Dancing with Darwin: an unforgettable week in the Galapagos

In this article, our guest author, Kate Convissor, shares an unforgettable week in the Galapagos, with pristine beaches, aquamarine seas and of course the birds, seals and other wildlife.

Most people travel through Quito in Ecuador, heading for the Galapagos Islands as their main destination. My experience was the opposite. I was already traveling through Ecuador and planned to spend several days in lovely Quito. The city was UNESCO’s first cultural World Heritage Site, so it’s very historic and photogenic. Since I was already so close, my trip had to include the Galapagos and when my sister learned of my plans, she decided to join me.

Galapagos 6

Mating sign of the Magnificent Frigatebird

Still, my expectations were, well, non-existent. Other than cute sea lions and birds with funny names, I had no idea what to expect from an 8-day cruise through one of the most precious and unique places on the planet.

I must say, my first sight of the Galapagos through the windows of the tiny Baltra airport was underwhelming. It looked like a dry, shrubby, rocky moonscape with heat that would melt your eyeballs.

Galapagos Cactus Photo: Kate Convissor

Galapagos cactus

On board the San Jose

But things improved once onboard the breezy deck of the San Jose, the ship that would be our home for the next eight days. Once we found our cabin, which was more comfortable and spacious than I had expected, with twin beds (not bunks) and a nice-sized bathroom and a big window (not to mention blessed air-conditioning for those blistering afternoons), I began to feel the excitement build and the tension drain away.

A ship at sea! What could be more delightful?

And indeed, once we were underway, slicing through an impossibly blue ocean with a far horizon melting into a similarly blue sky and the wind rushing off the bow of the ship, I began to catch the magic of the Galapagos.

View of Pinnacle Rock from atop Bartolomé Island Photo: Kate Convissor

View of Pinnacle Rock from atop Bartolomé Island, Galapagos Islands

 The amazing animal culture

Our first landing that afternoon was on the tiny islet of Mosquera, which was little more than a lump of sand with sea lions lazily scattered about and a handful of other creatures I’d read about, like Sally-lightfoot crabs and tiny lava lizards. At this point, I was completely smitten.

This would be a great week.

Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos Islands

Almost every day we woke to sun, sea, maybe another boat or two at anchor, a satisfying breakfast, and new wonders to explore. Days were filled with activity, which usually involved one or two hikes and/or one or two snorkeling adventures, and maybe a panga ride to some interesting cove. We usually visited two different sites each day, but the boat motored during mealtimes or at night, so we weren’t twiddling our thumbs en route to the next place.

The hikes, while sometimes very hot, were always interesting and sometimes entrancing. And, of course, there was always the blue ocean to cool off in.

Pristine beaches and aquamarine waters in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Pristine beaches and aquamarine waters in the Galapagos Islands

Snorkeling is almost de rigueur in the Galapagos since the water is teeming with all sorts of life, from sea turtles to small sharks to schools of colorful fish. The color and variety is fascinating.

I am not an avid swimmer, but I was determined not to miss this opportunity, so I grit my teeth and wore a life jacket for the first snorkel. It was fantastic! The water was warm and so bouyant that staying afloat was effortless and all that aquatic life under the surface of the ocean was worth enduring any momentary discomfort.

Remnants of volcanic activity in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Remnants of volcanic activity in the Galapagos Islands

One of the more delightful hikes was at Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. Since it was high tide with waves crashing against the rock, our “dry” landing was a little tricky. (This is where you want experienced guys driving your panga – the little boats that takes you from your cruise ship to the shore.) We walked across a tide-flooded inlet guarded by a big bull sea lion who was jealous of his girls. (This is where you want an experienced naturalist-guide who knows the ways of macho sea lions.)

Birds, birds, birds

Espanola is a nesting condo for Nazca boobies and other birds I’ve forgotten the names of. The rocks are dripping with whitewash, and fluffy juveniles are waiting patiently (or not) for a snack, while their beleaguered parents are trying to oblige (by regurgitating the fish they’ve worked hard to find). Bird families were strewn haphazardly across the relatively flat and somewhat rocky clifftop. An occasional blue-footed booby broke the monotony.

Nazca booby in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Nazca booby in the Galapagos Islands

We clambered over rocks snapping photos like crazed tourists, while the birds couldn’t have cared less. The trail wound among the nesting birds and along a cliff edge until we all settled cliff-side to watch the waves crash on the black volcanic rock and send plumes of mist and water through a blowhole. All of which formed a dramatic foreground as the sun slowly rode down the western sky.

Blow hole on Suarez Point on Espanola in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Blow hole on Suarez Point on Espanola in the Galapagos Islands

Now, I ask you, where else in the world can you sit with 16 people with this kind of natural wonder playing out around you? (Okay, there was another small tour group waiting to take our place on the rocks, but that doesn’t change the overall picture.)

Small luxuries combine with pleasant company

After every activity, our long-suffering steward, Jackson, met us with his broad smile and a juice drink and snacks. Every evening we passengers gathered for a beer to chat and swap notes about the birds or fish we’d seen. And every night we fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat as it steamed toward our next magical destination.

Red-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Red-footed booby in the Galapagos Islands

Our naturalist-guide, Carlos, was an energetic, informed and personable 26-year-old. He, like many other guides, had grown up on the islands and that native knowledge was honed by the compulsory training all the guides receive.

My sister and I were also lucky in that all the passengers on our small boat were wonderful to travel with for a week, from the 86-year-old lawyer and his wife (Please, God, may I be like them when I am old) to the young brother and sister who came with their mom.

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island in the Galapagos Islands

I think our group was so compatible, in part, because we all opted for a small, less luxurious boat (but make no mistake, the San Jose was very clean and comfortable) so that we could focus on experiencing the islands and not staying comfy and entertained on board the ship. Some of the luxury cruise liners carry 100 passengers and can’t get to as many islands as the smaller boats.

“If you want a bigger cabin and more amenities, you should choose a luxury cruise. If you want to really experience the islands, you can have a very good time on a smaller boat,” said Evelyn, my agent at Happy Gringo, through whom I booked our cruise.

True in every way. Cruising in the Galapagos Islands was a fantastic experience, and a longer cruise on a smaller boat like the San Jose was, for me, the best way to do it.

Sleepy sea lion in the Galapagos Islands Photo: Kate Convissor

Sleepy sea lion in the Galapagos Islands

About our guest author: Manykconvissor bio photo thanks for this story to Kate Convissor who has been traveling more or less continually since she sold her house in 2010 and trailered around North America. Kate blogs semi-regularly at Wandering Not Lost. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter

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Read about Dancing with Darwin - a week in the Galapagos

For more Ecuadorian delights:

Ecuador and the Amazon Rainforest
Take a Hot Bath in Banos, Ecuador
Beyond the Galapagos Islands – Ecuador’s Forgotten Treasures

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Discover a different side to Ibiza

Ibiza attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors over the summer months, flocking to the island to enjoy the glorious weather and party scene. However, the island also has much to offer during the quieter, off season times. With mild temperatures and a peaceful, down tempo pace, discover a different side to Ibiza this spring.

Discover a different side to Ibiza

Explore to coastline of Ibiza

Ibiza has a rugged and fascinating coastline, which lends itself perfectly to hiking and walking. There are many companies who offer guided walks around the island during the winter months, when the climate is perfect for long, adventurous walks. If you have the stamina, why not head to the highest point on the island, Sa Talaia to marvel at the breathtaking views of the mystical rock Es Vedra.

Explore the rugged coastline of Ibiza

Explore the rugged coastline of Ibiza

Or perhaps enjoy a less challenging walk along the beautiful beach of Ses Salines, a natural wildlife park which is home to, over 200 different species of birds and is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. You can choose to discover the island by yourself, or join one of the guided walks. See www.walkingibiza.com for some insider tips and an itinerary of their weekly walking tours.

Puig de Misa in Santa Eularia, Ibiza

Puig de Misa in Santa Eularia, Ibiza

Wine and Dine on Ibiza

If you are a dedicated foodie then never fear, Ibiza still has plenty to offer the discerning diner in the off season. Many bars and restaurants are open all year round, albeit some of them just at the weekends, and many offer great value deals for winter visitors. For a delightful beachside meal – head to the shores of Cala Jondal where you will find the eternally popular Yemanja restaurant, open all year round, and serving some of the best freshly caught fish to be found on the island. The gambas ajillo (garlic prawns) have to be tasted to be believed. Another favourite is the organic cafe La Paloma. Hidden away in an orange grove in the sleepy village of San Lorenzo, the menu offers an unusual combination of Italian and Israeli influences, with many of the ingredients coming directly from their own gardens. We recommend the houmous cordero (spiced minced lamb with houmous) which is served with freshly baked foccacia bread, simply delicious.

Organic Cafe Paloma on Ibiza Photo: PalomaIbiza.com

Organic Cafe Paloma on Ibiza

Shop at the flea markets on Ibiza

It’s a great time to indulge in some retail therapy here in Ibiza, especially in the New Year when many shops offer great rebajas (post Christmas sales). Ibiza Town has a great selection of stores which stay open all year round, and the tree lined streets are literally bursting with great value deals to be discovered by an intrepid shopper. Or why not head to one of the markets which run all year round, check out Las Dalias in San Carlos every Saturday for some hippy style clothes and jewellery, or head further north to the Cala Llenya second hand market which attracts hundreds of people each and every Sunday, who head there to grab a bargain and enjoy the live music in the outdoor bar area.

Las Dalias Market on Ibiza Photo: www.LasDalias.es

Las Dalias Market on Ibiza

Pamper Yourself on Ibiza

If you are seeking some R&R and a little ‘me’ time, then low season Ibiza has lots to offer. With Both Atzaro and Can Curreu rural hotels remain open all year round, so head to their spas for some great winter deals on massages, beauty treatments and yoga classes. A perfect time to spoil yourself in the beautiful surroundings of the Ibiza countryside. And why not, you are most definitely worth it!

Visit Ibiza in springtime

Visit Ibiza in springtime

If you’re searching for a place to stay in Ibiza, take a look at Ibiza Summer Villas, who offer a complete portfolio of villa rentals to suit all tastes and budgets. Rent an entire villa for yourself, your family, and your friends. Each villa exudes Mediterranean luxury living at its finest, and some boast up to 17 rooms. Ibiza Summer Villas has almost 100 gorgeous villas to choose from, with special promotions going on year-round. The Ibiza Summer Villa staff know Ibiza intimately, and can give you the best hints and tips about everything island-related.

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For more island delights:

Tapping into the real Ibiza
Carnivals, jazz and nightlife – the sounds of St Lucia
Swimming, surfing, snorkeling – best beaches of the Dominican republic

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Fossil hunting and a weekend in the country at Red Doors Farm, Devon – video

A collection of 500 year old thatched cottages, set around a cobbled farmyard, Red Doors Farm in Devon has all the chocolate box charm that you’d wish for in a holiday cottage. However, we’ve learned from past experience that a centuries-old thatched cottage, picturesque though it may be, does not always mean warmth and comfort. Thank goodness the owners Gill and Adrian seem to have that cracked, with Byre Cottage where we stayed being kept at a cosy constant temperature by the biomass wood-pellet fired boiler.

Our stay was arranged through Premier Cottages who specialise in luxury holidays cottages and this one certainly lived up to expectations. Having arrived in darkness on a Friday night from Bristol, we wake up to glorious views of the Blackdown Hills and spot the red doors of all the cottages that seem to epitomise the cheerful spirit of the place.

A weekend in the country at Red Doors Featured

In the morning while the boys are cooking the bacon and eggs, Gill offers to show me around and tells me their story. She and Adrian gave up busy jobs in London to follow their dream of a calmer life in the country and took over the holiday cottage business of Red Doors Farm three years ago. “If we’d realised how much work it would be, we probably wouldn’t have taken it on!” Gill told me, since they have gradually worked through all of the six cottages, renovating them one by one.

I hope you enjoy my video below of our weekend at Red Doors Farm

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Our cosy cottage at Red Doors Farm

Furnishings have been upgraded, bathrooms modernised and now all the cottages meet Visit England’s exacting 5 star Gold Standard. Although Red Doors Farm is very popular with young families, it seems there’s a cottage for everyone down on the farm. The Swallows Loft is a one bedroom apartment on two floors with stylish mezzanine kitchen, luxurious modern bathroom and a four poster bed with an “Out of Africa” look, which suits professional couples looking for a relaxing country break. Meanwhile Holly Cottage is popular with older couples, or couples with a baby, since it’s all on one level with a terrace overlooking the croquet lawn, perfect to sit with your sundowner admiring the views of the Blackdown Hills.

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Master Bedroom at Red Doors Farm in Devon

We’re staying in Byre which is a 3 bedroom cottage, sleeping 6 people in comfort, a spacious master bedroom for me and Guy and two twin bedrooms for my teenage son and two friends to spread out. No queues for the bathrooms either, since there’s a family bathroom upstairs and a shower room downstairs. We really can’t fault the cosy furnishings, well equipped farmhouse style kitchen and best of all the log burning stove in the sitting room. Since all men seem to love stoking up a real fire, and Guy is no exception, this is something we always love to see in a country cottage and we make the most of it with a fire in the evenings.

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sitting room in Briar Cottage in Red Doors Farm

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Saturday morning is crisp but sunny with winter-blue skies and views over farmland to the valley beyond. Across the lawn is the swimming pool in a separate building for those (relatively) early morning swims which quickly become a favourite with our teenage boys. After breakfast and the swim we’ve arranged to meet Adrian and Gill for the 10.30 morning ritual of feeding the animals.

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Swimming pool at Red Doors Farm

For younger guests the farm keeps guinea pigs and rabbits in the covered play area but our teenagers are more interested in the goats, Charlie and Dora. “These are the most spoiled goats in Devon”, Gill tells me, since they have their own heated shed, decking walkways so their feet don’t get wet on the grass and a climbing frame which comes into its own at feeding time.

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the goats at Red Doors Farm

Once Charlie and Dora have enjoyed their breakfast it’s time for the Muscovy ducks to have theirs in the next field. The ducks all have names beginning with D; there’s Dick, the alpha male of the group and Daisy, although we joke that Dyson might be a better name based on the speed at which they vacuum up the grain we hold out to feed them.

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Feeding the ducks at Red Doors Farm in Devon

Hunting for ammonites at Lyme Regis

Feeding time over, we decide to make the most of the glorious winter sunshine and drive the 25 minutes to Lyme Regis, the heart of the Jurassic Coast. Last time I was here with my blogging friend Barbara Weibel who is a rock hound and fossil lover if ever there was one and am determined to show the boys the ammonite pavement that we visited together.

The promenade at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The promenade at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a holiday town that I am continually drawn back to, having just the right balance of Jane Austen charm and fish’n’chips holiday fun, as well as being one of the top places on the Jurassic coast to find fossils. From the harbour, locally known as The Cobb, we walk along the rocky beach, with cliffs looming above us. The cliff face reveals the layers of sedimentary rock that were built up in pre-historic times containing the fossils, especially ammonites for which the beach is famous. “Don’t get to close” I call to the others, since there are frequent and dangerous rockfalls from the cliffs, especially after storms, revealing new fossils that have been trapped in the rock.

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The ammonite pavement at Lyme Regis

We clamber awkwardly over the boulders and squish through the black mud until we reach the ammonite pavement, a flat plate of rock where millions of years ago a shoal of ammonites settled on the bottom and were pressed down for eternity. Now at low tide you can see numerous little coils in the bare rock and spot them pressed into larger rocks along the beach. The local fossil hunters are to be seen tapping at the rocks with small hammers, splitting them open to reveal the ammonites trapped inside. As I walk, my eyes scan the pebbles that crunch under my feet and then suddenly I spot it, an ammonite on a smooth round pebble just lying there!

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ammonite I found at Lyme Regis

A walk on the Cobb at Lyme Regis

We walk back to The Cobb where a broad wall casts a protective arm around the harbour and the colourful fishing boats are lying on their sides at low tide. It’s fun to walk along the broad top of The Cobb wall although the stone pavement slopes like a tipsy sailor towards the sea to catch out the unwary. It’s a steep drop on both sides and our friend tells us that their dog once fell off and rolled down the wall but luckily survived with nothing broken.

Tide's out at the harbour in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tide’s out at the harbour in Lyme Regis

The stormchasers might emulate Meryl Streep with swirling cloak in the film The French Lieutenant’s woman, standing on the end of The Cobb looking out to sea, although it’s not advisable or even allowed. Walking along to the end of the wall there are store houses for the fishing boats and we get the feel that this is still a thriving fishing community with plenty of notices advertising fishing trips and the blue and green nets piled up along the quayside. The notice above the door promises that ‘The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent in fishing”.

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing in Lyme Regis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Gods do not subtract from the allotted span of mens lives the hours spent fishing

Back on the quay, we check out the local fishmonger’s where I can’t resist buying some fresh squid while the boys browse in the second hand bookshop next door. Later that evening I fry it up in butter to eat with some of the orange, pepper and chilli chutney that we found in our welcome pack, although the boys turn their noses up at it. Guy has already drunk the bottles of Otter Bitter and Norcott’s Somerset cider without giving me a look-in but we all enjoy the local chocolate fudge and award winning ice cream that we bought from the freezer in the games room, made just across the valley. The fire is stoked up and the boys have a noisy monopoly game in progress, just as it should be.

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon Photos: Heatheronhertravels.com

A country walk on Dumpdon Hill Fort in Devon

A climb to Dumpdon Hill Fort

Sunday morning and we take a last chance to explore some of the countryside around Red Doors Farm. Armed with instruction found in the Games Room, we walk up the lane towards the Dumpdon Hill Fort, an iron age fort which takes us on a steep and muddy climb up from the road. From the flat area of the top we can survey the many shades of green making a patchwork quilt of fields, then we turn back towards the farm and with rosy cheeks and lungs full of fresh air ready for our drive back to Bristol.

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Morning view over the valley at Red Doors Farm in Devon

A country weekend in Devonat Red Doors PinterestWhat we liked about Red Doors Farm;

  • The high quality furnishings and amenities with attention to detail and everything you need on the farm (even ice cream and meals in the freezer!)
  • The cheerful and helpful approach of Gill and Adrian who live on site.
  • Feeding the goats and ducks was a fun experience, even for our teens!
  • Lovely to have an indoor swimming pool on site and we made full use of it.
  • The beautiful Devon countryside and short drive to the coast at Lyme Regis or Sidmouth.

What you need to know;

  • The setting is quite rural so you do need a car and we didn’t find any shops within walking distance.
  • The free wifi is provided through a mobile in each cottage and you’ll need to give your credit card details as a deposit.

Booking at Red Doors Farm

Red Doors Farm have six luxury holiday cottages which sleep between 2 and 8 people, in the Blackdown Hills of Devon, set in beautiful countryside and only 30 minutes drive from Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast. A week’s stay in Byre Cottage at Red Doors Farm for up to six people starts from £775 and a short break starts from £540. Book Red Doors Farm through Premier Cottages here

Premier Cottages‘ collection features almost 1,000 four and five-star self-catering cottages across the UK. Properties range from small, romantic boltholes to large family-friendly country estates. The collection includes pet-friendly accommodation. It also offers the widest range of accessible properties in the UK and many properties have  onsite facilities like swimming pools, gyms, spas, indoor games rooms and children’s play areas.

Follow Premier Cottages and Red Doors on their Social Media channels below;
Premier Cottages: Website | Twitter @premiercottages | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube
Red Door Farm: Website | Twitter @reddoorsfarm | Facebook

Heather and family stayed as a guest of Premier Cottages and Red Doors Farm in Byre Cottage.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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