Play Darwin with your family on an educational, unforgettable trip around the ecologically amazing Galapagos islands with Lindblad Expeditions.
We just finished our beginners' snorkeling lesson. As we went to retrieve our towels on the white sparkling beach of Gardner Bay in the Galapagos' most southeastern island of Española, we came across a family of sea lions and found the father of the clan lying comfortably, with his head resting on a beach bag. Not wanting to disturb our new friend, our naturalist guide subtly coaxed him away so the rightful owner could claim his belongings. Our sea lion family was one of the many amazing wildlife and interesting flora we came across during our Lindblad Expeditions adventure to the archipelago of the Galapagos, located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands is a Timeless Family Adventure
Have you been tantalized by those scenes from "Master and Commander" of Russell Crowe and his crew fighting their way across the Atlantic in search of Darwin's isles?
The best way to explore these mostly uninhabited islands is still by sea. The remote islands of the Galapagos were made famous by Charles Darwin, who spent five weeks there in 1835, shaping the theory of evolutionary science that would inspire his belief in natural selection and the theory of survival of the fittest.
Loaded with SPF 25 sunblock, a brimmed hat, life jackets, binoculars and plenty of film for the camera, our morning expeditions would begin as early as 6am to avoid the heat of the noonday sun. After a yummy buffet lunch back on board, and a few hours to rest up, we commenced our outdoor activities mid-afternoon. We would anchor and, under the watchful eye of our expedition leader and five naturalists, choose between a vigorous hike, a casual walk, snorkeling under the sea, a beach swim or a relaxing Zodiac ride.
All excursions on the Polaris are complimentary, be it coming face to face with a dozen hammerhead sharks while snorkeling at the cliffs of Tower Island, visiting Floreana Island's Post Office Barrel to swap mail as whalers did in times gone by, enjoying the sea world from Polaris' own glass-bottom boat, or walking amongst the penguins lounging on top of black slabs of lava on Fernandina Island. The ship actually crosses the equator six times during the week. So, one minute we were in summer, and the next in winter.
Lindblad's Friendly & Knowledgeable Crew
Passengers are invited to visit the ship's bridge, the control room, at any time to chat with the captain and his crew. The elevated bridge was also a favorite for shutterbugs hoping to capture the Galapagos' rugged terrain, sandy beaches, crystal waters, starry nights and every animal that showed its head, fins or feathers. Many of us gathered on the bridge and held our breath the day Captain Fausto Hinojosa carefully maneuvered the Polaris in and out of a narrow, shallow, underwater channel through a huge submerged caldera left by an ancient (now dormant) volcano in Darwin's Bay at Tower Island.
The naturalists make it especially fun for kids with animal-sighting contests. Wildlife seen on our adventure included manta rays, golden cow-nose rays, dolphins, whales, hammerhead sharks, land and sea iguanas, sea turtles, Sally Lightfoot crabs, frigatebirds, Floreana mocking birds, masked boobies, albino boobies, red-footed boobies and dive bombing blue-footed boobies in search of prey. Although you are told not to touch the animals in the Galapagos, they have never learned to fear man, so they may come up to you.
We encountered civilization mid-week when the ship anchored in Santa Cruz. The morning began with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where a number of species of giant tortoises are bred for eventual return to their natural environment. At the station we met Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his kind, who has refused the advances of all the enticing Georgina's brought forth for mating. The afternoon was spent in the Highlands, visiting a pair of huge pit craters called Los Gemelos, as well as a farm situated in the middle of a tortoise migratory route. In the evening, a group of local musicians came aboard to entertain us with a lively folkloric show.
A Cruise & Animal Encounters Provide Family Edutainment
Lindblad Expeditions have been operating eco-tours to the Galapagos for over 30 years, and is the recipient of many environmental awards including the United Nations Environmental Programme Global 500 Award. There are no TVs or radios to keep us entertained, but there is plenty to do and see. The ship has a small library loaded with informative books on the region. The onboard staff conducts lectures and shows videos on Galapagos, so even the most high-tech families will appreciate the natural and simple surroundings.
Polaris passengers are offered the free services of an onboard doctor and complimentary medicine. Dr. Nelson Velez will minister to all your children's medical needs as well, from sunburn to tummy aches. All cabins and suites are air-conditioned and come with a shower, hair dryer, soothing piped-in music and a telephone. Electricity adapters, snorkel equipment and binoculars are provided as needed. Cribs and baby formula can be ordered with two weeks' notice, but as there is no babysitting available, it would be a shame to stay on board with an infant or toddler when there is so much to see and do.
Children are always welcome aboard the Polaris. There are family cruises offered annually, from the end of June to August. During this time, dedicated staff will organize activities such as arts'n'crafts, games such as "Captain Neptune Fighting Pirates" and a kids-only talent show. Families are expected to spend most of their time together, including breakfast and lunch and on-shore excursions.
On four evenings, children are invited to dine earlier as a group under the supervision of the dining room manager, and children's favorite menu items are always available. With advance warning, the ship can also arrange meals for special diets. The open seating in the dining room allows you to join other families for meals or invite your favorite naturalist to join you for some Galapagos "shop talk" during your cruise.
Lindblad offers an educational activity book series for kids created by Archie Comics illustrator, Stan Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg, now in his 70s, was inspired by his travels with Lindblad Expeditions to the Galapagos Islands to write "Fun and Games with Little Lin." This was planned as the first book about child explorer Little Lin, who learns through witnessing the Galapagos' wildlife how important it is to care for the environment. A British Columbia expedition will be his next inspiration.
Young guests, who comprise 11% of Lindblad’s annual fleet-wide travelers, participants in the company's Kids on Board program that hosts school children, and Galapagos children who are members of the local environmental club, Friends of the Tortoise, will each receive an English or Spanish version of the book.
Lindblad Expedition Trip Planning Details
The 10-day, all-inclusive trip including seven nights on ship and two nights at the Hilton Colon in Guayaquil, Ecuador cost from $4,150 to $5,580/adult, exclusive of air, depending on season in 2007. Share rates are available for each child under 17 sharing a cabin with their parents. Lindblad Expeditions can arrange airfare for an additional charge.
For more information contact your travel agent or Lindblad (800/EXPEDITION) directly.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.