A walk on the wild side – exploring the Galapagos Islands with kids
Kids just delight in the close-up encounters with animals, from swimming with playful sea lions to watching friendly giant tortoises go by. In the Galapagos, they can learn all about the basics of evolution and nature without the need for a text book.
A family vacation to the Galapagos works best with children aged 6-years upwards, as they can participate in all the activities on boats and on land. Younger children will enjoy playing on pristine beaches, swimming and spotting animals; whereas energetic teenagers can have a real adventure kayaking, snorkeling and biking in the highlands on cruise expeditions or surfing and scuba-diving from island lodges like Finch Bay.
Family friendly boats
The most family friendly boats in the Galapagos are the mid-size boats accommodating between 35-40 passengers or large boats with a maximum of 100 because they offer plenty of space to hang out indoors and on deck and a wide range of activities to keep young kids and teenagers entertained. The Santa Cruz II and La Pinta have a good range of connecting cabins that work well for families.
On these mid to large boats there is a greater likelihood that there will be other families on board so your kids can make friends with other kids. Our specialists can advise on suitable boats and departures to ensure other families will be on board if that is your preference. Boats such as Santa Cruz II, Isabela and La Pinta have a ‘Pirates Aboard’ program so young Jack Sparrow wannabees are welcomed with a draw-string bag of goodies, and are catered for with children’s books, DVDs, menus and organized activities like scavenger hunts dependent on the number of young guests on board. The Eclipse also offers special family departures during school vacations.
On board activities
On board they have glass bottom boats, kayaks, snorkeling gear and pangas (rib boats) for ocean bound adventures. In the Galapagos, regulations ensure one guide looks after a maximum of 16 guests, so for families small boats can be restricting on activity choice because there are fewer guides on board to run different activities. On larger boats, there tends to be fewer guests (around 12 people) to a group and there will be more guides on board so it gives more flexibility for a family to choose different activities, so if the kids don’t fancy a hike, they can get out on the water kayaking or snorkeling instead. Small boats tend to work well when a family is chartering the entire boat, like the Sea Star Journey, for a family trip of a lifetime. If you’d rather stay on dry land, then consider Galapagos Safari Camp, the owners designed the camp with their own young family in mind. The family suite comprises three connecting rooms which can sleep a family of 6, each with its own bathroom so it is ideal for families with younger children. Teens will love the experience of sleeping in the tents – even though the tents don’t connect, the Galapagos are a safe environment with no hostile predators. There is an outdoor pool and games room for little ones, plus the camp works with guides who have their own children so can adapt the guiding to suit all ages. As well as enjoying days out snorkeling, visits to see giant tortoises or beaches with slumbering sea lions and marine iguanas, they can also offer art and cookery classes, beach combing, days out with local fishermen, cycling and visits to local farms.
Staying on land
Families should also consider Finch Bay, a chic beachfront eco-lodge, with packages that include daily wildlife expeditions on the smart Sea Lion Yacht and island adventures from surf school and scuba-diving sessions to mangrove kayaking and mountain biking in the highlands. The lodge can organize connecting family rooms, and the secluded crescent beach and large swimming pool is a hit with the kids.
Katie, one of our Latin America Travel Consultants, gives her top tips about these boats and lodges in her blog from the Galapagos.
A maximum of 75,000 visitors a year can visit the Galapagos Islands, which is roughly the same number of football fans that fit in Manchester Stadium on match day.
There are less than 2,000 Flightless Cormorants on the planet, making them one of the world’s rarest birds.
The famous Galapagos Marine Iguana can live on land and in the sea, watching them dive to depths of up to 30 feet is quite a sight.
Located around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands can be combined with an Amazon rainforest adventure or a visit to Peru’s magnificent Inca Ruins of Machu Picchu.
The blue-footed booby is an adorable bird with electric blue feet, they have a fantastic courtship dance where they prance about, spread their wings and make a bow!
The Galapagos Islands were discovered in 1535 when a ship was blown off course; Charles Darwin actually arrived 300 years later when his visit resulted in his theory of evolution published in The Origin of the Species.
Just 3% of the Galapagos Islands are populated; the rest is designated National Park and remains one of the most protected wildlife areas in the world.