Thomson staffer Francesca’s most recent adventure abroad in the Galapagos was filled with unforgettable moments and exciting experiences. We caught up with her to talk about the trip and why families will love this Ecuadorian archipelago. The following has been edited for concision and clarity.
What was your favorite activity in the Galapagos?
Fishing with local fishermen! They took me out to the waters around Santa Cruz on a private boat and helped me catch my first fish. It was HUGE! We enjoyed a nice lunch on the boat, and then they helped me snorkel for the first time. It was the perfect day for someone out of their element.
Did you see a lot of wildlife?
So much! When I was snorkeling, I swam next to sea lions and over colorful schools of fish. No hectic crowds, and the animals were friendly. I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the blue-footed booby or the puff of red on a frigate’s chest. I basically got to live in a David Attenborough documentary for a few days.
I saw a lot of wildlife on my hikes around the islands. The tortoises were huge. Also, there are penguins in the Galapagos! I had no idea, but that was very fun to see. And I got to see how much the people on the island care about the environment and care to protect the animals. It was so nice.
What was the food scene like in the Galapagos?
I was impressed to find plenty of options for different dietary restrictions everywhere I went. Tons of fresh fruit and plenty of chocolate to keep kids energized. There was always popcorn on the table, which I learned is an Ecuadorian staple.
A lot of places make kid-friendly meals, too–one restaurant made spaghetti with homemade red sauce for two little kids. One of the adults mentioned in a brief conversation that they love making strawberry cobbler for special celebrations at home. It magically appeared for dessert! Everywhere I went, I got the impression that they were ready for any request.
How would you describe Ecuadorian food?
A lot of fresh ingredients. Ceviche is the most typical Ecuadorian dish. I was in a cooking class and learned how to make Ecuadorian ceviche. Fresh shrimp, fresh vegetables, avocados, plantain chips, fish…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
What surprised you on your trip?
I was surprised by the variety of scenery. On one island, we’d drive across a desert landscape, where iguanas crawled across cacti. The next, we’d go hiking on an island where huge clouds hovered over green highlands. Each island has its own character and yet, is still comprises an interconnected and delicate ecosystem.
I also want families to know how strong the sun is there. I’m Italian, so I like a good tanning session, but if you’re not careful, you’ll be as red as a Sally Lightfoot crab. I cannot emphasize the importance of packing a strong sunscreen and a durable neck cover/hat!
Why should families care about the Galapagos?
Families who go to the Galapagos appreciate the balance between fun days and days where you can just laze around in the sun. Snorkeling, hiking, lava tunnels and kayaking are available on Thomson’s itinerary. Families also comment on their admiration for the varied wildlife and the people who protect it. That protective nature is infection and stays with you long after your departure.