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Family Adventure in the Galapagos

by Felicity Long

Sep 9, 2018

© International Expeditions

Destinations / South America

For many families, the Galapagos, with its exotic marine, plant and bird life and eye-popping scenery, is a bucket-list destination.


Situated just more than 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these volcanic islands — 19 in all — offer a dizzying array of sting rays, giant tortoises, sea lions, sharks and exotic birds that sharp-eyed passengers can spot from the deck of a ship, or even better, from the water through the lens of snorkeling gear.


The destination, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, is best explored on a small-ship adventure cruise vessel, and, luckily, there are multiple options to choose from.


Boutique travel company Latin Trails, for example, not only welcomes kids but offers a 50 percent discount for children aged 17 and younger. The company’s Sea Star Journey accommodates up to 16 passengers, and there are adjoining staterooms, kid-sized snorkeling gear and children’s menu options.


International Expeditions is offering deals on its October Galapagos Islands cruise, which welcomes families with children aged 7 and older on the 32-passenger M/V Evolution. The cruise offers special kid-friendly programming when children are on board, geared to their ages and interests. Young passengers can learn to pilot a Zodiac, for example; take Spanish lessons; go on scavenger hunts; and relax with a movie night. Other activities include twice-daily swimming and snorkeling excursions — where sea lion pups and some of the archipelago’s 86 endemic marine species might join you — as well as possible whale watching outings, especially between Fernandina and Isabela Islands. Families can also snorkel and kayak off uninhabited Rabida Island and call on a family-run sugar cane farm, which also produces small-batch moonshine, followed by a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center, famous for its tortoise breeding programs. Trained naturalists escort activities and also share their knowledge during on-board lectures and activities.


Small group adventure tour operator G Adventures’ program is growing its fleet of chartered vessels for the Galapagos Island with a fifth yacht, while upping its commitment to further reduce environmental impact on the popular destination. Beginning in January 2019, the 16-passenger Eden yacht will join G Adventures’ four other touring vessels in hosting small group, sea-based trips around the 20 major and smaller Galapagos islands. The company will offer six different itineraries around the North, Central, West, East and Southern islands, ranging from seven to 17 days long.


G Adventures will offer all passengers complimentary, reusable, stainless-steel water bottles for both sea- and land-based trips that depart Jan. 1, 2019, onward.


“The issue of plastics pollution is a massive challenge that is wreaking havoc on our seas and shores. Whether the crisis shows up in waves of trash on beaches such as in the Dominican Republic this past week, or in the remains of deceased marine animals like whales, as tour operators, we have more responsibility than ever to reduce any negative impact. I’m proud that our teams in Ecuador have stepped up to manage the logistics of reusable bottle storage and distribution to our customers visiting the Galapagos,” said Ben Perlo, managing director, North America, G Adventures.


G Adventures offers more than 30 different itineraries throughout the Galapagos Islands. Travelers can choose to either travel on one of the company’s five boats or to move between the islands by speedboat and stay on land.


AdventureSmith family cruises adventure, travel Galapagos Coral Yacht © AdventureSmith Explorations


AdventureSmith Explorations also welcomes families to its Galapagos programs, and each of its vessels has its own child policy. Some allow only ages 12 and up, while others, typically in the 80–100-passenger range, allow kids younger than 6. The company’s general rule of thumb is kids 6 and older will enjoy the Galapagos Islands, but the sweet spot for this destination is ages 8­–12, as these kids are old enough to appreciate and enjoy the wildlife and experiences they will encounter.


AdventureSmith curated a list of the best options for families, and parents can contact the company for an even more in-depth exploration of the various options.


Families with teens 15 and older and multigenerational groups can take part in Peregrine Adventure’s 10-day Classic Galapagos or the six-day Galapagos Encounter. The company showcases its first new-build vessel, equipped with solar panels and other low-impact innovations, as part of its growing small-ship adventure cruising program.


The 98-foot, 16-passenger Grand Queen Beatriz, which sailed on her inaugural voyage this summer, offers everything from following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with a hike on Bartolome; iguana and sea lion spotting at Plaza Sur and Santa Fe; and encounters with ancient giant tortoises at San Cristobal.


“Peregrine’s style of cruising is all about immersing yourself in a place, learning about the culture and visiting spectacular natural environments,” said Filippos Venetopoulos, adventure cruising general manager, Peregrine. “Queen Bea will offer a boutique expedition cruising experience including multiple shore activities each day from leisurely beach walks to volcanic treks, and open-water or beach snorkeling offering the chance to swim with sea lions and turtles.”


Finally, Silverseas’ all-suite Silver Galapagos welcomes families with children as young as 5 along on two seven-day Galapagos journeys. The 100-guest vessel offers such family-friendly activities as Zodiac tours, snorkeling, kayaking and nature hikes led by our certified National Park guides.


The ship offers high-end cuisine, butler service and complimentary wines and spirits served throughout the ship, including a stocked in-suite minibar, complimentary in-suite dining and room service and unlimited free WiFi.


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