With so much to see and do on Santa Cruz Island, it’s no wonder the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotels offers a grand variety of Galapagos programs and guided tours. However, our guests often find themselves wondering what they can do on their own around the hotel. In this blog, we list the top activities we recommend doing on your own from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, ordered by their proximity (closest – furthest) to the hotel itself!
Step outside the beachfront gate of the Finch Bay and head down the path that leads to the right, and you’ll soon stumble upon Las Grietas (“The Crevasses”) after a short 15-20 minute hike. To call Las Grietas a simple swimming hole would be a disservice to its natural beauty, as it consists of three rectangular pools glimmering with emerald waters that are flanked by towering lava cliffs. A plunge in its cool waters on a hot day is a fun and refreshing activity to partake in, and it’s practically right around the corner from the Finch Bay, too! So don’t miss out on checking it out!
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is a step into one of the world’s richest aquatic realms. From impressive schools of colorful fish to docile white-tip reef sharks, the waters of this paradise – which happen to form a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – are the perfect place to interact with a wide gamut of species without having to witness them through cages or glass walls. This is why snorkeling is, quite simply, an absolute must in the Galapagos Islands! And one of the best things about a land-based option is you don’t need to go far to enjoy this natural, underwater spectacle. In fact, there’s beautiful beaches right on Santa Cruz Island that allow you partake in this activity! Don’t forget to rent your snorkeling gear at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel before heading out!
Just a few steps away from the Finch bay Galapagos Hotel (in fact, the only hotel with direct access to a beach in all of Puerto Ayora), you’ll find the crystalline waters that sit alongside Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach). This gorgeous bit of beach, protected from the strong currents and waves thanks to mangroves and reefs, is ideal for enjoying the richness of the ocean while relaxing in a peaceful and calm environment. Don’t forget to acquire your snorkeling gear at the hotel’s front desk! If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to swim with white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, and a ton of colorful fish.
Tortuga Bay has consistently ranked among the world’s top beaches over the course of recent years, and it’s no wonder why: this wide stretch of open, immaculate beach (that conveniently sits right on the edge of Puerto Ayora) is, simply put, spectacular. Guests that choose to head here will get to enjoy a pleasant stroll through a giant cacti forest before being rewarded with a magnificent view of this jaw-dropping slice of coast. If you opt to head down the entire stretch of Tortuga Bay, you’ll be treated to a second and smaller secluded beach at the end that’s surrounded by mangroves and, occasionally, curious marine iguanas. Snorkeling here is highly recommended!
The warm sand and turquoise waters at Garrapatero Beach welcome you to one of the best places to relax on Santa Cruz Island. Once you arrive at the entrance to the beach (which is located some 30 minutes away by car) you’ll enjoy a short, 15-minute walk that will reveal all of the mesmerizing, natural beauty of Garrapatero. If you get there early in the morning, you’ll get to enjoy the first rays of sunshine and admire marine iguanas soaking in the warmth on top of volcanic rock before they slide in for a refreshing dip in the crystalline waters of this fantastic place. Feel free to follow suit! Just always remember to wear sunscreen before doing so!
Playa La Estacion (The Station Beach)
If you pass the Charles Darwin Research Station (more on that below), it won’t be long before you come upon Playa La Estacion – a quaint yet relaxing piece of coastline that has nice and soft sand. Be aware, however, that it also has its fair share of rocky patches, especially along the shoreline and in the water, so be sure to wear proper footwear! A nice little feature of this the shore here is that it’s sheltered from the waves thanks to a line of lava rocks that stretch out into the ocean. This natural geological formation provides calm waters for snorkeling and swimming alongside the occasional marine iguana, sea turtle, and/or baby sea lion, if you’re extra lucky!
One of the biggest attractions of escaping from the big cities is, without a doubt, getting the chance to enjoy clear skies and a starry night. The Galapagos Islands, of which only 3% is inhabited, barely presents any light pollution at all for those people looking to enjoy the night sky and its family of stars. When you stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, you’ll have first-row tickets to enjoy this magical festival of lights that shines overhead. All you have to do is walk right out front to Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach), put a towel down of the sand, and look up and let your eyes marvel at everything they see.
Stroll down the malecon (boardwalk)
Feeling the urge to get a taste of the island life? Puerto Ayora’s boardwalk (referred to as the malecon in Spanish) offers our guests a pleasant way to stroll through town and admire: a.) the laidback restaurants, bars, and stores on one side, and b.) the serene Galapagos waters on the other side. To get to the boardwalk from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, all you need to do is take the hotel’s own water taxi back to the municipal dock and start walking down Charles Darwin Avenue. As you head down the boardwalk, you’ll often encounter several of the native residents (read: sea lions) taking a snooze or ambling around along the docks, shores, or over at the…
If you want to observe a little bit of the local culture more closely, there’s no better place to do it than at the Santa Cruz Fish Market. Following a stroll down the boardwalk, and right before hitting the Charles Darwin Research Station, you’ll come upon this eclectic spectacle. The Santa Cruz Fish Market is a great window into the way human inhabitants of Galapagos coexist with their animal neighbors and allows you to watch as sea lions and pelicans prop themselves up against the stalls of the fish vendors, eagerly awaiting a delicious meal between the naps they take.
In addition to the inhabitants of the archipelago and the Galapagos National Park Service, the Charles Darwin Research Station is one of the biggest stakeholders when it comes to the protection and conservation of the islands. The Station is also involved in ongoing research project throughout the archipelago, these of which usually consists of monitoring species populations and visitor impact at several visitor sites. Their headquarters sit right at the far edge of town, which you’ll arrive at after walking along the entire length of the boardwalk. Once at the Station, you are free to walk around the different paths and trails that will let you admire much of the endemic fauna in Galapagos, as well as the numerous baby and adult Galapagos Giant Tortoises that are currently being raised in captivity.
Visit Laguna Las Ninfas (Nymphs Lagoon)
Another marvelous aspect of the Galapagos Islands is the sheer amount of distinct natural environments you can find throughout the archipelago! Within a matter of minutes, the scenery before your eyes can turn from arid and desert-like into an impressive and lush green. On the way to Tortuga Bay, and incredibly close to Puerto Ayora, you’ll get to find this peaceful patch of water that’s home to one of the richest ecosystems in all Galapagos: mangroves. The Nymphs Lagoon allows you to enjoy a relaxing, approximately 60-minute walk along the mesmerizing clusters of mangroves that surround this perfect mirror lagoon of turquoise water. It’s important to keep in mind that this lagoon is not for swimming in; however, you’ll easily get to enjoy refreshing breezes.
Visit the local museums and galleries
While Puerto Ayora isn’t particularly renowned for being a museum and artistic hotspot, it does manage to offer some pleasant surprises in the form of the MAPRAE Museum and a handful of art galleries. The former offers visitors the chance to get to know a little bit more about the indigenous cultures and history over on the Ecuadorian mainland. The latter may catch your eye with their artisanal wares and amusing art pieces — none of which are made from Galapagos elements, as per the Galapagos National Park Rules!
We fly from the mainland of Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. Nothing is more exciting than flying over 1,000 km (620 mi) of pure ocean and then gradually approaching the first islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Our first view will be of the attractive coast of San Cristobal Island and, just a few minutes later, we’ll be landing on Baltra Island – home to the islands’ most popular airport. After registering with the local authorities, we’ll collect our luggage and proceed to meet the staff of Scalesia Lodge for directions to board the local inter-island flight.
While other visitors await their airport shuttles and cruise transfers, we’ll get ready for a treat that very few people in Galapagos (less than 1,000 per year!) ever get to experience: a small aircraft flight from Baltra Island to the colossal Isabela Island. From the moment we take off, the volcanic beauty of Galapagos will quickly put on a show for us as, en route, our eyes get to check out the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island with its shoreline full of white-sand beaches, its arid zone with palo santo trees, and even some volcanic cones that already covered in vegetation due to just how old the island is. We then fly over the expanse of water that separates Santa Cruz Island from Isabela Island, checking out Pinzon Island and Nameless Islet along the way. The immenseness of Isabela Island will then begin to materialize slowly over the horizon, like a giant black antediluvian creature.
We then begin to fly over its dark shoreline, which is heavily dotted with mangroves, tidal pools and then an immediately lack of vegetation. The big black shadow that emerges in front of us will then reveal itself to be the massive Sierra Negra Volcano – the second largest volcanic crater in the world. Slowly, the airport runway appears, and in minutes we have arrived to the most untamed area of the islands: the Wild West. Scalesia Lodge expedition staff meet us here and quickly take us for a short drive just to get familiar with Puerto Villamil, the main island town, before our drive up to the highlands on a very well paved road. In less than 20 minutes, we arrive at Scalesia Lodge. Check-in takes place right away, giving us time to explore our luxury tent, and lunch is then served while we enjoy the green vistas of the landscapes that surround this area.
By mid-afternoon, we are ready to explore and visit Sucre’s Cave, which is located not all that far from the lodge itself. The cave is a former lava tube which proves to be a great introduction to the geology of the islands. Here, we’ll also get to enjoy a short walk that gives us an excellent sense of what the typical island vegetation is like as well as the endemic plants it is home to. We now head for the lowlands and stop at the local rearing center for giant tortoises. The rearing center serves as an exciting place for us to see one of the most iconic reptiles of the islands as they’re taken care of in semi-captive conditions. Visitors can even spot young ones which will be repatriated soon. The giant tortoises here at endemic to the island of Isabela: it is the only tortoise in the entire archipelago that has a rather flat top carapace.
From here we’ll begin our walk to the brackish water ponds of Poza Baltazar, where we’ll have the chance to improve our understanding of this island’s desert vegetation and view some unique lagoon bird species, such as: stilts, ducks, and flamingos. As we get closer to town, we’ll gradually begin to hear the sound of ocean waves and suddenly be greeted by the stunning white beach of Puerto Villamil. It is as this wonderful beach that we’ll have a chance to kick off our shoes, and let the waters of Galapagos soothe our feet. Enjoy a drink over at one of the local beach bars and celebrate a glorious sunset before heading back to Scalesia Lodge for dinner. And this is all just the beginning! Overnight at Scalesia Lodge.
Day 2 (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Today, we’ll get an early start. The reason being? We are about to explore the Sierra Negra Volcano, the second largest caldera in the whole world and one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos (its most recent eruption took place in 2005). The crater alone is considered one of the largest of any island volcano in the world, with a whopping diameter of 10 km (6 mi)! Volcan Chico is the youngest volcano sitting on the flanks of Sierra Negra, over towards its northern rim. The walk along the crater provides spectacular views of the barren volcanic floor, where the older and more recent volcanic flows contrast in different shades of black basalt.
A snack lunch is provided on this excursion and we will find the perfect spot (with an excellent view of the crater!) to sit down and enjoy our meals.
The hike, in total, lasts around 6-7 hours, meaning the early start guarantees that we’ll have cooler temperatures to walk around in. It also has the added benefit of opening up the entire afternoon to experience other great options and excursions on the island. Walking along the rim of the volcano involves very little uphill climbing. In fact, the entirety of the hike is rather flat, with the exception of some gradual ups and downs. Our Naturalist Guide will be sure to stop at a couple of locations for some interpretation, regrouping, and rest. Sierra Negra Volcano is the place to appreciate the splendour of the western volcanoes as well as the endemic vegetation of this area (which serves as evidence of its evolutionary isolation). Afterwards, we’ll head back to the lodge for lunch, a good rest, and then have an afternoon of open-ended activities over at Puerto Villamil.
This is the moment to hang out at the beach by yourself or replenish your energy amidst the cooler highlands at Scalesia Lodge. If you opt for the beach outing, you’ll can rest assured that you’ll catch a great sunset that will reveal the grandeur of Isabela Island. Overnight at Scalesia Lodge.
Day 3 (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
It’s hard to believe we have been here for over two days already! On our third day, it’s time to explore more of the shoreline habitat where plenty of surprises await over at Las Tintoreras – a group of islets, located a short distance away from Puerto Villamil. Reachable only by boat, the site includes a short walk alongside a maze of narrow lava crevices, broken “AA” lava flows, tiny sandy beaches and stunning coves that are framed by mangroves. Its wildlife ranges from giant marine iguanas basking under the sun, perched boobies and pelicans, stalking herons, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, turtles and whitetip reef sharks (locally known as tintoreras). It is here that we’ll get our chance to snorkel along one of the islets and rocks nearby in order to understand the beauty of the underwater realm of the islands. Note: Snorkeling gear is provided; wetsuits are available for rent. After this excursion, we’ll head back to Scalesia Lodge for lunch and a well-deserved siesta.
Watch a group of white-tip reef sharks at tintoreras as they rest and swim
Check out this Galapagos penguin calling out for its mate!
The afternoon calls for something fun, and while you are more than welcome to hang out on your own at the beach, we certainly recommend you take the outing that explores El Muro de las Lágrimas (The Wall of Tears). Our driver will take us along the beach and take a detour into the arid zone that offers an exploration of this site that’s saturated with melancholic history. It just so happens that an Ecuadorian penal colony existed on Isabela Island between 1946 and 1959, and manually building this wall out of volcanic rock was one of the punishments that prisoners received. There are a couple of viewpoints nearby that let you see the volcanic coast of Isabela Island. Once here, we’ll get on our mountain bikes and slowly make our way back a gradual downhill descent. We’ll make several stops to look at interesting hidden beaches, wetlands, coastlines, and mini lava tubes. Consider yourself lucky if a wild giant tortoise appears next to the road!
We’ll finish at the beach and celebrate our Isabela adventure with cocktails before driving back up to Scalesia Lodge for dinner and overnight.
NOTE: Bike rentals have an extra charge (helmets are included).
Day 4 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
We are now ready to fly over beautiful Isabela Island in order to reach Baltra Island. Upon arrival, the Finch Bay’s Naturalist Guides will meet guests and accompany them directly to the Sea Lion Yacht. A basic introduction to our onboard activities is provided and we are then ready to explore! A dry landing welcomes us to North Seymour Island. This particular island was uplifted from the ocean floor by past volcanic events, and its origins as a seabed provide its characteristic low, flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high are what form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit among the ledges and rocks.
This island is teeming with life! So much that you might have to move out of the way for a passing sea lion or marine iguana! You’ll find blue-footed booby nests sitting right beside the trail, where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. This is a walking excursion and involves uneven and rocky terrain. Lunch is served onboard the Sea Lion Yacht.
After the visit, the yacht sails to the Itabaca channel, allowing us to catch a faster bus that will allow us to reach the southern shore of Santa Cruz Island where the Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located. Once there, you’ll check in and we are now ready to enjoy this beachfront property (the only one on Santa Cruz Island!).
Dinner and overnight at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 5 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
After breakfast, our guests will depart from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and begin their journey up into the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island. From there, a short drive across the farming area will lead us to El Manzanillo – an area that sits right along the natural path that tortoises take every year as they migrate up to higher, more humid regions of the island, particular during the garúa season (June-September); or when they descend to the warmer lowlands during the wet season. Year-round, tortoises can be seen grazing throughout the surrounding vegetation or wallowing in muddy banks or in a small red-coloured pond (impressively tinted by red-tinted, surface pondweeds).
Lunch will be served in the cooler highlands, with stunning views of Santa Cruz Island.
After lunch, we visit a small farm where coffee, sugar cane and cocoa beans are organically and sustainably grown, harvested and prepared. While here, we’ll get the chance to taste these products and learn about the artisanal in which these island spirits are distilled and produced! We then return to the hotel to enjoy its pool or beach, or pursue other suggested activities.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 6 (Breakfast/Lunch/-)
Santa Fe Island offers one of the more beautiful and sheltered coves in the archipelago. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets that form an ideal place to drop anchor. A wet landing on a white-sand beach brings us into contact with one of the many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right to be the “Beach Master,” while smaller males masquerade as females and make stealthy mating moves. Galapagos hawks are often easily approached and found perched atop saltbushes.
The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name with their tree-sized trunks! Our goal here is to spot one of the largest species of land iguana, which is native and exclusive to the island of Santa Fe. Their colors range from beige to chocolate-brown with dragon-like spines. In many ways, these iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs.
An indigenous species of rice rat also inhabits the thickets here, and lucky hikers might even manage to spot harmless Galapagos snakes. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than a swim in the calm waters of the bay, which are a great time to go snorkelling with the diverse marine life. Afterwards, lunch will be served aboard the Sea Lion Yacht. Sail back to Puerto Ayora.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 7 (Breakfast/-/-)
Divine Bay: this is where the magic of Galapagos resides, and it’s found just a short distance away from bustling Academy Bay and the Puerto Ayora! Named after one of the archipelago’s first settlers, this cove is protected from the swells by natural volcanic reefs on one side, by a gallery of mangrove trees on the other and, over on the third side, by cliffs created eons ago by the uplift of the lava plateau. The whole place provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife. Guests can choose to explore this lovely cove by boat or, if you are feeling more adventurous, hop on top of one of our tandem kayaks and paddle there directly from the hotel’s beachfront. This morning’s visit will include snorkelling along a calm, but active, area of the cove. This is next to a wooden dock we use to explore Punta Estrada. A dry landing and a short walk (0.5 km / 0.31 mi) will lead us to the south shore of the island, to a small beach called Playa de los Perros (“Dog Beach”). This is a great place to see intertidal organisms and learn about marine iguanas in their nesting sites. Also, there’s a nearby natural terrace from where young whitetip reef sharks can be observed from above as they swim about the lava crevices.
After this morning’s visit, we’ll return to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. The afternoon activity on this day includes a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant-tortoise breeding programme, with time to enjoy the town, or the hotel’s facilities.
Overnight at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
Day 8 (Breakfast/-/-)
After breakfast, we’ll leave the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and, on the way to Baltra, stop at the Twin Pit Craters that are tremendous geological depressions of volcanic material that have slowly been sinking deeper into the Earth, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids can be seen along the surroundings. After this, we’ll transfer to the airport in Baltra to catch the flight back to the continent.
What’s it like inside the MAPRAE Museum in Galapagos? How does the exhibit work, exactly?
Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are given an iPad that comes pre-installed with an application that allows visitors to access and experience the augmented reality feature of the museum. Visitors only need to carry and point their iPad at one of the over 50 pieces that are displayed to begin the experience, at which point they will receive historical and cultural information regarding the three-dimensional image they are viewing on their device.
Not only does this serve as an excellent and interactive opportunity for locals and foreigners alike to learn a little bit about the anthropological history of Ecuador, but it also provides a way for visitors with a limited time (that won’t be stopping in Quito or Guayaquil for extended periods) to get a quick but decent dose of Ecuadorian history.
While other museums in Galapagos might provide visitors with an adequate level of insight into the archipelago’s human history, MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora allows them to go way back into the cultural and anthropological roots of mainland Ecuador. In many ways the MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora is a way of bringing the continental history of Ecuador over into the remoteness of the Galapagos, provided the steady flow of international tourists with an excellent, albeit small way, of getting some history.
And while most visitors come to the Galapagos obviously for its highly unique flora and fauna, visiting the MAPRAE Museum in Puerto Ayora within the fascinating natural context of Santa Cruz Island is a great way to combine both natural history and human history. Who knows? It might even allow us to get a more integral perception of our connection and dependence on nature, perhaps fostering a greater sense of duty and responsibility towards this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if you’ve only come to Galapagos to experience the natural aspect, a visit to MAPRAE Museum in Puereto Ayora is a great way of complementing your trip with the anthropological aspect of the natural world at large. Visitors will be sure to see the unmistakable effect that nature has had on our ancestor’s ways of thinking and their everyday activities.
Which hotel in Galapagos offers solar-powered services?
The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is excited to announce that we have something new and incredibly sustainable on the horizon! In addition to our highly sustainable practices here at the World’s Leading Green Hotel, we are proud to announce the upcoming introduction of our brand-new, shiny and completely solar-powered Solar Ray (transfer boat)!
First things first: Why does the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel even have a transfer boat?
Our transfer boat is the second to last step in getting our guests from Baltra Airport to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. You’ll find the transfer boat waiting for you at the docks of Puerto Ayora, not far from where your airport transfer vehicle drops you off. The distance from the Puerto Ayora docks to Muelle de los Alemanes (German Dock) is around 400 meters (1,300 feet), a crossing which is done in under 5 minutes.
What’s up with this new transfer boat? What makes the Solar Ray so sustainable?
This sustainable project in Galapagos was carried out in tandem with Kara Solar – a highly reputable group known for bringing solar-powered transport to the Achuar communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon! Up until now, Kara Solar has helped over 1,000 people that form a part of these Amazonian communities, which themselves are spread out along 67 km (42 mi) of river. The solar-powered boats are managed and operated by an Achuar team.
It’s thanks to Kara Solar’s help that our Finch Bay Solar Panga (formerly known as the Finch Bay I) has now been retrofitted to work with a fully electric motor.
Not one but four solar panels are now situated on the boat’s rooftop, which provide provisional power to the boat’s electric engine. The boat itself will receive the rest, if not most of its charge, directly from the grid over at Metropolitan Touring’s offices in Puerto Ayora. Nevertheless, these lightweight solar panels that are firmly attached to the stainless steel rooftop will be responsible for transforming sunlight into electricity, which will then be stored in the boat’s batteries. Have a look at this prototype below:
In summary, the Solar Ray has now been installed with:
Four 370 W solar panels (1,480 W or 1.48 kWh, in total)
Four 2.7 kWh batteries (10.8 kWh, in total)
Four 1.7 kWh chargers (6.8 kWh, in total) to allow the boat to charge with a 220V plug.
A charge controller
A console with a steering wheel and speed throttle
What benefits do solar-powered services in Galapagos have, exactly?
Virtually silent and with zero-emissions, the Solar Ray diminishes noise pollution throughout the fragile Galapagos environment while also cutting down tremendously on our dependence on gasoline. Both of these factors help us take better care of the surrounding wildlife that often peacefully glides around and under our transfer boat.
With this new project, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and Metropolitan Touring hope to demonstrate just how viable ecological and “green” transportation can actually be in Galapagos, rather than just see it as just a gimmick or a concept that sounds nice but never really works that great in practice. We’re here to tell all those naysayers otherwise: solar-powered services, such as our Solar Ray transfer boat, are absolutely feasible in Galapagos. And, in the case of our new Solar Ray,they’re here to stay.
Every day is an opportunity for change, and little by little, we’re hoping to let go of our dependency on fossil fuels here in the Galapagos Islands – a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
So which hotel in Galapagos offers solar-powered services?
Now you know! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel does!
Once we have her in service, we can’t wait to have you take a ride with her when you come stay with us at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
Oscar-winning Director Luc Jacquet sits down with us at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
Nature, when untouched, has the ability to immediately capture our attention with little to no effort. Everything that goes on in the loving and caring hands of Mother Nature has a way of capturing our human curiosity and imagination so easily. For many, it’s a world that’s worth continuously spying in on with both a lens and a narrative. There are those talented few that, with the right vision and commitment, manage to take nature to the next level and showcase it in all its might. From micro to macro, the power of nature documentaries is something that moves us to this day, inspiring us to appreciate and protect our world as much as we can.
The Oscar-winning Director Luc Jacquet is one of those who has been able to take nature to the big screen for the world to learn about and admire up close. You might recall his Oscar-winning feature, “The March of the Penguins” – a documentary that managed to transport many audiences from around the globe to the remote, frigid world of Antarctica and follow the amazing Emperor Penguins’ path. For his next project, Jacquet has taken up an ambitious that is based around the Galapagos, evolution and the story of life.
Check out the short but sweet interview we had with him below!
Galapagos Today: A Symbol for Conservation & Evolution
The Galapagos Islands became scientifically relevant when Charles Darwin arrived to the archipelago back in 1825. Upon landing on the islands, Darwin studied some of its most iconic species (many of which form a part of our BIG15 list of iconic species), allowing him to “fill in the blanks” of what would later become his most crucial and groundbreaking work – his the theory of natural evolution. Creatures that inhabited the Galapagos, being so isolated from the rest of the world, were able to live and evolve, almost completely uninterrupted by human activity (a situation that changed quickly with the presence of pirates and whalers on the islands). By observing the shells of the Galapagos giant tortoises and the beaks of the finches, and how they differed from each other and from island to island, Darwin realized evolution was the result of the survival of the fittest. This served testament to how life adapts in order to survive in almost any circumstance.
Nowadays, after years of work by the Galapagos National Park, NGO’s, the Ecuadorian government and the local communities, the Galapagos have finally began to recover from invasive species, managing to bring back endemic and native species that came close to being on the brink of extinction. Sadly, some were not able to repopulate, such as the famous Lonesome George. To avoid that from happening, it’s up to everyone who inhabit the archipelago and visits it, to contribute in any possible way.
The Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage, represent a world where nature and men coexist harmoniously. One from which there is still much to learn. An example of respect, sustainability and life as it should be if we let it be.
Jacquet and his team were out scouting the further reaches of the archipelago for potential sites to shoot their upcoming documentary feature, as well. To reach the more isolated islands of Galapagos, Jacquet and company sailed aboard our beloved Yacht La Pinta. You can check out his interview pertaining to that experience below:
When it comes to a place as enchanted as the Galapagos, it almost seems commonsensical to regard any form of accommodation on these barren and otherworldly freckles of earth – in the near middle of the Pacific Ocean, to say the least! – as nothing short of “unique.” But when it comes to a brand as prestigious as National Geographic, you immediately know that their standard/criteria for their definition of “unique” is a whole different level. For many of our guests, the question often remains: how do you even become a member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World (ULW)?
How are hotels given their Unique Lodge Status by NatGeo?
To ensure that NatGeo standards are met, Unique Lodges of the World are carefully handpicked after an extensive and thorough vetting process/site audit that goes from examining the macro to the micro. A NatGeo Sustainable Tourism Expert is in charge of spending time at each lodge, evaluating the operations and meeting with everyone on staff (from hotel manager to kitchen staff) to become fully acquainted and do a in-depth evaluation of the lodge.
What exactly is a Unique Lodge of the World, by National Geographic Standards?
The whole concept of ULW was created to invite guests and traveler’s to experience some of the planet’s most extraordinary places. ULW come with the NatGeo seal of approval that guarantees guests will get to have an intimate and exceptional experience, fostering a connection between guests and their destination in a highly meaningful way. Properties are handpicked based the following criteria:
From sourcing as much of our food locally to peacefully coexisting with endemic species, the “Finch Bay has set the standard for environmentally responsible hotels in Galapagos.” Find out more about how we do it with our blog on Sustainability at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
We serve as a forum for collaboration and conservation between islanders and organizations. We host meetings between the Galapagos National Park Service and Charles Darwin Research Station, to name a few. Additionally, we’ve also run numerous, successful education-oriented initiatives with local schools and students.
We are immersed in one of the most pristine wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and we’re one of the only beachfront hotels on Santa Cruz Island.
Professionally-trained guides, world-class service and staff alongside a Le Cordon Bleu-trained gastronomic director. Did we miss anything?
The Galapagos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason. In honor of this and the sacred ground we exist on, we’ve created a complete set of inspiring activities to help our guests get acquainted with the islands.
The NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World Difference
Staying at a NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World is a guarantee that your trip will help protect our delicate and only planet. Staying at a Unique Lodge of the World means you’re both supporting local communitiesandthe environment while experiencing a place in the world that is truly unlike anything else and where magic awaits right at your doorstep. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel invites you to become a part of it all!
Galapagos Marine Iguanas: Dark Scales, Illuminated Genes
Dr. Stephen Maturin: “Marine iguanas can’t swim, they’re land animals.”
Boy: “Well these ones can.”
Dr. Stephen Maturin: “My God, two new species in as many minutes…”
~Master & Commander~
Galapagos marine iguanas – they’re dark, bold and look like miniature Godzillas that crawl around on their bellies. They’re also seen practically everywhere throughout the Galapagos archipelago. But what is it that makes them such a unique creature in their own right, exactly? Find out in this blog, where we detail just what it is exactly that makes marine iguanas a must-see and a part of our BIG15 group of iconic species in Galapagos.
Scientific Name: Amblyrhynchus cristatus Type: Reptile Family: Iguanidae Order: Squamata Diet: Herbivore (occasional carnivore) Avg. Lifespan: 5-15 years. Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years. Avg. Length: 60 – 150 cm (23 – 59 in) Avg. Weight: .45 – 1.3 kg (1 – 3 lb)
What are Galapagos marine iguanas famous for?
Galapagos marine iguanas are believed to have diverged from their land-based cousins around 5.7 million years ago. The adaptations they have grown since diverging are what make them so remarkable.
Galapagos marine iguanas are famed for being theonly marine lizard in the whole world. In addition to this, their eating habits while underwater are another remarkable feature of theirs, as these aquatic iguanas feast extensively on the algae that grows atop submerged rocks.
A distinct physical characteristic of these is found in their:
Color: As black as charcoal and the lava rock they walk across and amass over. Their dark scales also absorb much of the sun’s heat for their cold blooded bodies, and also have the remarkable ability to change colours during mating season.
Claws: Longer, more muscular claws have allowed them to easily cling tenaciously to algae-covered rocks.
Tail: They have laterally flattened tails to help them swim and steer their bodies when in the water.
Snout: Flatter snouts with protruding teeth that are tricuspid, allowing them to get these sharp shears next to the rocks and tear away the tenacious algae that sticks to them with relative ease.
As a result of their subaquatic behavior, Galapagos marine iguanas have evolved to have a desalination gland that’s located right behind their nose. This is used to expel the salt from their bodies in an unmistakable manner – often making look as if they’re sneezing or even hissing at you.
“Shrink only in case of emergency” Adaptability
Unlike the feathered creatures that soar overhead in Galapagos, marine iguanas can’t simply fly away from their harsh environment should they be confronted with tough times (in terms of nutrients and food). For Galapagos marine iguanas, it’s a matter of adapt or die. As a result, these incredible reptiles can actually shrink their bodies so as to be less dependent on larger quantities of food. It’s a fascinating characteristic that allows them to improve their survival odds and pass their genes on to the next generation.
Galapagos marine iguanas are located on the main islands of Galapagos Guests will often see them hanging out along the multitude of shorelines in Galapagos. Some of these main islands can even be accessed aboard our Sea Lion Yacht.
Interested in experiencing this mesmerizing and fascinating iconic species during your trip to Galapagos? Look no further than the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel to see them hanging out around the numerous beaches in Puerto Ayora, including our beachfront slice of paradise – Playa de los Alemanes!
Creating a Galapagos culinary identity at the Finch Bay Galapagos hotel
Yes! We are talking about of one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Enchanted Islands. A unique spot on the planet. Wonder and magic are found at every corner and will surprise you from beginning to end. When you stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, our goal is for you to experience life, moments, landscapes, and flavours that will remain in your mind and heart forever. We know many of our guests usually plan their trips almost a year in advance and they expect it to be the trip of a lifetime. At Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and Finch Bay Restaurant we are committed to giving our guests exactly that. Adventures, activities, service and food, every little detail counts. In our journey towards creating a traditional Galapagos food, we have put all our creativity to work. Cooking is an art, and like with any art, visuals play a great role! We are creating a Galapagos culinary identity at the Finch Bay and we want you to be a part of it!
– Photo credit: Emilio Dalmau –
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
Galapagos is a unique place in which the most wonderful memories are created. What is life if not a collection of our fondest ones? To me, life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest. It might sound repetitive but I firmly believe we should live everyday as if it would be our last. Do what makes you happy and do it without hesitation.
As Chefs, we try to improve every day. We want to wow our guests with our flavours, with the richness of our local products, with the way we present their food. We aim to go beyond their expectations!
Let Inspiration be Your Identity
In our company and at Finch Bay there are two things we deeply care about: sustainability and community. We wanted to support our local artisans so we decided to look for unique products that would add to the style of our hotel, while creating an identity of our own. We commissioned the Quito-based workshop Barroquema to create a clay dishware that showcased the best of the beautiful place in which we work, the Galapagos. The specially-handcrafted plates found inspiration in the elements and colours of the islands, and became the perfect canvas atop which to put our own culinary artistry to work.
– Photo credit: Emilio Dalmau –
The Power of Presentation
I like to define myself as a creative Chef, which is why plating is also an important part of my process. I seek to display the colours and textures of the food on the plates in such a way that they surprise and inspire our guests. I want to create the same reaction they get when they first set eyes on the islands and their majestic landscapes.
The idea is to first open your appetite through your eyes. Take your time to observe the different elements in your plate, admire the colours, smell the distinct aromas and let a smile come to your face as you feel the textures in your mouth after that first bite.
– Photo credit: Emilio Dalmau –
I have always thought that food is the reflection of a Chef’s soul. To me, life is good, happy and full of adventures. The wonderful team of expert cooks I work with are funny and crazy people. It´s exactly that – along with our passion and the respect we have for the products of the Galapagos – what we try to convey through our cooking and plating.
In the Search of a Galapagos Culinary Identity
We are committed with you as a guest to give you the experience of a lifetime on the islands. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to having a great trip and food is one of them. Let our food take you on a journey of its own and be transported to a place of wonder! It’s time to rock-and-roll in the kitchen and to keep doing what we love to do. It’s time to put the best of our creativity to work and to create a unique and unforgettable Galapagos food. But first, let’s keep on adding to the building block of our own identity. We guarantee, we will go beyond your wildest dreams!
We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live.
Snorkelling in Galapagos: top animals you’ll get to swim with
Snorkelling in Galapagos is sure to be one of the most magical experiences you’ll have during your time in the archipelago. The biggest reason why? Because of the vast amount of fauna you’ll have surrounding you, almost as if you’d summoned them for yourself! Being a source of curiosity for other creatures is almost like a superpower unto itself, such that with just a little bit of patience and fearlessness, snorkelling in Galapagos will have creatures swimming within arms-length of your snorkelling mask, ogling your presence to try and “figure you out.” It’s an incredibly fun experience, which is why we recommend making it a core part of your Galapagos experience while staying at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel! Read-on and get stoked by finding out what animals you’ll get to swim with while snorkelling in Galapagos!
Both majestic and lethargic in their demeanour, sea turtles are a treat to swim beside while snorkelling in Galapagos. Their slow and ridiculously laid-back style of movement underwater makes them an easy target for us human to get up close to (but remember, not too close!) and snap a beautiful picture of their worn and wise-looking shells and long flippers.
Perhaps one of the most playful creatures of the sea when it comes to snorkelling in Galapagos, sea lions truly are a spectacle to revel in and even become a part of (when they’re curious enough)! These adept swimmers won’t hesitate to get incredibly close to you to check you out! They’re quick and skillful with their movement, and will swim at you full speed before doing an underwater “somersault” of sorts and swimming away reluctantly. They’re even curious enough to nibble at your flippers, if you let them! Extra cute points for swimming next to a Galapagos sea lion pup (just watch out, as the mothers of these pups are highly protective)!
Bold, rugged and beautiful in their own right, snorkelling in Galapagos with these “imps of darkness” (as Darwin himself saw it fit to call them) is a pretty cool experience. Bonus points if you get to see them feasting on their main diet – nutritious algae that clings to the rocky shores in Galapagos waters. Their giant claws and tenacious grip are a sight to behold. If you’re hanging out in shallow waters, you can even walk beside one as they slither like snakes just below the surface of the water, with their heads poking out like miniature dogs.Getting next to them while snorkelling in the Galapagos means you officially have the bragging rights to say you swam with the only species of iguana that can swim in the world!
Slick and daunting with their grey scales and pointed fins, sharks seen while snorkelling in Galapagos are incredibly deceptive in the sense that they erroneously portray a dangerous image. Fun fact: they’re super docile! Sharks, in fact, are highly misunderstood creatures and are actually much less threatening than many people believe. The importance of sharks in Galapagos, too, is highly overseen. While snorkelling in Galapagos, you’ll get to swim over a school of white-tip sharks and silky sharks.
Snorkelling in Galapagos with Penguins
Flapping, zipping and propelling themselves around underwater like superfast mini-submarines, Galapagos penguins are one of the rarest species of penguins given they’re the only ones to live north of the equator! In Galapagos, the relatively colder waters are what allow them to thrive in this unique environment. Note: These can only be seen on the western side of Galapagos, available via Western Islands Galapagos itineraries.
We couldn’t think of a better time to talk about seasons in Galapagos than now, given this month of December is right when we’re transitioning into Hot Season in Galapagos!
There are two different seasons that occur throughout the Galapagos Islands: hot season and dry season, the biggest difference being that the former is filled with sunny days and the latter with somewhat windier days. Nevertheless, these two distinct seasons in Galapagos are huge factors in contributing to the vegetation that goes on display throughout the year along with certain patterns of wildlife activity. Being a remote group of islands out in the Pacific, however, means that seasonal migration patterns are pretty much non-existent; the islands themselves are simply too far away from anything for the majority of animals to leave for a part of the year. This means that seasons in Galapagos, despite being distinct, make the archipelago a year-round destination.
– Strolling along through the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel during Hot Season. –
A Tale of Two Seasons in Galapagos
What makes the weather in Galapagos so special is the peculiar presence of trade winds and ocean currents. As a result of these, both seasons in Galapagos see relatively mild tropical conditions and dry weather when compared to other regions along the equator.
During the dry season in Galapagos, the oceans currents that “corner” the islands from both the south and west are partly responsible for this tendency. The Humboldt Current is what helps bring up the cold Antarctic waters from the south, pulling it up along the coasts of Chile and Peru and ultimately flowing into the archipelago to cool the waters of Galapagos. The Cromwell Current, meanwhile, serves as a deeper undercurrent that enters from the west and brings in even colder water to the Galapagos. These considerably lower ocean temperatures are what foster plenty of marine life to arise, simultaneously lowering the amount of rainfall and decreasing the amount of “green” vegetation around.
– Hot Season in full-swing in Galapagos. –
Seasons in Galapagos are harbingers of change, and hot season is no exception: December sees the aforementioned currents and winds that arrive during dry season weaken. It’s during this season that water temperatures around the archipelago gradually rise as warmer waters from the Panama current start to enter the islands, which means that the amount of evaporation increases, too. Hotter atmospheric conditions begin to appear and then, come January all the way up to April, the hottest months in Galapagos will be in full-swing, with average temperatures hovering around the 78 °F/ 26 °C mark. It won’t be until mid-March that the Galapagos will begin to cool down again as both colder waters and southeast trade winds make their way back to the archipelago as the Dry Season starts, and thus, the cycle repeats itself.
How does the Hot Season Compare to the Dry Season?
Compared to the rest of the year, hot season in Galapagos feels significantly warmer. Islands experience an overflow of vegetation and terrestrial species such as land iguanas and tortoises (which feast on the plant life) will be out and about in full force. Moisture is also relatively higher during the hot season, meaning light showers are more common during brief moments in the day. Warmer sea temperatures are present as well, meaning many guests often won’t require the use of a wetsuit!
Whatever time of the year it be, guests at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel are guaranteed to enjoy the best of what Galapagos has to offer! Book your stay with us today!