Ecuador (incl. the Galapagos Islands) March 2020

We started our journey with a short hop from Heathrow to Schiphol and (as usual when we fly with KLM) we stayed overnight at CitizenM rather than in one of the Heathrow hotels. From there we flew to Guayaquil, a coastal city to start our new adventure.

As before, Sandra at Frontier Travel sorted it out for us and all ran smoothly. A specially big thank you for reassuring emails with the sudden change at the end of the holiday (see below).

Once we'd crossed the Atlantic, we had some lovely views from the plane.


Costa Rica from the plane window


As in earlier years, I've included a few photos on this page - places we stayed, people we met, general views etc. with the rest of the photos split onto the various pages as listed below.

Please click on the page(s) you'd like to visit.

The Galapagos Islands
Although we'd travelled to various places over the years, we'd saved "South America" for Shirley's retirement so this was our first foray into that part of the world.
Ecuador wasn't the first place we looked at but it turned out to be more practical than some as there were fewer internal flights (always an issue with all the cameras). Of course, the Galapagos Islands was a huge attraction for us as well!

First stop was Guayaquil where we stayed at the Hotel del Parque for a couple of nights and enjoyed a half day scenic tour.



Jacob (Metropolitan Touring) collected us from the airport and accompanied us to the hotel with an interesting chat about his city en route.

For the guided tour, Ricardo took over so up quite early as we set off at 9 a.m. for a really interesting, 5 hour journey around Guayaquil - what a fascinating place.

A few highlights from the tour include:

The stunning scenery on the way up to a lookout point. Ricardo and Jonathon enjoyed doing some bird spotting in this area.

The lovely iguanas in Iguana Park (not really called that - it's proper name is Parque Seminario but nobody calls it that!)

The beautiful cathedral, especially the stained glass windows.





The afternoon found us wandering around the historic park where the hotel was situated, specifically the animal rescue part of the park. These were just two of the many animals we could see there. If the animals are fit enough, they are released back into the wild otherwise they live their days out in this rescue centre.




Two-toed Sloth

We had an early start the following morning as we flew to The Galapagos Islands to start a 7 day boat trip on M/Y Passion around the islands.


First island, Santa Cruz where we spent time with some Dome-back Tortoises - they really were giants!

In the afternoon, we visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre in Puerto Ayora, learned about the breeding programme and how these hybrid tortoises have been sterilised but will be released back into the wild as they are really important to keep the Prickly Pear plant population healthy.
prickly pear

We woke up anchored off Floreana.


First treat of the day was a panga ride where we saw Green Sea Turtles, Bottle-nosed Dolphins and lots of birdlife including quite a few Blue-Footed Boobies



We had a wet landing then a walk along a trail to try and find Flamingo (successfully) and ended up at a lovely, white, sandy beach where this Black-tipped Shark was cruising in the shallows and Brown Pelicans were soaring around.



The afternoon found us at the site where human habitation of the Galapagos began with Robert keeping us all amused with his local history stories.

Day 4 and we visited the postbox (barrel) to post a card to ourselves (see Galapagos page for more info).


The main purpose of visiting this lovely beach was snorkelling but it was too rough for Jonathon and me so we stayed on the beach and had a nice walk around, admiring the colours and watching a friendly pelican.


We saw a pod of Common Dolphin while we were travelling along towards Isabella and we were amazed by the beautiful sunset



The next morning was foggy when we set off for a Lava Flow walk on Isabella. We were grateful for the walking sticks as it was very hard and tricky terrain.


Robert kept us informed of what was what along the way.


After the walk, we enjoyed a panga ride, the main aim of which was trying to spot Flightless Cormorant (left) and Galapagos Penguin (right). We saw a whole load of other animals as well - a really interesting morning.

The morning didn't finish there as we also had the option to go snorkelling but when Robert checked out the water he advised the visibility wasn't great so we gave that a miss.


After yet another delicious lunch we went over to a beach on Isabella to look for Land Iguanas.

Still with Isabella the following day, we walked uphill to enjoy the views of Darwin's Lake then snorkelled to enjoy the views of the deep.

Jonathon told me the Cormorant's claws were very sharp (it walked along him as if he were a rock!)


Darwin's Lake

That afternoon found us in yet another island - Fernandina this time - looking for Sea Lions and Marine Iguanas (and, hopefully, a Galapagos Hawk as they love to eat the iguana). Thankfully we saw a couple of hawks - one flew off before we got near it but the other stayed perched in the mangroves so we could snap a photo or two.


Back on the boat and a long journey around Isabella crossing the equator twice - once going north then later going south ending up off Isla Santiago.


The next day dawned bright and clear with a promise of heat. Our walk around Isla Santiago was pretty early so we didn't melt!



My Birthday treat was to see this gorgeous baby Sea Lion - so cute and it would have been very hard to maintain the 6 foot rule had Mum not been close by!


Snorkelling was followed by a panga ride along part of the coast then an interesting talk about conservation from Robert.


The following day we were out and about again on the "other" side of Isla Santiago to admire the contrast between the black lava flow and the red of the volcanic ash cones.


More snorkelling followed and the highlight (for me) was seeing this lovely Spotted EagRay float past. Such a treat.

We spent the afternoon on North Seymour island which was really hot but great for seeing birds close up. The birds primarily being Frigate Birds and Blue-footed Booby.

Back to the Passion and almost the end of the cruise before flying back to the mainland.

We had one last treat - a very early visit to Mosquera beach to watch the sunrise - saved the best sunrise until last.



7 days without WiFi, phones etc. was bliss until the final day when some of our fellow passengers started contacting the outside world via satellite and updating us re the Corona Virus and the number of countries that were closing their borders.

We arrived in Quito, supposedly for one night before going to Mashpi Lodge for a few days then back to Quito only to be told that Mashpi Lodge had closed due to the corona virus and we were being flown home the following day.


Such a shame but nothing we could do about it so we re-packed our bags and went back to the UK but not before enjoying a delicious meal and experiencing the wonderful Casa Gangotena. If we come back to Ecuador, we will definitely need to stay there for longer.


It was originally a family home (must have been a very rich, grand family) that had been restored beautifully, with flowers in abundance and lovely views over the neighbouring square.

The food was delicious, the rooms spacious and really comfortable so our last night in Ecuador was pretty special.

casa gangotena
garden room
outside at night
front door

ceiling light

We had a wander around Quito old town then settled in the garden room to while away the time until our transport arrived. It was no hardship at all.

garden room
The Galapagos Islands
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