
Explorer Travel
Packridge Farm, Packridge Lane, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 9LL
Website:  www.packridgecruises.co.uk
Email: chrissi.knights@explorertravel.co.uk 

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