Welcome to sunny Ecuador, and specifically, to the world-famous Galapagos Islands. This South American archipelago, renowned as the "living laboratory" of Charles Darwin, offers a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
We've enlisted Romy Bustamante, a tour director on both our Galapagos Explorer and Machu Picchu to the Galapagos small group tours, to divulge some of her Galapagos wisdom for you. Read on for a slew of insider knowledge, including Romy's must-haves for a Galapagos packing list, her picks for the best seafood to try, and some fascinating insight into the unique (and friendly!) wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Islands must-haves
Aside from the obvious staples when packing for the Galapagos (camera, sunscreen, wide-brim hat, insect repellent), here are Romy's expert suggestions for what to pack on a Galapagos adventure.
Delicious Ecuadorian specialties
Romy's go-to for a scrumptious, authentically Ecuadorian food? The small yet flavorful shrimp found in these waters.
"For certain, Ecuadorian shrimp are some of the best in the world, good-sized and tasty. Ecuadorian shrimp have been awarded with the prized 'Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2016' [for] Fish & Seafood." Indeed, Ecuadorian chef Carlos Gallardo wrote the award-winning Camaron Ecuatoriano to shed light on this unique and savory species of shrimp.
"Besides that," she says, "shrimp ceviche is our remedy against a hangover...and it goes very well with a cold beer! Also, the heart of palm with glazed tree tomatoes is unique, and of course our banana cake made with real sweet and ripe bananas is always my recommendation at the Royal Palm [hotel]."
Galapagos wildlife interaction tips
The Galapagos offer visitors unprecedented viewing opportunities of some of the world's most beautiful and fascinating wildlife. Romy has a few tips to make your wildlife interactions all the more special - and safe.
Key Spanish phrases to know
Romy advises us that a rudimentary understanding of Spanish will serve you well in Ecuador: "Ecuadorian people are very friendly, smiley, and polite. We always say two key words at the beginning of our phrases: por favor (please)."
"And we always appreciate what we get, [for which] we say Gracias! (Thank you)... When the day starts, before our morning juice, we say Muy buenos dias! (A very good morning)."
"During a meal... we say Buen provecho! Bon appetit, because we know our food is very fresh and delicious. Our guests love being able to eat salads that never make them sick."
Some parting travel inspiration
"Traveling to the Galapagos feels like going back in time. You meet pelicans and frigate[bird]s that remind you of The Flintstones," says Romy. "Just let us guide you along the path to an unforgettable experiences... there is always something amazing to see. Swimming with sea lions is a must."
And if that's not enough to persuade you, she finishes with a quote from the man who first made the Galapagos Islands famous:
"They are islands that time forgot." - Charles Darwin