Five lifelong lessons; you can only learn on a Galapagos family vacation
Tell the head teacher of your children’s school that you’re taking them on a trip to Disney during term-time and you know what reaction you’ll get. But tell – let’s call her Ms Trunchbull – that you’re taking a Galapagos family trip, and she’ll probably send you off with a blessing.
Why? Because your children will learn more in a morning in the Galapagos Islands than they will from fusty biology textbooks.
These mysterious volcanic islands 600 miles (926 km) off the Pacific Coast of Ecuador feed the imagination and indulge the most curious of minds. They’re a playground to explore and experiment; to learn and interact; to be bold and to be brave. A live biology, geology, and conservation lesson, here, the classroom is the Galapagos National Park; the teachers, the expert native guides whose lifelong passion is to share their knowledge with all those eager to know more.
Miss Trunchbull still not convinced? Read her the points below, and she’ll soon be wishing you a “bon voyage”…
See evolution in real time
There is no greater proof of the Theory of Evolution than the shriveled, stunted wings of the Flightless Cormorant. As the name would suggest, these Galapagos birds cannot fly, restricted to the craggy shorelines of Isabela and Fernandina by their quizzical inability to take off. The only cormorant out of 29 species with this bizarre incapacity, it would seem that something fishy is in the air. And that something fishy is natural selection: limited land predators meant that those cormorants who were better at swimming and diving were the ones to pass on their genes to the next generations.
It’s not an easy concept to grasp for children, but one that comes alive here on their Galapagos family trip as they observe the birds’ waddling towards the water and swimming off with graceful agility.
Marine Iguanas, Charles Darwin’s “imps of darkness”, make another wonderful example of adaption to the environment. With their monstrous inky-black little faces, they vary from island to island in color and size, yet are still the only ocean-friendly iguanas on the planet. Creepy and peculiar, they are endlessly fascinating.
Discover how volcanic activity shaped the world we live in
Flung out in the middle of nowhere, a few scattered specks in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands were quite literally spluttered out from the depths of the Earth itself. A relatively young (if one million years old sounds “young” to you) archipelago, the Galapagos was born of volcanic fury, each separate lava island becoming a little world in of itself. And still, they continue to grow, to morph, to evolve. Fernandina, the home of the hapless Flightless Cormorant, is one very big volcano, while neighboring Isabela registered its last eruption just last year.
A visit to the caldera of Isabela’s Sierra Negra with your family reveals the ominous black streaks of cooled lava; a more ambitious hike to Volcán Chico is an immersion in geology and history, the landscape marked in the different shades of millennia of fire activity from deep within the planet’s belly. The rocks themselves seem to be alive, with the puffs of fumaroles sometimes announcing their presence like a disappearing magician.
Can young minds really fathom the molten core of our planet? On their Galapagos family holiday, they’ll most certainly be closer to grasping this reality.
Understand the value of the natural world
When you have come face-to-face with a white-tipped shark zipping out of its underwater cave as you snorkel; when you have seen the delightful stomping mating dance of a blue-footed booby; when you have kayaked through lava tunnels and biked past giant tortoises; when you have gasped at the white-bellied leap of a manta ray the size of a car: that’s when it dawns on you. The natural world, full of wildlife, of diversity, of color and wonder, is something to be cherished. Whether you and your family live in a swarming city or in the greenest fields, this is something to hold close to your heart. In an adult, it instills a sense of awe and gratitude. In a child, it changes the way they see the world forever.
Become aware of the importance of conservation
Exploring the pristine paradise of the Galapagos National Park on your Galapagos family trip, it becomes second nature to pick up all your rubbish and anything man-made that crosses your path. Not just because the National Park regulations and your guide tell you to, but because the smallest speck of plastic stands out an ugly mile in this natural sanctuary. Our children are tomorrow’s leaders, and the ones who must take responsibility for the care of our planet. A Galapagos Islands family vacation can impart in them a sense of duty to protect the most sacred haven of the natural world, and to seek solutions to maintain it for years to come.
Try something new, even if it’s scary
It’s difficult to see your children afraid to do something. But it’s breathtaking to watch them overcome that fear, take a leap of faith, and come out the other side, smiling. A Galapagos family trip presents the perfect opportunity for parents and children to try new experiences in a safe and inspiring environment. You could plunge into deep ocean surrounded by darting sea lions, feel the rush of the wind as you hurtle towards the beach on a mountain bike, hear the amplified drip of water as you duck through a cave, or climb to the top of a lookout point and feel like the king of the archipelago. These are the moments that build confidence and breed joy, allowing families to bond in the spirit of adventure.
If you’re traveling with small children, instead opt for a land-based itinerary like those offered by Neotropic Expeditions. Not only does this do away with the anxiety of having them run around a deck at high sea, these programs offer much more flexibility. You can move at the pace of your family and incorporate time for snacks, naps, and the occasional meltdown. You can include more time on the beach, take gentler hikes, and have as much free time as you wish, with quiet moments for play or reflection after an exciting day.
Neotropic Expeditions offers child-friendly hotels with easy access to the beach, providing a stable, comfortable base from which to explore the archipelago. There are plenty of child-friendly menu options, and restaurants can cater to special dietary requirements.
Neotropic Expeditions’ top-level guides with years of experience in leading family groups integrate fun into excursions, setting up treasure hunts and species check-lists. They can provide basic surf lessons, organize beach football with local children, host chocolate workshops on Santa Cruz Island, and offer their endless expertise while stargazing on Isabela Island.