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My midlife adventure in the Galapagos

by Larissa

My sister and I have wanted to visit the Galapagos since we were kids.  The volcanic island archipelago that straddles the equator is considered by many to be a living laboratory of flora, fauna and geology—perfect for the adventure traveler. We’re not exactly rugged adventure types, and at this point in life we like our creature comforts. But we didn’t want a sedate cruise with a bunch of retirees, either. Was it possible to find a compromise where we enjoyed adventure and creature comforts on the same trip?

Midlife adventure in the Galapagos-pedicureAs we disembarked from the plane on San Cristobal Island Cecibel introduced herself. “Ceci” was a naturalist and one of the certified guides to the Galapagos National Park who would oversee our adventures for the week. But despite all her experience hiking and diving and spotting wildlife she still managed to keep her toenails painted green.  This was a promising sign.

It turns out the answer is YES . . .it is possible!  You can have a mid life adventure in the Galapagos. My sister and I spent a week exploring the islands and managed a hike to spot blue-footed boobies, swam with sea lions and more—all without making total fools of ourselves or requiring a rescue from the Ecuadoran Coast Guard.

hiking to see iguanas-galapagos

The key was seeing the islands on a mini cruise: a boat that was large enough to offer creature comforts, yet small enough to offer plenty of opportunity for adventure.  We sailed on the motor yacht Letty, which is part of the Ecoventura fleet. At just 20 passengers, the Letty provided us with two certified national park guides, enabling us to have personalized attention on various activities, and address all experience levels.  Ceci helped us newbies squirm into wetsuits for our deep-water snorkel excursion as her colleague Gustavo began to identify fish and sea turtles with the experienced divers already in the water.

mid life adventure galapagos-blue footed booby

A blue-footed booby sporting the official pedicure of the Galapagos

During a visit to the island of Espanola, the agile among us took a two-mile trek across a rocky volcanic path in search of baby boobies and marine iguanas. (And we were very glad we invested in some Keen hiking sandals for the process!) Meanwhile our guides arranged a morning hike-free beach outing at a bay filled with baby sea lions for a fellow passenger who was recuperating from knee surgery.

Hiking in the GalapagosArmed with sturdy Keen hiking sandals and SPF 100 my sister Laine is ready for a hike in search of baby boobies.

By day three, emboldened by our snorkeling and hiking success, we were the first two in the water in the cove to frolic with sea lions. Amid squeals, splashing and giggles we marveled that our friends back home would never believe the Mazurek girls were diving and cavorting with these playful marine mammals (and happily looking like two drowned rats in the process). Later that same afternoon, having slathered our skin with SPF 100 (no typo—this is the equator, after all) we skimmed across the waves in a sea kayak, semi-surfing over swells that had us whooping with joy.

swimming with sea lions in galapagostReady to swim with the sea lions.

Best of all, after an exhilarating day of adventures, we returned to our cabin and a refreshing shower with plenty of pampering toiletries, fluffy towels and a hair dryer. We had a few minutes to touch up the red polish on our toes before heading in to our dinner of freshly grilled sea bass.  We had done it:  we had become adventure travelers who still managed to dress for dinner!

Creature comforts in the Galapagos

Showered and gussied-up, but ready for another day of adventure!

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Andrea July 13, 2014 at 4:31 am

Great trip! It’s also been a dream of mine to go to the galapagos. Don’t know when I’ll get there though. I hope Michael wasn’t too disappointed about being left at home.

Larissa July 13, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Michael was actually fine with staying behind, Andrea. He’s more of a city boy than an nature guy, and doesn’t really like sleeping on boats. So I took advantage of an opportunity to have a “sisters’ getaway” 🙂

Marcia July 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

This looks like it was a lot of fun. Thanks for the inspiration!

MissElaineous July 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm

As “the sister”, I was probably the luckiest travel companion ever – this trip was the experience of a lifetime!!! We started off in mainland Ecuador (no slouch destination either as we enjoyed the sights, sounds, very refined accommodations and street food of Guayaquil…) We then flew to the Galapagos Islands which are something like 600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast, and actually serve as a protected national park. Conservation, preservation and a very proud culture greeted us at every turn as these Islands boast some animal and plant species that exist NO WHERE ELSE on earth. Darwin wasn’t kidding – this place was something else! The LAST thing you want to do while there is drop a gum wrapper or try to sneak a flower or volcanic rock into your pocket. Very humbling to be reminded that we, as humans, are all just very small cogs in a giant eco-system wheel…where sharks and sea lions and iguanas and birds get the right-of way.
The trip was FUN, exhausting, relaxing, eye-opening, and something I would gladly do again. I like journeys that take you beyond the destination itself, and the Galapagos did just that. I am forever changed for the better as a result of the amazing food, the up-close and personal look at nature, the amazing South American culture, the breathtaking views and our talented and knowledgeable guides Ceci and Gustavo. The Letty crew kept us comfortable and even got know us personally so there was lots of hugging and even a few tearful goodbyes. Riss and I have come a long way from the backseat of the station wagon…I’m thinking this Sister-Getaway should be an annual thing!!! Honk if you agree….: )

Larissa July 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

If it’s something you’ve been considering, I’d definitely say “go for it” . . .even if you have to take a husband instead of a sister 😉

Larissa July 27, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I guess if I had any doubts that my sister enjoyed the trip they have been quashed by this comment. Anyone who knows her also knows there’s no way I could make her say something she didn’t believe, so this is truly her own opinion 😉

Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru July 28, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Now this is what I’m talking about! Priorities and reassurance about a destination that I’d wondered whether I’d enjoy. Thanks for the information – will keep it in mind for when we are in South America. 🙂

Shelley July 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I’ve never been, but this sounds like a great way to see the Galapagos. It’s on our must see list!

Kristin Henning July 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Glad to hear your story. I’ve looked into Ecoventura, and am so impressed with their services. I have my fingers crossed for making a similar trip someday.

noel July 29, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Wow, this sounds like it was an excellent trip, would love to visit some day.

Nancy Thompson July 29, 2014 at 1:44 pm

What an adventure! You have inspired me. My sister keeps asking me to take a trip with her. I might just suggest a week with the blue footed boobies. Thanks for sharing the highlights of your wonderful trip.

Suzanne Fluhr July 29, 2014 at 8:33 pm

I kind of roll my eyes when someone talks about their bucket list, but if I had one, a trip to the Galapagos would be on it. I recently floated (ugh) the idea of a cruise around South America to my husband, but he would prefer a trip to the Galapagos. Now I know where to start—-with Ecoventura.

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:46 am

So true, Betsy-I was worried I’d be the lone gal wearing mascara in a sea of hiking experts! Not the case at all, and just enough adventure to make me feel like I accomplished something 🙂

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:47 am

It truly is a remarkable place, Shelley.

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:48 am

I heartily encourage you to take the opportunity if you can, Kristin. It definitely falls into the “trip of a lifetime” category.

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:49 am

It was indeed, Noel.

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:50 am

It was a blast, Nancy. There was plenty of time for sisterly bonding, made all the more special because we were having some incredible experiences along the way. 🙂

Larissa July 30, 2014 at 2:51 am

If you can get Mr. Excitement to go on this trip, Suzanne, I’m sure you’ll both have a fantastic time! 🙂

Donna Janke July 30, 2014 at 7:12 am

What a great way to see the Galapagos. Love the picture of the blue-footed booby.

Irene S. Levine July 30, 2014 at 8:11 am

This looks like an incredible adventure, only made better by sharing it with a sister!

Patti July 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

The photos of the blue web feet just crack me up for some reason, every time I see one on someone’s page. I’d like to meet one up close and person one day. Looks as if you and your sister had great the adventure and made some great memories!

Marilyn Jones July 30, 2014 at 10:52 pm

How fun! I really enjoyed reading about your sister adventure!!

Carole Terwilliger Meyers August 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Loved your story! I’ve been contemplating taking a trip to the Galapagos. But I am not a swimmer and have been hesitating because I don’t want to be alone while everyone else is in the water. Any feedback re. that?

Michelle August 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I love this post because you look so happy and like you’re having so much fun in it. That blue footed bird is so pretty. I really, really want to visit the Galapagos and I know that I better hurry because they won’t be letting many visit soon ( so I’ve heard). Glad they are protecting the wildlife 🙂

The Gypsynesters August 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Whenever people ask our favorite places The Galapagos is usually our answer. Definitely should be at the top of every bucket list.

A Cook Not Mad (Nat) August 2, 2014 at 8:16 pm

What a great trip, nice that you could share that with your sister.

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