Most people conjure up images of gliding across the ocean in a small ship cruise when they hear the words “Galapagos Islands.” What they don’t know is that, to compliment all of the incredible expeditions boats, the Galapagos Islands are also home to some of the most innovative, watch-your-jaw-hit-the-floor, unique, and sustainable properties in the world. Join Tara as she explores Galapagos Safari Camp with the owners, Stephanie and Michael.
When I first arrived at Galapagos Safari Camp and met Stephanie and Michael, I was awestruck. Both by the actual place – breezy, safari-style tents set up in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island with endless views of the Pacific ocean below – and also by their story and the passion they have for their project.
Here at Knowmad Adventures we are dedicated to creating custom travel experiences in South America. With that comes an amazing perk of our small niche in the travel industry; our own exploratory trips where we forge relationships with hotels or lodges, ground operators, drivers, and guides. We search for partnerships that align with our values, and when it comes to accommodations that means simply three things. They must:
- Give relevance to their setting (be it a renovated Viceroy’s mansion in Lima or a modern, glass lodge suspended in the cloud forest)
- Provide top notch guest services
- Prioritize sustainability, both the environmental and cultural aspects
Galapagos Safari Camp, and the couple that brought it into existence, embody these shared values strongly. Stephanie and Michael’s story has many parallels to Jordan and my story with Knowmad; we both started it from scratch, young and perhaps a bit naive but not lacking the drive it takes to get a passion proyecto off the ground (the Spanish word for project always makes me chuckle – bringing to mind being projected into air, and probably more aptly describing the beginnings of a small company).
Flipping through an old photo book by the fire with a glass of wine after I arrived, my finger traced pictures of them living in a tent while they built the main house. Images of grubbier and thinner versions of them, with highly contagious smiles, brought back memories of our own early journeys throughout the continent. Later, at dinner, they shared stories from the next phase of GSC and their Galapagos sustainable tourism journey – growth. How they navigated market needs while staying true to their vision, how they balanced nurturing their company with nurturing their actual babies, a particular equilibrium I was all too familiar with then as I was sneaking that trip in between pregnancies (see my post Advice for New Moms with Wanderlust).
Galapagos Safari Camp: A Luxury Hotel Meets Galapagos Sustainable Tourism
Upon arrival at Galapagos Safari Camp, one steps over the threshold over a intricately carved door imported from the artisan town of Untiedt in Bali, evidence of Stephanie and Micheal’s thorough world travels. Borrowed concepts from abroad that work well in the Galapagos, like the quick-drying Turkish towels that also double as wraps for the beach, are peppered throughout your experience, the most obvious being the safari-style tents harkening from the camps in Africa. These tents are positioned throughout the property just so, catching the ocean breeze (and thus avoiding the need for AC); furnished with nautical teak wood beds and accessories; simple yet not lacking, bringing you close to the nature and wildlife you came to experience.
The camp is connected by a series of pathways winding through native island fauna, leading you from your tent to the main lodge, a viewing deck complete with a full cocktail bar and an infinity pool. The main lodge includes a lounge, library, fireplace, and bar along with the open-air dining deck that serves local and international farm-to-table inspired dishes. Again, all simple, but not lacking – designed for you to cozy up to the fire with a good book or strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler, whatever suits your mood.
The infinity pool is where the couple’s notion of “appropriate luxury” really followed through for me. In an area of the world where freshwater is scarce yet the weather is hot, taking a dip in a pool is a luxury. Galapagos Safari Camp handles the contradiction seamlessly; one of the only Galapagos hotels that is self-sufficient in rainwater collection, they treat the collected water and use if for drinking, in the pool, and bathrooms. The pool is therefore smaller than ones you might encounter at other five-star properties, which is entirely appropriate here. If the size was an issue, it’s made up for in its design; asymmetric decking giving way to cool, green water, perfectly positioned for raw and expansive views.
For those of you debating whether to visit the Galapagos Islands by expedition-style cruise or a land-based itinerary, the answer really depends on your own personal travel style. Our Galapagos Islands Trip Specialists (email [email protected] or call 612-315-2894) will discuss the differences and help guide you as to what’s the best fit for you. Personally, I lean towards the land-based itineraries because I enjoy the freedom and flexibility, plus the interaction with the local community that they are inherently more able to offer. Galapagos Safari Camp also pairs fantastically well with a shorter cruise for a unique Land & Sea combo trip.
My second day at the camp we explored the organic farm on the property; sidestepping a curd-munching cow, wandering through the shaded cacao trees, and digging up cassava bulbs for the next meal with a local neighbor. I felt the love they have for the people they work with and the effort they make to be a part of the community, to create a happy and healthy workspace. In short, how their focus on the well-being of their team directly translated to the well-being of their guests.
Other excursions revealing the island way of life are a bike ride to a local beach or a visit to a chocolate making shop. Galapagos Safari Camp of course has more excursions to choose from than ones that get you in touch with the locals; from snorkeling and diving, to boat trips to neighboring islands for a different variety of fauna like the blue-footed boobies or frigate birds, to trips to deserted beaches where you can conjure images of the initial seafaring explorers and whalers coming ashore to collect the giant tortoises to store on their ships for food, to hikes across ancient lava fields, the variety of choices is bountiful.
Which brings me to Galapagos Safari Camp’s and Knowmad Adventures’ last shared value: the choice to be sustainable. Stephanie and Michael write that, “We believe that sustainability should be a choice based on common sense and love of nature.” We couldn’t agree more, which is why we made the choice to work with Galapagos Safari Camp and recommend it to our travelers. They’re fighting the good fight for our environment; working hard on reforestation initiatives, sustainable water use, using biodegradable products, and employing wastewater treatment plants to avoid polluted discharge. Cultural sustainability is also top of mind, and employees are given small plots of land which to grow crops, selling the organic produce to the lodge.
On an island, the effects of one’s way of life are hyper-evident. For instance, introduced invasive species can eradicate endemic species so much quicker in such a closed eco-system like the Galapagos. Resilience from these negative changes is also hyper-evident. We are proud to work with such an outstanding couple and their proyecto, Galapagos Safari Camp, empowering travelers to experience and take part in this resilience.
If you’re interested in Galapagos sustainable tourism and/or creating a custom trip to the Galapagos Islands, reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-315-2894 or [email protected] to begin planning today!
Un Beso, Tara
Tara is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Operations Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She first traveled to South America in college and is endlessly inspired by the cultures, food, colors and idiosyncrasies she discovers there. Read Tara’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.