The Galapagos Islands offer an extraordinary opportunity for children to experience wildlife in their natural habitat. With no bumpy safari vehicles, enclosures or cages and zero predators (of humans at least!), visiting the islands on foot and by sea is a great way for kids to be immersed in the natural world without barriers. Families will also appreciate the variety of activities possible on the cruises and overnight land programs which provide an outlet for energetic young bodies as well as another means to get right into the fascinating landscapes and environments of the Islands. No one cruise or multi-sport adventure land program can offer all activities, but some of the activities possible to keep you and the little ones busy are as follows:
Biking (land based programs)
Stand up Paddleboarding (land based programs)
Surfing (land based programs)
On board most vessels, there are often dedicated programs and resource materials for children. Don’t be misled however, these are not traditional cruise or resort style kids clubs, playrooms or pool areas- instead they are more like specific naturalists, on-board activities, species guides, star gazing at night and sometimes even special presentations and excursions just for children. A few smaller yachts even organize ships by family groups with children of similar age ranges, and especially during vacation periods like spring and winter breaks or summer holidays. This tends to make the special outings more fun and gives kids the chance to make friends aboard.
A mid-sized or larger vessel is often a good choice for families with children, or family groups that span a few generations as there are more triple, quad or connecting cabins on them. However, the intimacy and special age groupings that the smaller yachts offer can be an advantage.
One thing to note is that the minimum age on-board is typically 5 to 7 depending on the ship. A few operators will accept younger children on a case by case basis, but this can be problematic as the terrain on the islands can be quite uneven and not suitable for preschoolers, who also might not be able to resist the temptation to touch or chase the wildlife. A recent traveler of our’s had this to say about taking her boys on a trip to the Galapagos:
This trip was always on my "bucket list." I'm not sure that the kids knew what to expect although we tried to prep them with books and videos beforehand. We so enjoyed getting so up close to all of the wildlife - especially the sea lions. I have one child who is a HUGE animal lover so the experience was even more special for him. Swimming and snorkeling with the sea lions was truly magical and we will never forget it! I think children should be at least 7 in order to truly get the most out of the Galapagos. At 7, kids can appreciate the lectures and participate in the hikes and snorkels without a problem.
~Jennifer King, Isabela Galapagos 7 Day - November 2016
One of the best aspects of Galapagos travel is the highly trained and knowledgeable Galapagos National Park Guide that accompanies every group of 16 or less onto shore or during small craft explorations. These guides provide exceptional insight into the array of unique species to be found the Galapagos, and they help ensure the best viewing practices as well. For snorkeling and kayaking forays, they provide safe guidelines as well as assisting the captain in maximizing your experience by visiting the ideal locations at the right time. Back on board, they lead kids activities, spot wildlife from the ship's deck and provide interactive presentations that will capture the interest of kids and adults alike.
A recent article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper discussed the science behind the advantages to providing travel experience to children over toys- and this is not only a practice we at ExploringCircle agree with, but one we also have experienced first-hand in the Galapagos with our own families. Unlike zoos or large theme parks, a small group site visit to a Galapagos island is one that brings with it a level of authentic intimacy, depth and uniqueness that cannot be replicated. Adults and children of all ages will be enchanted by these magical islands and the species that inhabit them- and hopefully provide family memories to last a lifetime.