The Galápagos Islands & The Cloud Forest

Quito – Cloud Forest – Quito – Galápagos Cruise – Galápagos Santa Cruz Island

Discover Ecuador’s Cloud Forest and the incredible geography and wildlife of The Galápagos islands on this once-in-a-lifetime 15-day family adventure.

The Galápagos Islands & The Cloud Forest

Quito – Cloud Forest – Quito – Galápagos Cruise – Galápagos Santa Cruz Island

DESCRIPTION

This 15-day family adventure will take you from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, nestled high in the Andes, to the cloud forest region of Mindo that is literally buzzing with hummingbirds. Go zip lining, tubing and mountain biking before heading to The Galápagos islands where you will discover the incredible geography and wildlife that make up this unique archipelago.

Best For: Wildlife & Adventure; big kids and teens (but all ages welcome)

This 15-day adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Activities may include:

 

  • Discover the unique ‘cloud forest’ ecosystem, a place where the rainforest meets the mountains, just two hours drive from Quito. These pristine tropical forests have some of the best and easiest bird watching in the world – don’t forget your binoculars!
  • Whizz down the mountain on a mountain bike and watch the vegetation change from páramo to cloud forest to low montane forest as you cycle down the mountain. Keep an eye out for parrots, hummingbirds and toucans along the way!
  • Arrive at a riverside lodge by tarabita (hand-pulled cable car) and spend the night in the incredible environment of the tropical cloud forest of Mindo.
  • Visit waterfalls, stop by a butterfly farm, swim in crystal clear streams, spot exotic birds and much more as you discover the unique cloud forest ecosystem.
  • Dig your toes into the beautiful white sandy beach on Bachas Beach in the Galápagos, the soft sand makes it a favourite for nesting Sea turtles.
  • Visit a recently formed lava-field on Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island.
  • Head to Bartolome, home to one of the most iconic scenery shots of Galápagos. The striking volcanic landscape looks almost lunar and provides a great introduction to the volcanic origins of the islands.
  • If you are lucky, swim with Galápagos penguins!
  • Learn all about the beautiful island of Genovesa, home to an incredible variety of birdlife. Interestingly there are no land reptiles here and only very small Marine Iguanas, due to direction of ocean currents which apparently would not have carried terrestrial animals here.
  • Witness squadrons of Frigatebirds, watch Red-footed Boobies perch on the branches of trees and discover the story behind the name of the Vampire Finches.
  • Visit James Bay, the island where Charles Darwin spent the majority of his land visits in the Galápagos, and get up close and personal with Fur Seals and Galápagos Sea Lions.
  • Travel by dinghy or kayak to Bucaneer Cove, the place where Darwin landed and built his base camp.
  • Stop by the seahorse-shaped island of Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos. Formed from six separate volcanoes the island is home to some incredible volcanic scenery.
  • See incredible wildlife when you go snorkelling in crystal clear waters, don’t be surprised if a friendly sea lion comes up to say hello!
  • Discover Punta Espinosa, home to the largest colonies of Marine Iguanas in the Galápagos.
  • Walk up the slopes of the Darwin Volcano as you hike towards Tagus Cove.
  • Say hello to the Galápagos penguins on a dinghy ride of Elizabeth Bay. This is one of the best areas to see them as they prefer the cooler waters found on the western side of Isabela island.
  • Hike to the rim of the caldera of Sierra Negra Volcano, one of the largest caldera’s in the world.
  • Stop by the tortoise breeding centre on Isabela, created to help increase the population of the endangered Giant Tortoises.
  • Visit the wetlands of Isabela Island and discover lagoons, swamps and mangroves home to a variety of unique bird species such as Common Stilts, Whimbrels and other shore birds.
  • Step inside the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn about the work being done to conserve and protect the islands wildlife.
  • Take a walk to Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galápagos where sea turtles nest. The walk from Puerto Avora takes you through a Giant Cactus forest, the ideal environment to look for several species of Darwin Finches and Galapagos Flycatchers.

 

 

KIDS

There is no minimum age for children to participate in this holiday although the older the child the more they will get out of the experience. Generally it is recommend that children are at least six- or seven-years-old to participate, however children as young as three have enjoyed this holiday! Children should be good swimmers and confident in the water. There is a minimum age requirement for children wishing to participate in zip lining, tubing and mountain biking (please check with our partner agent), however these activities are all optional.

Our partner agents are parents themselves and have travelled around the Galápagos Islands with their own young children. It goes without saying that they are experts at organising family-friendly adventures in this incredible corner of the world.

ITINERARY

This holiday traditionally starts and ends in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. However the itinerary can be fully customised to suit your family’s requirements. Our partner agent will be happy to advise you. See below for sample itinerary:

 

Day 1 : Arrive Quito, the capital of Ecuador

Arrive Quito late afternoon where you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel.

Overnight: Overnight stay a a boutique hotel in Quito.

 

Day 2: Cloud Forest – Mountain Biking

In under two hours drive from Quito the cloud forests of western slopes of the Ecuadorean Andes provide an excellent taste of pristine tropical forests with some of the best and easiest bird watching in the world. For those who wish to cycle, you can mountain bike downhill for part of the journey down. Otherwise you will be driven down stopping for lunch at a lodge that is home to over 30 species of hummingbirds.

Overnight: Overnight at a riverside lodge set in the cloud forest.

 

Day 3 & 4: Cloud Forest

You have two full days to explore the forest; walk to a waterfall, visit a bio-research station, stop by a nearby butterfly farm and then whiz along on a canopy zip wire or try your hand at tubing. A local guide will accompany you.

Overnight: Overnight at a riverside lodge.

 

Day 5: Cloud Forest – Quito

After lunch you will be collected and taken back to your hotel in Quito.

Overnight: Overnight stay a a boutique hotel in Quito.

 

Day 6: Quito – The Galapagos and the start of your cruise

You will be collected from the hotel and taken to the airport in Quito for your flight to Baltra, in The Galapagos Islands and your Galapagos adventure will begin. Upon arrival at Baltra islet, you will be met and taken across to Santa Cruz Island.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 7: Santiago – Sullivan Bay & Bartolome

Sullivan Bay offers a rare look at a recently formed lava-field. Located on the eastern coast of James Island, just across from Bartolome, this lava field is thought to have been created in eruptions that took place around 1890. Bartolome is home to one of the most iconic scenery shots of the Galapagos. The striking volcanic landscape looks almost lunar and provides a great introduction to the volcanic origins of the islands.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 8: Genovesa & El Barranco or Prince Philip’s Steps & Darwin Bay

A highlight of any visit to the Galapagos, this is a truly beautiful island thanks to the richness of its birdlife. You will land on a coral beach, and will immediately be struck by the amount of birdlife including Great Frigatebirds, Red-footed Boobies, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Lava gulls and much more. On El Barranco you will clim to the cliff-top and enter an area where nesting Nazca Boobies and Great Frigatebirds are found.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 9: James – (Santiago) – James Bay (Puerto Egas) – Bucaneer Cove

This was the island where Charles Darwin spent the majority of his land visits in Galapagos. At James Bay, the Fur Seal Grottos provide great chances to get close views of both Fur Seals and Galapagos Sea Lions in a series of rocky pools. This visit also provides some of the best opportunities for tide-pooling in the Galapagos, and chances to see shore birds such as Plovers, Sandpipers, Herons and Oystercatchers. The snorkel from the beach is excellent.  Bucaneer Cove is the place where Darwin landed and built his base camp on his visit to James.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 10: Isabela Island

The seahorse-shaped Isabela Island was formed from six separate volcanoes and is the largest island in the Galapagos. Witness beautiful volcanic scenery at Vicente Roca Point where Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies sit along the cliffs – if you’re luck you’ll even see penguins in the water! The upwelling of cold water currents have created an abundance of marine life here, making for great snorkelling. At Punta Espinosa you will see the largest colony of Marine Iguanas in the Galapagos.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 11: Isabela Island – Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove & Elizabeth Bay

Urbina Bay  is a nesting site for Land Iguanas and occasionally, giant tortoises coming from the moist uplands. It’s also a good place to see Darwin finches and it’s not rare to see Galapagos Hawks. The walk to Tagus Cove will take you up the slopes of the Darwin Volcano to a small hill where you will see spectacular views of the northern lava fields of Isabela. On the west coast of the island is Elizabeth Bay. No landings are permitted here but it makes for a beautiful dinghy ride and is one of the best areas to see Galapagos Penguins.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 12: Isabela Island – Las Tintoreras or Shark Reef Canal, Sierra Negra Volcano & Tortoise Breeding Centre

Located on the other side of a small bay with completely calm turquoise waters, Las Tintoreras is a great place to see Sea Lions, Sea Turtles and Marine Iguanas as well as other Galapagos wildlife. This site gets its name thanks to a large lava crevice where, at low tide, white-tipped Reef Sharks are found resting or swimming. Visit the Sierra Negra Volcano, which has one of the largest caldera’s in the world, measuring over 6 miles across. The Galapagos has 11 different species of Giant Tortoise of which five species are endemic to Isabela. A new breeding facility, built just outside of town by the Galapagos National Park Service is helping to increase the populations of these iconic endangered reptiles.

Overnight: On the yacht

 

Day 13: Santa Cruz – Charles Darwin Research Station

The Charles Darwin Research Station offers a great chance to learn about the work being done to conserve and protect the islands wildlife. The highlands of Santa Cruz are home to fascinating geological features, like lava tubes and the twin sinkhole craters of Los Gemelos, which are home to some 300 different fern species as well as a forest of Scalesias, a relative of sunflowers. The highlands of Santa Cruz are one of the best places to see Giant Tortoises in the wild.

Here, your team will help you bring your luggage from the yacht, whilst the rest of your group will now return to Baltra for their flight home, you will have the next 2 nights to explore on your own the island of Santa Cruz.

Overnight: Overnight in a family owned hotel in Puerto Avora.

 

Day 14: Full day to explore Puerto Avora, Santa Cruz Island

There are quite a few places you can explore on your own from Puerto Ayora, but Tortuga Bay comes highly recommended.

Overnight: Overnight in a family owned hotel in Puerto Avora.

 

Day 15: Transfer to Baltra – Flight to Guayaquil and connecting flight home.

 

END OF HOLIDAY

 

 

 

 

WHEN TO GO

 

Cloud Forest: The best time to visit Mindo is between May and December, when the weather is drier. January and April are the rainiest months, February and March are less wet but the roads and trails will still be muddy. Tubing on the rivers may not be possible when water levels are very low in the dry season or when the current is too fast at the height of the rainy season.

 

The Galapagos Islands: The climate in the Galapagos is subtropical and is regulated by the warm Nino Current and the cold Humbolt Current.

  • January to May: from low 80°F (27°C) to low 90°F (32°C) (possible rain)
  • June to September: low 60°F (15°C) to high 70°F (21°C) (possible rain)
  • October to December: 70°F (21°C) to 80° (27°C) (dry season)

 

December to May – The time period between December and May is considered the “warm season.” During this warmer season, the Galapagos’ climate is more tropical with daily rain and cloudier skies. Also, the ocean temperature is warmer for swimming and snorkelling.

June to December – From June to December the southern trade winds bring the colder Humbolt current north to the Galapagos. This means that the water is cooler, and a layer of high atmosphere mist pervades the island skies. In effect, the highlands of the larger islands are kept green and lush, while the sea level islands and shorelines have very little rainfall thus; June to December is generally called the “dry season”.

What to Bring

  • Bring snorkels and fins in kids’ sizes and wetsuits if you’re visiting during the months of July and August as the water is cold. If travelling with a toddler then consider bringing a life vest suited to a small child.
  • It’s worth bringing shoes that can get wet but are sturdy enough for walking on rocky paths around the islands.
  • A good pair of binoculars is a must and a waterproof camera for capturing your snorkelling adventures!
  • On some smaller boats you may feel the swells, especially at night, if you or your child are prone to motion sickness then talk to your doctor about motion-sickness remedies.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of sun screen and hats.
 A comprehensive list of what to bring will be issued by our partner agent prior to travel.

 

Luggage Allowance

Luggage for your flight from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos is restricted to 1-piece weighing no more than 20 kg (44lbs). Excess baggage is subject to a heavy tariff. You can also carry one piece of hand luggage (size restrictions similar to international flights 56 cm long, 45 cm wide and 25 cm deep). All the hotels we use have a safe baggage storage facility with no charge, which our guide can help you co-ordinate.

 

Reading:

There’s probably no need to read Darwin’s Origin of the Species prior to travel but there are some very good books that will prepare you for your trip.
Galápagos Wildlife (Bradt Travel Guides (Wildlife Guides) by David Horwell and Pete Oxford provides an excellent introduction to the islands and their wildlife.
For kidsGalapagos George by Jean Craighead George, tells the tale of the Pinta Island saddleback tortoise. The brief story describes how these tortoises came to be millions of years ago and why the species became extinct in 2012 with the death of the 100-year-old Lonesome George.
Island: A Story of the Galapagos, by Jason Chin, is a fantastic introduction to the Galapagos Islands for children aged 5 – 8 years-old including the birth, growth and eventual disappearance of an island in the Galapagos.
Inside The Beagle with Charles Darwin, by Fiona Macdonald and Mark Bergin, is an illustrated voyage of the Beagle with Charles Darwin and introduces children to life aboard Darwin’s ship and what he observed in the Galapagos. Recommended for children aged 8 and above.
For very little kids,  We’re Sailing to Galapagos: A Week in the Pacific, by Laurie Krebs and Grazia Restelli, is colourful adventure where each day of the week introduces another fascinating creature – giant tortoises, skipping lava crabs and more.

RATES & BOOKING

Rates vary according to time of year, number of adults and children in your family and length of the holiday (this holiday can be fully customised to suit your family’s requirements). Please contact our partner agent directly for an exact quote based on your requirements.

This holiday is organised by our UK-based partner agent who are dedicated Ecuador and Galapagos specialists with over thirty years of experience in organising exceptional holidays to Ecuador and Galapagos.

Ecuador and Galapagos make for the most amazing family holiday. You’ll get up close with some of the most unique wildlife on earth, explore new landscapes, discover new cultures, sharing and discovering new experiences together as a family.

As parents with young children themselves, they have travelled extensively in Ecuador and Galapagos with their children and understand what makes an exceptional family adventure holiday. They also understand the care and attention that is needed to create a holiday that is not only inspirational, but that is remembered for a lifetime.

Working with a hand picked selection of the very best Galapagos small boat cruises, beautiful lodges and a team of highly professional friendly bi-lingual guides, who are leaders in their field and in most cases parents themselves, our partner agent know exactly what is required to create the perfect Ecuador and Galapagos holiday for your family.

Our partner agent is also committed to practicing responsible tourism. All of their holidays are guided by its central principles – that our visit can and should benefit the local community, that we should leave places as we discovered them and that our visit is so much more than a holiday; it is a chance to learn more about the ecosystems we visit and their conservation value.

Complete Operator information, including local telephone numbers at your destination, will be given to you upon completing an enquiry.

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