STEPHANIE BONHAM-CARTERmetropolitan touring110 Galápagos IslandsAlternative Galápagos The most popular way of exploring the Galápagos Islands is to take a naturalist cruise. But for some, the idea of sea travel is less appealing than a land-based exploration avoiding the restrictions of on-board life and offering more active explorations. You can enjoy a varied holiday in the archipelago based at one of a number of eco-aware hotels and guesthouses. Most are located on Santa Cruz Island, one of the largest and home to Puerto Ayora and Baltra airport. There is a nascent hotel infrastructure on Isabela Island, featuring locally-run, economical family guesthouses with basic facilities. There are a number of excursions and activities on offer at all Galápagos hotels, including hikes, mountain-biking, horse-riding, sea-kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving and day tours to other islands.Even if you choose to take a cruise, you can extend your stay for a few days to relax on land. A wind-down after a week of ship-based exploration, wildlife observation and lectures is highly recommended.Finch Bay is the only one on Santa Cruz Island which is situated on a beach. The location is idyllic: there are no paved roads or motorised vehicles. The wooden building features verandahs and interconnecting walkways and is surrounded by mangroves, and there is a large pool. Galápagos Safari Camp is an exquisite property, perfect for a total relax. It is based on the concept of top-of-the-range African safari camps, which have little to do with transitory camping under canvas. The main lava-built lodge sits astride a ridge with panoramic views and the 9 huge luxury 'tents' each have a balcony, bedroom and separate bathroom. There's a small infinity pool.Walking in the Galápagos and Andean Ecuador 12 days, 10 nightsQuito 2 nights, Chugchilán 2n, Quito 1n, Isabela island, Galápagos 4n, Guayaquil 1n.Day 1 Fly from the UK, arriving Quito the same evening. Accommodation at Hotel Patio Andaluz for 2 nights. Day 2 Afternoon tour of the city including the colonial centre and city views from El Panacillo hill. Days 3&4 Drive down the Avenue of the Volcanoes, via the indigenous markets at Saquisili or Pujilí, to the Black Sheep Inn at Chugchilán, high on the eastern flank of the Andes. Visit the volcanic crater of Quilotoa (below) with its gemstone green lake and hike back (5hrs) through exquisite, diverse countryside (p100). Day 5 Return to Quito, overnight. Days 6-9 Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos Islands and continue by light aircraft to Isabela. Its only settlement, Puerto Villamil, is very peaceful with a laid-back atmosphere, you will be based at a small guesthouse where you choose between a wide range of activities including biking, snorkelling and trekking. Highlights include a visit to the Sierra Negra volcano, and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. Guided observation of the prolific wildlife indigenous to the island (60% of Galápagos species are present on Isabela) is of course provided on most of these excursions. Day 10 Fly to Guayaquil on the Pacific coast, overnight. Day 11 Fly to the UK, arriving day 12. Prices from £2,526pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights. Regular departures from the UK istockphoto.comTROPIC
shutterstock.commetropolitan touringisabelle mazillejascinva carvalho020 8747 8315 / journeylatinamerica.co.uk bookings, consultant advice and additional information 111 darwin's triangle Fancy getting more of an intimate feel of the islands? There's a novel, exciting way of seeing, breathing and sleeping in this unique environment, hopping by motor launch between Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela, staying on each at the new Red Mangrove Lodges: small, adobe or wooden, rustic-style hotels. You'll be taken on guided excursions, including hikes across lava fields, in the highlands and through tropical forests, and snorkelling off powder-white beaches. You'll see the same prolific, curious wildlife as you would from a cruise, where landfalls are relatively short and more regimented. Further options Travelling alone Some cruise companies will accept your booking in a twin cabin on a 'willing to share' basis, and the price you pay will be as if you were one of a couple. This price will be honoured even if no-one actually shares with you. If you insist on a single cabin, some companies will charge in full for the unoccupied space (even though there may be only one bed!). Travelling as a family The Galápagos Islands are a wonderful destination for families, and children will be enthralled by the wildlife. The weird lava formations, blow-holes, white beaches, swimming and snorkelling offer great entertainment for older children. Family departures cater especially for children, with games, films, special meals and specialist children's guides for the excursions. Other vessels may accept children, but not all have specific children's facilities. In all cases parents are responsible for their children's safety and behaviour. Alternatively, you can have an excellent land-based family holiday staying at one of the hotels, which offer a range of activities. Diving in the Galápagos Strong currents, surge and cold waters make diving in the Galápagos difficult, but the dramatic undersea theatre is one of the most spectacular in the world. To be comfortable diving here you will have to have at least 30 open water dives in your log book. Galápagos waters are full of large marine life?whale sharks, hammerheads and rays. Dive departures and occasional dives on naturalist cruises may be pre-booked; please consult our website or ask our consultants. Above Tortuga Bay.