Galapagos & mainland

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 44 / June 2020

Greetings All – on this very damp unseasonal last day of June.

We trust you are all well and only sorry that so many of you who had upcoming “lateral” adventures planned with us are unable to travel, at least not for now.  All those of you who follow us on the laterallife Instagram feed will know that on 3 June, after 11 weeks’ self-isolating on a remote peninsula in Bahia, Brazil, Helen and I  landed safely at Heathrow! Five days of travel including a speed boat trip, a stop at a remote cocoa farm, a 7 hour drive, an overnight stay in São Paulo, 3 flights and 4 airports, we landed in Heathrow to be greeted by UK Immigration; “had a nice holiday, sir?” I was asked!

This month we are showcasing a recce trip that Jessica took to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands in October 2019.   I’m sure the unique life on the Galápagos both above and below the water will be benefiting from this enforced human being breather and be all the better for it when the country and its islands finally reopen later this year.

Let’s all have a wonderful summer and we are looking forward, oh so much, to re-engaging with you travel planning wise when we officially re-open our doors in early September. I might add that I am flying the laterallife flag in the meantime and would be only too happy to take a call and recount tales of far and wide. Perhaps you will find some inspiration for some adventures of your own next year!

With our best wishes for a safe and happy summer, where ‘ere you may be.

Quito

No visit to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to the capital city of Quito. There is so much to see and do including visiting El Panecillo (the Angel of Quito) from where you have a view over all of Quito, the San Diego Convent of Father Almeida, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Plaza de San Francisco, La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús church, Plaza Independencia, Plaza de Santo Domingo and Calle La Ronda – there really is something for everyone. Amongst the many lovely hotels in the city centre, the top choices are Casa Gangotena and Illa Experience Hotel. Casa Gangotena has a luxurious feel to it from the moment you arrive and is an oasis to escape the chaos of the city. It is located in a very central location next to the San Francisco church and has a lovely rooftop terrace with views of the plaza below and all the way to El Panecillo in the distance. The Illa Experience Hotel is also located centrally in the Old Town but down a quiet street in a former mansion that is now a boutique hotel with just 10 rooms. The hotel is very tranquil and is reminiscent of a bygone era. The hotel offers experiences interacting with the local community, such as visits to local artists’ workshops, whereby guests can experience the true culture of Quito.

Sacha Lodge – Ecuadorian Amazon

 

From Quito a quick 35 minute flight brings you to Coca in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The journey from Coca to Sacha Lodge is part of the adventure and includes a short drive to the pier, followed by a 1.5 hour motorised boat ride along the Napo river, a 20 minute walk along a boardwalk and then a 15 minute canoe ride to reach the lodge. Along the way it is possible to see jungle landscapes and wildlife. When approaching the lodge, only the main building is visible as most of the lodge is set back off the lake which accentuates a level of intrigue and mystery. The rooms, connected by a series of boardwalks raised up from the water below, are fully immersed in the rain forest and feel very private. The key allure of the lodge are the activities on offer. For all activities you are accompanied by a naturalist guide and native guide who are very knowledgeable on the flora and fauna as well as the Amazonian culture. The activities include night walks, the chance to climb up the Canopy tower or the Kapok tower, a visit to a nearby parrot lick and canoe rides during the day or at night. Sacha also features a lake pool enclosed in a mesh cage for safe swimming which is a great way to cool off in the tropical heat. The latest addition is a crane that will elevate guests 50 meters above the tree canopy and then rotate them in a full circle offering wonderful views.

Hacienda San Agustin de Callo – Cotopaxi

Located 2 hours outside of Quito is the Cotopaxi volcano and the lovely San Agustin de Callo hacienda. With just 10 unique rooms it feels as if you are staying in someone’s home. The hacienda is famous for its original Inca walls, which can be seen in the rooms that have been converted into the restaurant and a chapel. If the weather is clear there are views of Cotopaxi volcano from the communal living room and gardens of the property. The hacienda offers onsite llama feeding sessions that are great fun, especially for kids. The llamas burst into the central plaza and they surround you as you feed them carrots. Other activities that can be done in the area include horse-riding and hiking as well as visits to Quilotoa Lake, Saquisli Indian Market and Cotopaxi National Park.

Galapagos Safari Camp – Santa Cruz Island

The main island in the Galapagos archipelago is Santa Cruz, which almost always features on an itinerary to these fascinating islands. It is easily accessible from mainland Ecuador with multiple flights daily from Quito and Guayaquil to Baltra Island, located a 5 minute boat ride across the Itabaca channel. Santa Cruz itself offers a variety of scenery and wildlife including lush highlands, lava tunnels, beautiful beaches and the opportunity to see a wide array of wildlife including the famous giant tortoises.

Located in the highlands in the centre of Santa Cruz island is Galapagos Safari Camp, offering luxury safari-style tented accommodation. With just 9 tents and 1 family suite the camp is intimate and has lovely views of the highlands extending all the way to the coast. GSC can be booked as either a relaxing addition to a cruise or as a base on a standalone active trip to explore the Galapagos. If you are looking for relaxation GSC has a small infinity pool as well as a wonderful viewpoint with a bar. It is easy to spend 2 or 3 nights simply unwinding and enjoying the excellent food and service. GSC also boasts excellent guides who can take you on daytrips throughout Santa Cruz island and to a number of the surrounding nearby islands, including Seymour, Bartolome, Plazas and Santa Fe. Each island is unique and offers the opportunity to see an abundance of wildlife such as tortoises, marine iguanas, sealions, frigate birds, blue footed boobies and flamingos. Other activities include fishing, cycling, kayaking, snorkelling, beaches, and a visit to the Charles Darwin research station. GSC is an excellent choice for families offering specially tailored family itineraries, kid friendly guides, as well as more space for children to explore.

Finch Bay – Santa Cruz Island

Finch Bay is located in the main town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island and is only accessible by a short 2 minute water taxi ride to Los Alemanes port. From there it is a further 5 minutes along the boardwalk to Los Alemanes beach and the hotel. The hotel has a pool, gym, brand new spa and a vegetable garden growing produce for its excellent restaurant. The Suites are excellent for families with spacious interconnecting rooms overlooking the beach. Los Alemanes beach in front of the hotel is fairly small and can be crowded. Instead we recommend taking a water taxi to Tortuga Beach, which offers a beautiful wide expanse of beach with a lagoon that is great for swimming and known for its iguanas basking in the sun on the beach.

Scalesia Lodge – Isabela Island

Scalesia Lodge is located in the highlands of Isabela Island and can be reached by a short 25 minute flight from Baltra island or by a 2 hour ferry ride from Santa Cruz island. The first impressions of Scalesia are lovely with wonderful views over the slopes of a volcano, the coast, the Pacific Ocean, and other islands dotting the horizon. The accommodation is also in luxury safari camp style tents immersed in foliage. The main lodge offers a restaurant area downstairs, a seating and relaxation area upstairs and an outdoor deck with a hot tub. One of the main sights on Isabela Island is the Wall of Tears, a historical sight that was built in the 1940’s and 1950’s by prisoners sent to Isabela with many dying in the construction of the wall. The way to the wall passes by numerous beaches and lookouts and in the area it is also possible to see marine iguanas, flamingos and giant tortoises. From the wall there are nice views out over the surrounding landscape to volcanoes and beaches. A daytrip to Los Tuneles is also highly recommended and is 40 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil, the main town on the island. Los Tuneles is an area formed by convoluted lava formations standing between mangroves and the open sea. It is possible to walk along the lava formations and hopefully spot blue footed boobies as well as turtles in the water below. The area is an outstanding spot for snorkelling and it is possible to see white-tipped sharks, manta rays, turtles, seahorses and even penguins.

Galapagos National Park

If you are not wanting to stay on the islands a cruise could be a good option. There is an abundance of cruise options to choose from ranging from small 10 cabin vessels to larger 100 person capacity boats, so there really is an option to suit everyone. At the smaller end of the scale is Ecoventura with their boats Origin and Theory both catering for just 20 guests. As the only Relais & Chateaux accredited cruise, Ecoventura offers the upmost in luxury. Another intimate option is Golden Galapagos with the Endemic and Elite vessels which both accommodate up to 17 guests. If looking for a larger vessel, Metropolitan Touring has 3 vessels with varying size and capacity. Isabela II is the smallest with 20 cabins and was refurbished in 2018. The 24 cabin La Pinta vessel is the most luxurious of the three and was just refurbished earlier this year. Finally, Santa Cruz II has 50 cabins for up to 90 guests offering more communal space. Many cruises offer family friendly departures or feature special amenities to cater for children. The advantage of a cruise is the fact that a much larger territory can be covered, including some outlying and less accessible islands.

Up Periscope: Sol y Luna – Sacred Valley,  Peru

From the moment you arrive at Sol y Luna you can instantly tell it is an amazing property. It is located in an extremely scenic part of the Sacred Valley (the fertile land in between Cusco and Machu Picchu) and the grounds of the hotel are beautifully landscaped. Just walking from the lobby to your room you get a wonderful feel for the property, as you walk through the gardens and pass by the restaurant, pool, gym and spa. The Casitas are very spacious with unique furnishings, a fireplace, an outside terrace and some even have a hot tub. There are also interconnecting casitas which are excellent for families. The entire existence of the hotel is to support the Sol y Luna foundation, located next to the hotel. The foundation was set up first in order to help underprivileged children in the Sacred Valley area and consists of a school and foster care programmes.  The hotel was built later on to help fund the school. Today there are 200 children helped through the three projects: The Intercultural School, the Centre for differently-abled children and the Home for abandoned children. Due to the current pandemic the hotel is closed and the foundation is in need of support to continue offering these valuable services. If you are able to make a small donation it would be greatly appreciated. Please go to www.gofundme.com/f/a-true-challenge-help-us-save-the-sol-y-luna-home for more information.

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