We felt it necessary to end this last month of June with a bang by hosting a wonderful “Dinner Duet” (Cena a 4 manos) alongside Chef Rodrigo Pacheco, who hails from Bocavaldivia Restaurant in Puerto Cayo Manabi (located on Ecuador’s coast). Follow along in this blog as we tell you all about the wonderful magic that occurred at the Finch Bay as our team of chefs prepared traditional Galapagos food!
A Savory Bit of Serendipity
The culinary world is quite small, and before beginning this story, it’s worth mentioning that Rodrigo and I have been friends ever since we met as little kids. Once we reached High School, however, we both ended up switching schools and then, after graduating, took off on our separate culinary journeys – Rodrigo to study gastronomy in France, while I went off to study in Spain. We came back home almost at around the same time, nearly ten years after having surveyed and experimented at many different restaurants and hotels throughout the cities and countries of Europe.
I mention all of this because, often times, that’s what seems to be the most beautiful thing about traveling, especially when you’re a cook – you get to learn about new and different cultures and then bring it all back home, to your roots. The other thing I love is getting together with your colleagues years later and sharing everything you’ve learned with them. For me, it’s one of life’s greatest caprices – the way things manage to reconnect in the end, and come full circle.
And it just so happens that Rodrigo and I are quite aligned with respect to the type of cooking we do and wish to share with our guests. Due to the similarity that Puerto Cayo has with the Galapagos Islands, we both decided to host and focus this “Dinner Duet” on the stellar and notable ingredients that one can find throughout the islands, implementing the techniques that both Rodrigo and I have acquired throughout this past decade.
Preparing Galapagos Traditional Food (in Tandem)!
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that we’re always aiming and searching for ways to be more sustainable with how we cook. We are always striving to use local products and ingredients that help us highlight the fact that Galapagos traditional food is all about being sustainable and responsible. And just like the finches, our Galapagos traditional food is also one that evolves overtime in the laboratory of our kitchen, where we continuously perfect and hone our culinary prowess.
Prior to this event, Rodrigo and I got together for around 3 hours, during which we began to throw ideas around, let our creativity flow and ultimately realized that we were both very much aligned in terms of our vision for this specific bit of Galapagos traditional food that we were about to concoct. Not to mention, we seemed to be the perfect match for smoothly executing our menu for this particular evening.
In the end, we decided to prepare a tasting menu consisting of 6 courses that would allow our guests to savor and taste some of the most emblematic seafood of the Enchanted Isles, all of them prepared using the specialized techniques and flavors that are exclusive to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and the Bocavaldivia Restaurant.
The main ingredients of the night were: Galapagos red tuna, octopus, canchalagua, “mule’s foot” clam, endemic lobster, and pez brujo (endemic Galapagos “witch” fish) alongside several different fruits, vegetables and aromatic herbs that come from the islands themselves.
Rodrigo defines his style of cooking as ethnobotanical, as he makes use of all the ingredients and products that are made available to him by the surrounding, natural world. Not only does he use these in the process of cooking, but he also uses them to decorate the dishes he prepares.
The thing about our team in the kitchen at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is that we always make the most of the ingredients that are readily available to us, using our creativity and resourcefulness to produce something truly great and unique.
In Spanish, the term we use to refer to this particular style of event is: “Cena a 4 manos” or “A Dinner Prepared by Four Hands” in English. While Rodrigo and I were the mentors that led the concept on this particular occasion, none of this would have worked as superbly as it did had we not had our trusty and expert team of cooks at the Finch Bay with us! It was thanks to their tremendous help that we managed to deliver a spectacular dinner to all our guests. Not to mention: it was a fantastic experience for all of us working together in the kitchen.
At the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, we’re all about laying down the “culinary groundwork” for Galapagos traditional food. Put another way: we aim to be the pioneers of culinary traditions in the archipelago, working hand-in-hand with local fishermen and farmers to eliminate the environmental burden of importing items from the mainland. Our Chakrita garden, too, helps us grow much of our own produce right here at the hotel itself. For us, Galapagos traditional food is all about paying homage to what the islands produce without damaging this unique, one-of-a-kind destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sustainability and exquisite delicacies must go hand-in-hand here more than anywhere else in the world. One of these days, when the friends and/or family members of our guests ask them about what the food was like in Galapagos, we want them to refer to us.
For me, life is pretty simple when it comes to figuring out what you need to do with it: just think about what you feel passionate about and what makes you happy, and try and focus on doing that one thing!
It’s one of my greatest fortunes and a tremendous privilege to get the chance to cook with one of my good friends from childhood, right here in a paradisiacal place like Galapagos, surrounded by one of the best team of cooks I could ever ask for.
And the best part? There’s still plenty of roads to tread, things to create and stories to tell… and we’ll always be looking forward to the next gastronomic adventure!
In the end: We live to cook, we cook to live and we love to cook!
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.
The Galapagos has something for every taste, and at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel you can enjoy it all! From superb cuisine to relaxing by the pool, cocktail in hand. From wildlife observation to the exploration of the islands’ unique landscape. You don’t have to choose just one! You can do it all and get a complete Galapagos experience that encompasses all the details and activities that will make it a truly unforgettable journey. For the most sporty and adventurous, Finch Bay also offers an array of interesting options, which are only enhanced by the mesmerizing location where they take place in, the Enchanted Isles! If this sport is something you’ve done before or you want to do for the first time, this is the place to do it. Read on to learn how to go about kayaking in the Galapagos and get ready to enjoy!
Where Does the Activity Take Place?
Once you’ve booked the activity, we make sure to go through all the safety procedures that will make it even more enjoyable. Our kayaking program takes place in Divine Bay, a beautiful location with protected waters that make for a very pleasant trip. We leave when the tide is high from Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach), located by Finch Bay – one of the advantages of staying at the only beach-front hotel in Santa Cruz! We start rowing southward for about 15 minutes until we get to the Lover’s Crevasse, as the locals call it, and surround the mangroves that grow by the bay.
More About Divine Bay
Located very close to Academy Bay and buzzy Puerto Ayora, you’ll find the quiet and wildlife-rich Divine Bay. Named after one of the islands first settlers, this beautiful cove is protected from the swells by natural reefs on one side, mangrove trees on the other and cliffs created by the uplift of the lava plateau. Divine Bay provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife, and kayaking is one of the best ways to discover it! Watch the herons cross the Bay and the noddy terns nesting in the cliffs alongside the blue-footed boobies. If you watch carefully, you might even spot a sea turtle grazing in the ocean floor or a curious young reef shark.
How Longs Does the Activity Last?
It can last from 1 to 2 hours. It all depends on how fast you row or how you want to go about your trip. Some want the ride to feel more like a stroll in order to observe the coastline with ease. Others like to do it for the sport and they take the opportunity to test their strength and speed. Either way, you will be able to enjoy amazing landscapes and observe the unique wildlife of Galapagos.
How Technical and Demanding is the Activity?
The Kayaking Program is a really friendly activity and can be enjoyed by young and old. On a scale from 1 to 5, our kayaking activity has a medium-level difficulty of 2. Keep in mind that it can feel a little strenuous on the arms if you haven’t been exercising much, but it’s not too hard to handle. This activity that combines sport, adventure and sightseeing is a definite must-do!
What Kind of Kayaks do you Use?
We have open, tandem, sit-on-top kayaks. This means you can do it by yourself or share the experience with a friend, partner or family member. If you do it amongst two, you will have to get in sync with your rowing. Once you find your pace, you will feel like you are flying on top of the water.
What Does the Activity Include?
It includes paddles and life vests. You can rent a wetsuit if you are one to get cold easily, but you really won’t as you will be moving your muscles all the time. We do recommend wearing a hat, sunscreen and a long-sleeved t-shirt in order to protect your skin from the equatorial sun.
Is it a Guided Activity?
A guide will be provided if the group has 6 or more people, as per Galapagos National Park rules. However, anyone can request a guide, no matter the number of people.
What is the Minimum Age Allowed for This Activity?
For this activity, kids of all ages are allowed. All minors younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. As safe as this activity is, like any other aquatic activity organized by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, we always like to remind the parents that the minor’s safety is their responsibility.
When you live and work in a natural paradise such as the Galapagos Islands, there are many things to consider. But when you work at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – one of the world’s leading GREEN hotels – you know things are done differently. We strive to be a leading example of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices not only for the people of the Galapagos, but for our guests as well. This month, we went deeper into what sustainable Galapagos food ought to be like and even welcomed the visit of a very interesting guest. Read on to learn more about what’s cooking at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
Investigation & Sustainable Galapagos Food
Our team at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel dedicates itself to numerous different projects in order to protect the amazing environment of the islands. One of these is our sustainable Galapagos food project, which sees us continuously investigating the diversity of local produce and ways of encouraging farmers to grow more sustainably. At the Finch Bay, we try to buy local as much as possible in order to lower our environmental footprint. We also send our teams out to investigate the fruits and vegetables that are grown on the inhabited islands. We even talk to fishermen and learn about their fishing techniques, along with the species of fish, crustaceans and/or mollusks that they catch. Once we’ve gathered all this knowledge, we bring it back to our kitchen and put it all into our creative efforts that help develop our menu that represents the best of Galapagos food and Ecuadorian cuisine. We know that we can only grow as a restaurant and a company so long as our community grows with us.
As part of our ongoing efforts to leave less of a carbon footprint, we have even created our own organic vegetable garden. The “Chakrita,” as we call it, is home to a varied selection of flowers and herbs that we use in all our recipes, either as garnish or the main ingredients. To have all these amazing and fresh greens at our disposal allows us to develop our creativity, which is a crucial component in allowing our “crazy” chef minds to continuously grow.
During my time here, I have seen a growing interest and curiosity from our guests, cooks and chefs, about all things organic and local, especially when they come directly from the islands. It’s something we look forward to working on constantly!
A Visit From a Gastronomic Icon
Last month we were fortunate enough to receive a visit from famous chef Juan Luis Fernandez and his girlfriend Dolce Nida, owners of the restaurant “LÚ Cocina y Alma” in Jerez, Spain. They stayed at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, during which time they cooked with us, experimenting with our ingredients and updating our understanding of cooking techniques. Juan Luis, also known as JuanLu, spent several years working at the famous “Aponiente” restaurant (3 Michelin stars), where he himself learned the latest gastronomical techniques for preparing seafood in the best way possible.
After spending a day looking for the best ingredients and sharing our expertise with JuanLu and Dolce, we were delighted to share our kitchen with them. They couldn’t have been more generous! They taught us about the techniques they use at their restaurant, and we even got to learn about new cooking methods that we can apply to our own recipes and products here at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
We Are All Cooks
I love how the world of food and cooking has no frontiers or barriers. In life, we are all cooks! However, when you are a chef, and so long as you cook with passion, it doesn’t matter where you are – you always have to give it your best! At the Finch Bay, we give each meal and plate our best, every single day, so that our friends and guests learn and fall in love with our products, our country, our people and our cuisine.
My team and I, we never get bored: We are always improving and looking forward to coming up with new and magnificent flavors, using all the wonderful natural ingredients that the Galapagos Islands has to offer us.
Join us on our journey! We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live!
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.
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!
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:
The Galapagos Islands have something for everyone! Explorers, adventurers, curious travellers and even those who are just looking to relax and unwind (or a combination of both!) will fall in love with this magical place. The archipelago has it all, and the way you decide to discover it is entirely up to you! Whether it be aboard a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, you can rest assured you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime! For a land-based option, head to the only beachfront hotel on Santa Cruz Island – Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – and unravel the mysteries of the islands with your friends and family! If you are looking to explore the amazing highlands of Santa Cruz and do some sports while engaging in a fun and safe activity, then biking in the Galapagos Islands is the activity for you! Read up and ride on!
Biking in the Galapagos Islands: How to do it?
Biking is an activity available at the Finch Bay upon request. Depending on how much time you’ll be spending in the archipelago, you can make this activity either a full-day or a half-day activity. Biking in the Galapagos presents a unique opportunity to discover the highlands and enjoy some amazing views of Santa Cruz Island, in our case. Once you book the activity, we take care of everything else!
Bikes and helmets will be waiting for you at the dock. Our Naturalist Guide will be in charge of the activity, and a car and driver will take you all the way up to Bellavista – the highlands’ biggest town and where your adventure begins. Once there, we’ll bike down to the beautiful beach of El Garrapatero, so remember to put on your swimming suit at the hotel before leaving, as there are no changing rooms at the beach! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel will provide you with water and a beach towel for you to take with you in your backpack!
When do we go biking in the Galapagos?
We leave in the morning at 9 a.m., giving us time to enjoy the Finch Bay’s delicious breakfast buffet. Load up on pancakes, omelettes, fresh fruit, coffee and other local delicacies and get ready to roll!
Once your car drops you off at Bellavista, you will gear up and, following your guide’s instructions and briefing, you will begin your biking journey in Galapagos! Enjoy the view, feel the refreshing wind in your face, let endorphins flow as you pedal to the beach, and anticipate an invigorating dip in the Pacific Ocean! That’s the proper way to end a biking trip in the Galapagos Islands! You will hang out at El Garrapatero for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half. Afterwards, you’ll hop in the car and head back for lunch. Whether you choose to eat in the town of Puerto Ayora or back at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is entirely up to you!
How physically demanding is biking in the Galapagos? Is it safe?
Our biking activity is designed to be enjoyed to the fullest by both young and old guests. The whole activity takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. We drive you up to Bellavista, and from there all you do is bike down towards the coast. We pedal on a flat asphalt road that descends to El Garrapatero beach. We take safety very seriously, which is why, before beginning the activity, your Naturalist Guide will brief you on all safety measures. We will remind you to keep to your right at all times (to let eventual cars pass by), and to wear a helmet. We also have knee pads for anyone who might want a little extra protection.
Your Guide will accompany you during the entire trip. While biking, he or she will sometimes be at the front of the group and sometimes at the rear, making sure that everyone is doing OK. If, for whatever reason, you feel a little tired or unwell, our driver will pick you up as our car will be following the group all the way from a safe distance, ready to assist anyone who should require it. You will be pedalling for about an hour downhill. How fast or slow you go is totally up to you. In the Galapagos – as you will see – there is no need to hurry! You don’t have to be the fittest person in order to partake in this activity, which is why we always recommend biking in the Galapagos to families travelling with children, or couples and groups that want to discover the islands in a different way!
Traveler’s tip: Remember to wear sunscreen at all times, as the sun on the equator is really strong! Also: keep your eyes open while you bike, as Galapagos giant tortoises are frequently seen crossing the road or ambling alongside it!
Other Biking Options
If you are looking to find an amazing view of Santa Cruz Island, we recommend that you visit Cerro Mesa. This viewpoint that’s located atop a crater is the perfect spot for photos. On a very clear day you can see all the way to Itabaca Chanel! Just like with our Bellavista-El Garrapatero biking excursion, a driver and Naturalist Guide will pick you up in town and drive you up to the viewpoint. From there, you will bike down to El Garrapatero beach.
If you opt for a full day option on either of our Bike Tours, lunch will be included at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. On our Bellavista-El Garrapatero full-day tour, you will also visit El Manzanillo, a Galapagos giant tortoise reserve where you will be able to get close and personal with these gentle giants!
You also have the option to explore Santa Cruz Island on bike on your own. Let us know and will make all the arrangements!
Are you up for it? Let us know in the comments 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!
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!