Our latest blog is written by our youngest ever contributors, Mickey and Georgie Moran (age 9 and 8) who travelled with us on a family holiday to Galapagos and the Cloud Forest in 2022. This account of their trip was mainly dictated by Mickey to his parents. Many of the accompanying photos were also taken by Mickey and Georgie. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did.
“We could not wait for this holiday – we were very excited to see animals, especially the tortoises, which Georgie nicknamed GGTs (=Giant Galapagos Tortoise).
The journey was long, via Amsterdam (where Georgie really enjoyed our overnight stay in the airport hotel and I really enjoyed the hot chocolate at the airport). We really loved the televisions on board the flight there and Georgie said to mummy…”are you saying we can spend 9 hours watching TV??”
Guayaquil was the beginning of our holiday – it was hot and humid. Hostal Macaw (the “parrot hotel”) was so cool. The owners cooked us lovely meals and I had two cups of hot chocolate for breakfast (I love hot chocolate). The hostel had big murals of giant parrots and toucans on the walls!
We visited the iguana park which has land iguanas roaming free! They were having a feeding frenzy on lettuces and were perched on the trees (poop occasionally fell off from the trees so you had to be careful where you stood!). They sometimes fell off and one of them almost hit me on the head after it fell! Here are some photos we took…
There was a pond with turtles too. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, went up on a Ferris wheel (apparently the largest in South America) and on the cable cars across the big river. We walked up the pretty streets of Las Penas and returned to our hostel in a taxi.
The next part of the journey was a flight to the Galapagos islands. At the airport our bags got scanned to ensure that we did not bring any invasive species into the islands and a dog sniffed all the bags while we waited! We met the rest of the group and rode the dingy to our boat…when we were waiting to get on the dingy, a sea lion decided to rest on the dock – we were both very excited (we initially thought it was a seal, but now we know that is was a sea lion!
This is a photo of the Angelito, our boat.
There were planned trips every day…we went snorkelling once a day and a walk once a day. We had to wake up “super dooper” early every day. There was loads of lovely food on board but we lived on rice for the whole cruise because mummy says we are very picky eaters. The crew only wore their uniforms on the first and last day of the cruise. They looked fab in them. They were very friendly and helped us a lot as we were the only children on board the boat. Every time we returned from a trip out, there was treats waiting for us…yummy.
On our first evening onboard, we saw a sea lion hitching a ride on our boat and sharks fishing behind the boat as well as a pelican!
Snorkelling was AMAZING! Georgie loved swimming with the turtles and the marine iguanas, which she nick named “sea cows” because they were grazing under the water and when they ate seaweed it looked like they were eating grass! I was the first one of the group to spot a shark and shouted SHARK really loudly (in the middle of the ocean)! Georgie loved diving into the middle of the Pacific ocean and I really loved swimming with the turtles.
One of our first day trips was to see a beach with many sea lions and crabs! We also saw Galapagos land iguanas who were very different to the ones we saw in Guayaquil.
Mickey took photos of the views on our trips.
We saw many birds, including a flycatcher, Darwin’s finches, ducks, penguins, herons, blue footed boobies and, mummy’s favourite, the Pelican!
The Giant Galapagos Tortoises (GGTs) were the creatures we both were looking forward to seeing up close. They were so super slow and so big! One of the most interesting facts we learnt about them was that they are deaf! They feel the vibrations things make when they move – that is how they “hear”. The first tortoises we saw were “fighting” over the path – one was going one way and the other one the other way on the same path!
GGTs can live for a long time – they can be 150 years old! Their shells get smoother when they get older. We also visited the breeding centre – they are trying to re-introduce the tortoises on some islands where there are very few left; people used to hunt them for food as the tortoises can survive for a long time without water on board a ship. This made them a good food source for the sailors. This is a photo of one on the breeding tortoises in the sanctuary –
We saw many baby tortoises in the sanctuary – the sex of the tortoise is determined by the temperature! Another interesting fact.
The Galapagos are home to the only marine iguanas in the world. These can drink salt water and filter out the salt, which they “sneeze” out of their noses all the time! Here there are some penguins among a mass of iguanas!
On one of our walks, we walked past a cove with lots of sea lions playing in the water; when they saw us they came close and started to play even more! Sea lions love playing with each other and with humans. The baby ones were chasing us to play, but we couldn’t because we were not allowed to get too close…sad face. We also enjoyed swimming next to them in the water. They look so much bigger in the water!
I love cactuses – here are some photos of cacti I took. There are three species of cactus found on the islands (Candelabra, prickly pear and lava cacti).
The blue footed boobie was the bird that I was most looking forward to seeing. Their name comes from a mispronunciation by the English of the Spanish word bobo, meaning stupid. They thought they were stupid because they weren’t getting out of their way when they were walking through! They dive down into the sea to catch their food and they are the best divers of all the boobies on the islands (there are three – blue footed, red footed and masked boobies). Here is a photo of two of them grooming each other…
We also saw some flamingos – they looked so pretty and pink!
We visited two towns on the Islands – the first one, Puerto Villamil, was our favourite, because it was small and not busy. We swam in the sea which had huge waves and mummy and daddy enjoyed the local cocktail. (Though we thought it tasted horrible!)
Santa Cruz was bigger and we saw a group of sharks right next to the boat pier as well as a massive group of rays! There were sea lions on benches there too!
We also visited the “oldest post-office in South America” – a barrel on an island first placed there so sailors can send post back home. Now it is traditional to post a postcard there while taking one back to hand deliver. We took back a post card for a newlywed couple and we hand delivered it a few weeks after we returned. It was so much fun. The one we posted to ourselves is yet to come…
We loved being on the boat (even though I got sea sick a couple of times). Here are some photos on board the Angelito.
The last part of our amazing journey was the cloud forest. We first stayed in hacienda Jimenita, in Quito, where we saw many humming birds! They were flying all around us while we were having breakfast. They also had llamas there that we loved seeing. After being on the boat for ten days we loved the amazing room with a lovely bathroom and we spent some time in the fluffy bathrobes!
We then had a drive up to El Monte in the cloud forest. That was such an amazing place! The way in is on a pulley, over the river! Set right in the forest and surrounded by gardens, it was mummy’s idea of heaven as there were so many birds. She went on an early morning bird seeing walk and daddy and us went zip wiring, which was amazing! We got there in the back of a “taxi”.
We all went on a walk in the forest at dusk as this is something the two of us had asked to do. We were guided by the owner of the place who knew so much about everything around us. We saw lots of insects and fireflies in the dark. The next day on another walk we saw a snake eat a frog – right in front of us!
We also went into Mindo and had a chocolate tour – my idea of heaven as I love dark chocolate! There were so many humming birds there too.
While we were there we each kept a diary with an instant photo of something we saw each day. We will treasure these for ever as this was the best holiday ever. We would love to go back!”