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!
December eggs: Galapagos giant tortoise eggs hatching!
Galapagos Giant Tortoise Eggs are starting to hatch throughout this month of December (and will continue to hatch up until April), and it’s much to the delight of our guests that are lucky enough to spot them in the wild! If guests wish to raise their odds of spotting Galapagos giant tortoise eggs hatching, the Charles Darwin Research Centre (on Santa Cruz Island) and the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Tortoise Breeding Centre (on San Cristobal Island) both offer visitors the chance to see numerous hatchlings in captivity. The arrival of the hot season in Galapagos brings with it a number of things that are full of life, read on in this blog to find out more about this member of our select group of BIG15 iconic species – Galapagos giant tortoise eggs hatching!
– Photo by: M. Lozo –
From Seed to Surface: Galapagos Giant Tortoise Eggs Hatching & Nesting
It is sometime between the months of June and December that Galapagos giant tortoises breed. Following this period of heightened copulation levels, the mother giant tortoise will begin making their way down into the lowlands as the hot season in Galapagos starts to roll in. Fertilized female giant tortoises will wander the lowlands briefly, typically around the beach areas, before find and deciding on a spot to dig a hole in.
Females can’t see the hole they’re digging because they rely on their strong back legs to do so, consequently making it a tedious job that requires several hours (sometimes even days) to finish creating a hole that end up being approximately 30cm/1ft deep. Using a mixture of sand and urine, a plug of mud is created and used by the female to cover and seal the eggs (2-16 in total) in the hole. Following this, she goes away.
Temperature is crucial when it comes to defining the sex of the babies, with warmer temperatures creating more females and cooler temperatures creating more males. Here’s a handy mnemonic: “cool dudes and hot chicks.” Once born, it will take a whopping 15 years before it can be seen which are females and which are males.
– Photo by: poulet4amy –
4-8 months is the approximate amount of time that it takes for the tortoises to develop within their hard-shelled eggs. Once they crack open, it can take these hatchlings up to a month to dig themselves out of the hole to reach the surface.
Tiny and light, the hatchlings weigh a mere 80g/2.8oz and are roughly 6cm/2.4in long. Later on in life, their weight will increase tenfold and average around 225kg/500lb – a truly astounding gain of size and weight within a handful of years!
With tours that consist of exploring the highlands of Santa Cruz, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel offers tours of the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, offering guests the chance to experience Galapagos giant tortoises hatching (if you’re lucky enough)! If you want to raise your odds, simply head to the Charles Darwin Research Centre over in Puerto Ayora, which is only a stone’s throw away from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel property!
Santa Fe land iguana: a highly exclusive species in Galapagos
The Santa Fe land iguana in Galapagos is a member of our prestigious BIG15 group of iconic species in Galapagos. It is endemic to the island of Santa Fe which is viewable on our Sea Lion Yacht, making it a superb reason to hop aboard it at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and head on over to check out this majestic creature in all its glory and mysterious colors. The island itself is located a mere 24 km2 (0.3 mi2) off the eastern coast of Santa Cruz Island!
Santa Fe Land Iguana: What’s in the name?
This species of land iguana (Conolophus pallidus) differed and branched away from its more widespread cousin in the archipelago – the Galapagos land iguana (Conolphus subcristatus) – around 8-10 million years ago.
The generic name, Conolophus is actually green for “spiny crest,” which references the spiny ridge that lines their backs. Compared to the common Galapagos land iguanas, the Santa Fe land iguana has smaller dorsal spines. They also have a slightly darker shade of browner throughout their scales and also possess a tapered snout. This more obscure coloring allows the Santa Fe land iguana to blend in even more perfectly with its surroundings, making it a harder target to snare for predators. Oddly enough, Charles Darwin referred to them as being “ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish-red colour above: from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance.”
Santa Fe Land Iguana: Notable Features
Santa Fe land iguanas are mainly herbivores, which means they’re often seen eating on the ubiquitous prickly pear that grows on the opuntia cactus that’s found throughout Santa Fe Island.
They do this to both absorb the nutritious components of the cactus as well as to hydrate their bodies with fresh water. What’s a rather unusual creature that’s feeding on the Santa Fe land iguana? Darwin’s finches! Except all they do is simply peck off the parasites that often live atop the bodies of the Santa Fe land iguana.
The arrival of feral goats, thanks in large part to the presence of pirates and whalers in Galapagos, was a huge reason for their decimated numbers on Santa Fe Island. Fortunately, the Galapagos National Park stepped in, back in 1971, to keep the species alive by eradicating all the goats thereon. Nevertheless, the Santa Fe land iguana remains a vulnerable species because of its limited distribution on this single island. Their population is estimated to hover around the 7,000 mark.
Their breeding season sees 3-11 eggs laid by the female and isn’t all that different from the hatching season for Galapagos marine iguanas. It takes around 50 days for this clutch of eggs to hatch inside their respctive burrows.
– The average lifespan of iguanas in Galapagos tends to be 50 to 60 years. –
So be sure to make the Santa Fe land iguana a part of your experience if you’re looking to check off as many species from your BIG15 list as possible! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel makes for the perfect home base to explore the surrounding visitor sites and iconic wildlife!
Cooking for presidents Galapagos style: Putting new traditional Galapagos food on the map
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to be part of a great experience preparing traditional Galapagos food; and not only for me as a chef, but for the entire Finch Bay team. We were hired to cook a VIP dinner here in the Galapagos Islands for Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, his wife, his team and a special guest that was none other than Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel was requested to cook for very house that they were staying at on Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos. Our whole team rose to the occasion and we couldn’t have been happier with how well everything turned out. Adding to our purpose of creating traditional Galapagos food, we took this opportunity get super creative inventive while making the most out of the amazing ingredients from our land and the bountiful Galapagos waters. Cooking for Presidents is no easy task, but showing the world all the possibilities that exist when it comes to preparing traditional Galapagos food is a goal me and my culinary team fully dove into!
The Menu: Our Little Spin on Traditional Galapagos Food
We designed a unique menu for the evening that included several of the emblematic and endemic goods that are found throughout the islands. Our carefully-crafted menu included:
Smoked octopus with potato and sweet pepper foam
Red tuna ceviche with sweet and sour orange sauce
Passion fruit sorbet infused with tequila
Lobster with coconut sauce and a garlic and saffron butter accompanied with green plantain patacones and spicy pico de gallo
Coulant with 72% cacao Hoja Verde chocolate, ginger ice cream and vanilla foam infused with frankincense
We started our mise en place (meal prep) early in the morning, so that everything, including any and all necessary kitchenware, would be ready for the evening. The logistics were actually a lot of fun! Remember that we’re talking about the Galapagos Islands here: it’s not like we have a truck at our disposal that we can just drive down the road. For transportation, we actually had to find the next best thing – a tractor. We hired one that was big enough to move all our kitchenware and ingredients over to the harbor from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. We then moved everything onto a boat to transfer everything from Punta Estrada to Puerto Ayora. Once we got to the other side, we put it all inside an actual truck that helped move everything over to the house where the President was staying.
Ready, steady, go!
The President’s security detail was extremely thorough. They checked all the food items as well as the kitchenware we brought with us. They also took samples of the food we had already cooked and passed it through a scanner to see if it was in good condition and if it complied with their safety standards. Obviously, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel’s Restaurant passed the test! Everything here is always prepared fresh and only uses the best quality ingredients!
Once we got the green light from security, we were finally ready to put the best of our abilities to the test!
Our team in charge of providing catering for this special event included only 4 people from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel: Cesar, the Maître; Johanna, Captain of Waiters; Sebastian the Sous Chef; and myself – the chef!
We took over the kitchen in the President’s house and continued organizing and preparing everything for the event which was set to begin at 8:00 pm. If there is one thing about official events like these, especially presidential ones, it’s that they start right on time.
We ended up cooking an out-of-this-world meal for the Presidents of Chile and our beloved country of Ecuador, the First Lady, and the Chancellors and Ambassadors of both countries. Everything went as smoothly as the turquoise waters of the Galapagos sea. So when it was all over, we all collectively let out a giant sigh a relief!
An Evening with Traditional Galapagos Food: Conversation and Everlasting Memories
When the dinner was finally finished, I went out to the dining room to greet the dignitaries that we had the pleasure of cooking for that evening. I took my time to explain each individual dish, focusing mostly on the ingredients and highlighting the fact that these came from the islands. Our guests expressed their gratitude, happiness and satisfaction over how delicious the dinner had been, commenting that it had served as the perfect complement to an evening filled with friendly and diplomatic conversation. They also showed a lot of curiosity and interest in what the ingredients were and how, exactly, we had prepared them.
I can’t say it enough: I love my job! And what I love most about it is making people happy with my food, transmitting the passion that my team and I imbue every dish with, and creating memorable experiences that will hopefully remain in the hearts of our guests forever! We truly want our guests to take a bit of the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel back home with them and have it remain as one of their fondest memories of the archipelago. On this occasion, we were able to honour our President and President Bachelet, with whom we were able to share a little taste of Ecuador, traditional Galapagos food, the unique ingredients found here and, most importantly, a piece of our hearts that went into each and every one of the dishes we cooked. I am thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we had as part of the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel team. It was truly an honour to cook for the Presidents and their respective teams.
We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live.
Join us on this gastronomic dream of ours that is just starting! Become a part of traditional Galapagos food and the new culinary traditions as imagined by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
When we think of the Galapagos, we usually think of white-sand beaches teeming with wildlife. And sure enough: This is what the Galapagos are! However, there are many other sides to the archipelago aside from beaches: black-lava shores, beautiful cliffs, landscapes dotted by cacti, craters and, of course, there’s the amazing highlands of Galapagos. The irregular geography of most of the biggest islands, which happen to be the result of volcanic activity, is home to different types of vegetation and wildlife that vary with altitude. During your stay at the fabulous Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – the only beach-front hotel in Santa Cruz – you will want to make the most of your time in the Galapagos. It’s not very often that we get to visit such exotic and distant locations. Santa Cruz is not only home to some amazing beaches, such as Tortuga Bay and Garrapatero, but also to some amazing formations that are present up in its mysterious highlands that are sure to leave you breathless. Some visitors coming to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel might have a Highland Visit included as part of their itinerary, but even if you don’t, read on to learn more about some of the amazing things you will be able to see when you venture through there. Ask at the Finch Bay’s reception for recommendations on the best way to go about your highland exploration: we promise they will be more than happy to help you find taxis and guides, should you need them.
– Scalesia tree –
The highlands of Santa Cruz
Bellavista and “El Trapiche”
After a short drive to the highland town of Bellavista, you will get to the starting point of your exploration. While up there, why not stop for an intense cup of Galapagos coffee before deciding on your next move? It’s still a novelty crop on the island that keeps on improving its taste and aroma over time! You can either rent some bikes and helmets and take a short ride to the “El Trapiche” hacienda or continue on by car, depending on how fit you feel. At “El Trapiche,” which is a small family farm, you will be able to learn about how sugarcane liquor is made, as well as try some brown sugar and fresh sugarcane juice. Watch as these artisanal products are made and sample their sugarcane juice at each of their different stages.
Los Gemelos and the Scalesia Forest
You can also drive past Bellavista to the highest point of Santa Cruz and go see the famous “Los Gemelos” (The Twins). These volcanic formations are located at both sides of the highway and consist of lava chambers with collapsed ceilings (due to erosion), forming crater-looking holes on the ground. The formations are not visible from the highway, as they are hidden below a beautiful scalesia forest. Scalesias are a giant type of daisy and are endemic to the Galapagos. So park and walk a few metres – the drive there is worth it and the view will impress you!
– View of one of the “Gemelos” and the scalesia forest. –
Rancho Las Primicias
The highlands of Santa Cruz are also a wonderful place to see the most iconic Galapagos BIG15 species in the wild, most notable of which is the colossal Galapagos giant tortoise. Visit “Rancho Las Primicias,” a family-owned farm turned into a Galapagos giant tortoise reserve and marvel at these giant creatures as they peacefully roam around the property. You’ll get to see them eating, snoozing or taking a nice refreshing bath in a mud pool. You can even stand next to them for some fantastic photos, but just remember not to touch them as it is forbidden by the Galapagos National Park to touch the wildlife, as this could gravely interrupt their natural processes!
– Galapagos giant tortoise –
Around the area of “Las Primicias,” be sure to ask your guide or driver to take you to one of the many lava tunnels throughout Santa Cruz’s highlands. They’re usually located inside private properties but most are open to visitors and charge but a small fee for entry. Lava tunnels that are open to the public are well kept and illuminated. Take a walk through one of these amazing volcanic formations and go back to a time when the islands where being born.
– One of the lava tunnels in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Photo by: Alvaro Sevilla. –
How to experience the Galapagos islands: land or sea?
In isles as enchanted as these, there’s always so much to see, so much to do… but what exactly are the ways to experience Galapagos? This blog explains exactly that: how to experience the Galapagos Islands. Basically, experiencing the islands can be narrowed down into two categories, the latter of which branches out into a handful of sub-categories. There’s a sea-based option and land-based option. Follow along in this blog to find out how to experience the Galapagos Islands.
How to Experience the Galapagos Option #1: On Land
Look no further than the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel if you’re looking for a.) the only beach front hotel on Santa Cruz Island and b.) an enriching, relaxing, and rejuvenating land (and sea! We’ll get to that below) experience. Staying on land is an option that caters to those more interested in experiencing the archipelago one step at a time, gradually taking it all in as it comes at your own pace and of course: lounging by the shore side with a nice drink in hand before heading into town to soak in the local island life.
Not to mention: it’s probably the best choice for those that are slightly more prone to seasickness (please note: there are “sea-sickness proof” cruises in the archipelago that help abate this symptom). However, those with sea legs that looking to head out and experience a little more of the archipelago while enjoying the comfort of their land-based option are privy to…
The Land & Sea Option
With its own Sea Lion Yacht, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotels offers its guests the opportunity to check out a number of the surrounding, beautiful islands from the comfort of a fully-equipped, luxurious and modestly-sized vessel. Guests are treated to a buffet lunch throughout their travels to the islands, and multiple activities are offered as well. And if you’re looking for an even more expansive way of experiencing the islands, there’s always…
Expand your horizons even further with this incredible option that grants guests the ability to fly from Santa Cruz Island all the way to the largest island of the archipelago that is Isabela. Add to the number of check marks that you’ve built up on your Galapagos BIG15 list of iconic species and revel in an even greater amount of majestic views by standing at the rim of one of the world’s largest craters.
How to Experience the Galapagos Option #2: At Sea (with Island Stops)
Another great option for experiencing the islands is hopping on a cruise, which instantly grants you access to more visitor sites in the Galapagos National Park, species, islands and the company of an expert guide that will follow you along the whole way. It’s worth noting that a sea-based option grants guests the opportunity to visit places that simply can’t be accessed by staying on land (due to how faraway certain visitor sites are). All-in-all, the best part about having these two options is the fact that guests can link them together, if they wish. When it comes to looking for how to experience the Galapagos Islands, is it too much to ask for both options? With Metropolitan Touring, it never is.
The Santa Cruz Fish Market is a lively place in Puerto Ayora, and it’s not all that far from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – the only beach-front property on the island. Walking there makes for a pleasant and amusing stroll along the bay in Puerto Ayora, and guests often have their senses stimulated by a number of things throughout the walk. Stop for a refreshing cocktail or cold beer, and look around the city’s many souvenir shops to find a perfect gift to take back home. Everyone is sure to find it’s easy to melt into the Galapagos island life. From the number of rays that glide underwater to soaking up the laid back island vibes that surround the town, guests are sure to enjoy the walk and get a special treat that’s located not all that far from the Charles Darwin Research Station.
When guests arrive at the Santa Cruz Fish Market, it’s often the case that newcomers don’t just hang around to get a look and what’s being cleaned and sold – they often stay for the spectacle surrounding it.
The Santa Cruz Fish Market: Fresh from the Sea
There is no fresher fish than the one that’s caught in the morning and cooked in the afternoon. Living on an island has this exact advantage. Because of the Galapagos’ location on the equator, where both the Cromwell and Humboldt currents meet, seafood is as diverse as it is delicious. Always abiding by the strict Galapagos National Park regulations on when and where to fish, artisanal fishermen go out every morning and afternoon to catch some of the islanders’ most common and favourite fish. At the Santa Cruz Fish Market you will find beautiful yellow-thin tunas (bonito), groupers (bacalao), and endemic fish such as camotillo, scorpion fish (brujo), and red snapper (pargo).
And come lobster season, you will find two species of this crustacean served everywhere, the smaller-sized slipper lobster and the famous red-lobster. Restaurants are located just minutes away from the Santa Cruz Fish Market and these prepare the fish with their very own recipes every day. Try the Finch Bay’s fresh red snapper in a reduction of Andean mushrooms or its famous grilled tuna sealed with a sesame crust. Your mouth is sure to start watering the moment you look at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel’s restaurant menu!
The Action Surrounding the Santa Cruz Fish Market
Frequent fans of this informal attraction at Puerto Ayora are the pelicans that waddle all over the counters and the sea lions that poke their heads up beside the sellers, sniffing at the coveted treasures that they’re slicing up. Among this audience: the random iguana just hanging out on the side, passively watching the whole thing unfold – again giving guests the chance to visually see how such a diverse number of species manage to peacefully co-exist with each other and us, humans!
If you decide to go for a morning stroll down Puerto Ayora’s boardwalk, make sure to stop and admire this scene that truly depicts “organized chaos,” and have your camera ready to capture a sneaky pelican trying to steal a fish!
Galapagos food: the beginning of a culinary tradition
When I came to the archipelago for the first time, the first question I had for the local people and my team of warrior cooks at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel was: What is the most meaningful, classical or popular dish or dishes from the Galapagos Islands? Everybody told me different stories about their favorite food, but nobody had really shared the same concept or notion of what an emblematic Galapagos dish consisted of, exactly. So the question remains: What is traditional Galapagos food?
Is There Traditional Galapagos Food?
The people I asked began by telling me about how the Islands are inhabited by people from all throughout Ecuador; these of which had come to live here for different reasons and during different periods since the discovery and colonization of the Enchanted Isles. I started to research and read about the first colonizers that came here. What did they like to cook? How did they prepare it? What ingredients did they have at their disposal? The truth is that I found little to no information on this. I discovered there really is no iconic dish that is specific to the Galapagos.
However, there was no downside to finding out the Galapagos lacked a culinary tradition of their own. As I exchanged experiences and got to know the galapagueños a little better, I noticed a pattern in what they considered to be the islands’ gastronomical asset: their natural resources. A gift that people in the Galapagos have learned to never take for granted.
A Gift from Life
And this was perhaps exactly the type of answer I was hoping to find! Appreciating what planet Earth gives us – isn’t that the essence of food, after all? When fishermen sail out to the open sea every day to bring us back their bounties to cook, we can’t help but feel incredibly thankful. Giant lobsters, the freshest of fish, endemic prawns and octopi. The Galapagos’ sea is so rich with life, that we have the extraordinary opportunity to create dishes that you will not taste anywhere else in the world. The freshness of what is caught from the sea, combined with the produce harvested by farmers in the highlands of Santa Cruz and other inhabited islands, make for the best and most exotic combinations you will ever try. Flavors you could have never imagined exist right here in the Galapagos.
How Are Traditions Born?
With all this information and the ingredients we have available, we got to the most interesting part of the creative process as chefs: we now had to use our research to find out which are the most beloved ingredients in the archipelago in order to start creating culinary traditions of our own – traditions that respect our natural environment, while allowing us to design some of the most extraordinary combinations of flavors.
Who are the Manufacturers of Traditions?
Inside Finch’s kitchen, we are a very multicultural group. We come from different cities and communities from all around Ecuador and the Galapagos too. In our creative space, each cook shares their ideas for new recipes and dishes, some of which come from places as far away as our childhood memories, often times the fondest memories of all.
When creating dishes, I particularly enjoy the plating process, that is – the arrangement and overall styling of food upon a plate. Through the use of fresh and delicious garnishes, I seek to convey the environment and ecosystem of the Galapagos. I find inspiration everywhere, from the different hues of the sea, to the rough rocks on the beaches. Having the opportunity to observe the Galapagos’ unique wildlife and vegetation zones truly encourages one’s inspiration to reach unimaginable levels.
Start from Scratch!
At the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, we are creating traditional Galapagos food from scratch! The detailed manufacturing and craftsmanship of our own plates allow us to be immersed in a rather creative atmosphere, making it easier for new and clearer ideas to come to our heads.
In the end, cooking in the Galapagos has only reinforced what has long been my cooking philosophy: we love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live!
So join us on this gastronomic journey! We’re just getting started!