Ecoventura And The Galapagos: A Perfect Match For Families

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

We were hiking along a cliff-top path on Genovesa Island when a series of high-pitched whistles met our ears. Rounding the bend, our group came face to face with a female Nazca booby standing in the middle of the trail. Evidently, she had an important decision to make.

From the bushes to the right, a prospective mate raised his head to the sky and whistled to attract the female. He persistently called her over to show her his courtship offering – a very attractive stick. As the female moved forward to examine his collection of nesting twigs more closely, another male moved towards her from the other side of the path, clacking his beak and whistling loudly. He, too, had a fine assortment of sticks to display.

In a ritualized maneuver, the female moved back and forth between the two calling birds, trying to decide which offer suited her best. All three birds were focused, completely ignoring the band of empathetic adults offering advice and suggestions. After much investigation and debate, the female made her choice and the two went on their way.

Decisions are never easy, whether it’s choosing the right mate, the perfect pair of shoes, or the best vacation option for your family. This is particularly true when it comes to milestone celebration vacations and adventures of a lifetime, such as a trip to the Galapagos.

As any parent knows, one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to family vacations. Children’s age groups, vacation styles and priorities for each family member all come into play and must be carefully balanced to keep everyone happy. It’s important to sift through the available options carefully to find the right match.

This is particularly true in the Galapagos, where ships with up to 100 passengers cruise alongside small boats suited for four to six. Only ships carrying 36 passengers or less may visit islands such as Genovesa (also known as Tower Island), a remote destination filled with more than 100,000 of the region’s most spectacular birds: red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, Nazca (formerly masked) boobies, massive frigate birds with brilliant red pouches, lava gulls, short-eared owls and much more.

So, travelers must decide whether they are coming to the Galapagos for the wildlife – or a spa and hot tub. Some tour operators have to skip islands like Genovesa because their ships are too large, while others avoid spectacular spots like Isabella because their shorter itineraries do not allow stopping there. For those who love nature, the right choice is obvious. Genovesa was one of my favorite islands and I would have hated to miss it.

If wildlife is at the top of your list, pick a smaller ship with top naturalists and an itinerary that maximize opportunities to view the region’s amazing flora and fauna. If you love eco-adventure, make sure your operator that includes many opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking and hiking. And if you are vacationing with family members, look for an operator that truly understands the needs of kids of all ages.

The Galapagos Islands are amazing and there are few kids who wouldn’t be thrilled with the wildlife here. But even though you’re in “Per-a-dize” (as our guide Ivan reminded us often), kids get cranky and teens want to escape from their parents for a while. That’s why it’s important to look for a company that really “gets” families and can customize the trip for the enjoyment of each family member.

That’s just one of the many reasons I was happy to be visiting the Galapagos with Ecoventura (www.ecoventura.com), a company that operates comfortable 83-foot motor yachts accommodating up to 20 people. Family owned since 1990, Ecoventura understands kids and parents and caters to their needs – from the selection of naturalist guides all the way through to the length of their shore excursions. In fact, the company’s entire line of tours is designed with families in mind.

Most Galapagos tour companies offer only generalized family departures. As parents of teens are keenly aware, however, what keeps an elementary school kid happy on vacation may not work for a 17-year old. That’s why Ecoventura offers three types of Galapagos cruises for the family market. General family sailings cater to 7-12 year-old kids and their families. Ships offer fun activities and special briefings specially suited for younger children and the kitchen makes sure to offer favorite foods such as mac and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, and pizza – along with the ever popular fruit loops and lucky charms for breakfast.

Family teen departures are perfect for families with kids 12-17 years of age. These Galapagos sailings are significantly more active that all adult and general family trips. Naturalist guides use the longest trails and an extensive number of snorkeling and kayaking excursions are offered. The ships stock board games, DVDs and books that teens like. Most importantly, however, the designated departures provide teens with the companionship they crave. They can tour the islands with their parents or as a group and then escape to the sun deck with kids their own age, joining their adults for briefings and dinner.

My daughter, Katie, and I were on Ecoventura’s newest product offering: family graduation departures designed for those with kids ages 17-21. Graduations are a major family milestone and mark a teen’s passage into the realm of adulthood. Many parents feel these celebratory trips are one of the last times they can truly count on vacationing together and want to make memories that will last a lifetime. At the same time, graduating students want the chance to relax in a spectacular place and celebrate with kids their own age. Guides on these trips take extra-long trail hikes and the maximum number of snorkeling and kayaking excursions are offered. These special departures work well for everyone, allowing parents and their graduates to take a voyage of discovery together, explore this fragile, nature-filled realm, and return home with treasured memories an unforgettable vacation.

Next Page: Experiencing The Galapagos - Nature's Paradise

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