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!
There are different ways in which to explore the magnificent Galapagos Islands. When it comes down to planning, travellers usually base their decisions on budget, time or specific interests. Be it through a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, there’s no doubt you will be amazed with the wonderful world you will encounter in the archipelago. The unique and tame wildlife, the rare vegetation, the hospitality of its people (yes, for those of you who didn’t know, 3% of the Galapagos are inhabited), they all add up to a one-of-a-kind experience. When choosing a land-based option, make sure you go for the one that will transform a regular vacation into an unforgettable one. It’s all about the details, service, and exploration choices!
Day Tour or Bay Tour in the Galapagos?
A beach-front hotel in a secluded location, like Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, is the perfect place from which to discover the Enchanted Islands. Once there, visitors are highly encouraged to try to visit some of the archipelago’s most beautiful beaches and its most iconic neighbouring isles in order to get a more in-depth understanding of this wholly unique place. To do so, you will find two highly popular options that are in Puerto Ayora: a Day Tour or a Bay Tour. Read on to learn the difference between the a Day tour or a Bay Tour in the Galapagos and choose the one that will make the most of your time in this unique destination!
Bay Tours are usually operated by small motor boats that do not have permits for disembarking on uninhabited Galapagos islands. This means they only visit the surrounding beaches of Puerto Ayora and passengers are only allowed to snorkel around the boat in open water. Bay Tours also don’t include a Naturalist Guide as part of their trips and it’s usually the boat’s owner and “chauffeur” that are in charge of everything, from explanations to safety. Most of time, Bay Tours don’t include snorkelling equipment and they may or may not include a box lunch, depending on the package visitors decide to go for. The boats are usually small and have no indoor space or air conditioning to help cool down from the intense Galapagos sun.
A Bay Tour, as its name implies, focuses on observing Santa Cruz’s coastline and bays without disembarking at National Park Visitor Sites (remember that inhabited areas are not considered part of the Galapagos National Park). On a Bay Tour, passengers would have the chance to observe some of the Galapagos BIG15 and other wildlife from a distance, but no close-up observation and understanding of their behaviors is possible, or even explained. As mentioned before, Bay Tours in Galapagos do anchor in specific places, but only out in open water to let their guests swim and practice snorkelling directly beside the boat. As safety measures, Bay Tours are required to provide their passengers with life jackets.
A Day Tour is the other option that you can choose for exploring the archipelago if you decide on opting for a land-based excursion. Day tours are provided by yachts that do have permission to disembark at iconic islands – North Seymour, Bartolome, South Plaza and Santa Fe – and are done in the company of a professionally-trained Naturalist Guide. It’s an excellent way to experience to the Galapagos National Park and the uninhabited islands. If you want to have the best coverage of Galapagos BIG15 iconic species and see a plethora of wildlife in its natural habitat (without the disturbance of human civilization!) a Galapagos Day Tour is the way to go. Witness blue-footed boobies nesting or doing their silly courtship dance, walk by huge colonies of frigate birds and Galapagos sea lions, or observe marine iguanas basking under the equatorial sun. A true and fulfilling Galapagos experience comes from being able to observe these beautiful creatures up close.
It’s also important to note that Galapagos Day Tours on yachts, as is the case with the Finch Bay’s own Sea Lion Yacht, usually take care of everything for those onboard. Not only are all safety measures considered, but also lunch and snorkelling masks are included. On our Sea Lion Yacht, a delicious buffet-style lunch awaits guests that are coming back from swimming, hiking or snorkelling. This lunch is prepared fresh and onboard by the yacht’s own cook. If you require a special meal or have dietary restrictions, be sure to let us know at the Hotel’s reception – we’ll be more than happy to accommodate our culinary fare to your specific needs. The Sea Lion also has an indoor, air-conditioned space where guests can sit comfortably and an open, covered deck from which to observe the amazing Galapagos landscapes!
Aboard the Sea Lion Yacht, a 5-member crew is at your disposal, making sure you are safe and comfortable at all times. Our Naturalist Guide briefs the group prior to disembarking at a specific island or before partaking in any activity. That way, they talk the group through all safety procedures as well as informing them on what they are about to see: animal and plant species, geology and history. Each island has its own particularities that make it unique and special. Without a doubt, they are all worth a visit, which makes a Galapagos Day Tour a superb choice!
NOTE: According to the National Park’s latest count, there are only 11 yachts authorized for Day Tours on the island of Puerto Ayora, so make sure you don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes!