While a great number of travelers to the islands are couples and groups, Galapagos Family travel can be a wonderful experience all around. In this unique archipelago for biodiversity, kids can get much more immersed in nature than anywhere else, with mammals, birds, and reptiles that seem indifferent to humans’ presence. “Three feet away people!” is a guide’s most common command since even mother birds with little chicks just sit there and watch you go by without reacting.
A cruise around the Galapagos Islands can be a terrific shared experience for the family, one that will live on in everyone’s memory far longer than the typical beach breaks and theme park visits.
Here are a few tips for starting the planning process on your own Galapagos family vacation.
What age should kids be for Galapagos Family travel?
While there’s no hard and fast rule for what age is appropriate, especially since some children mature faster than others, many tour company experts advise that 8 and above is a good ballpark figure. It could be a bit younger for those who are especially curious and adventurous, maybe a bit later for those who have trouble following instructions and staying on a defined path. For good reasons, there are a lot of rules to follow in this fragile and sensitive area.
At this general age, kids are generally old enough to appreciate and enjoy the wildlife and the experiences they will find on Galapagos cruises. If you’re worried that yours will have a tough time being on a ship for 5-8 days straight, or if they’re younger, the alternative would be some kind of island hopping vacation with a hotel base (like Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island). While you can’t see as many different locations this way as you can on a proper voyage, it’s a compromise where you can have more control in organizing the excursions and activities for the small ones. See some sample itineraries here.
A large ship or a small one?
If you are going on a proper Galapagos cruise, which kind of ship should you choose? This decision can be daunting since there are more than 100 options to choose from. In general, the larger the ship, the more crew members and activities there will be, so if you think more is better, go with one of the larger vessels. Just understand there’s a trade-off in that only a limited number of pangas can go ashore at one time, so the passengers go sightseeing in shifts.
Small luxury and first-class cruises have different options for the small ones to enjoy on their own, like a DVD room, telescopes for viewing the constellations at night, games, and toys. Since there are just up to 16 passengers in these small cruises, your kids can enjoy these entertainment items just for themselves when they want and everyone on the ship goes ashore together at one time.
Is your child attracted to big sailing ships? The Mary Anne is the only sailing ship in the islands, offering a real maritime experience. This boat can offer authentic navigational experiences for the small ones: the opportunity to meet the captain, access to the ship’s command, and opportunity to hoist the sails, for instance.
How about your own ship in the Galapagos?
If you have a large family, are organizing an multi-generational vacation, or have several families traveling together, it can make sense to charter a ship and have the whole boat and crew to yourselves. You generally have a few itinerary options to choose from depending on the number of days, but they you can customize some of the meal options and activities, paying one price for the whole family experience for everyone. Since you are chartering the whole ship, you can determine the best sleeping cabin arrangements for everyone on board.