If this is your first trip to the Galapagos (as it was for my daughter and I), Red Mangrove is a phenomenal choice for yDiv's Hotel which is two blocks from the waterfront and everything that is happening, but has a unique charm and tranquilityour accommodations and trip planning. We opted for their "Three Islands" tour (Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela islands) and then spent a week scubadiving with their divemaster, Raphael. We had hoped for an incredibly memorable trip and were NOT disappointed. I should say that, prior to booking, we were deluged with travel options and really weren't sure whether to choose a land package or go with a cruise ship. As fate would have it, we traveled during a period of steady high winds, a full moon and a 6.5 earthquake in nearby Peru which made the travel experience for everyone who had booked a cruise package anywhere from "hellish" for the smaller cruiseshippers to a period of "sustained seasickness" for those on the larger ships. Those of us who were land based had great outings and wonderful nights of rest punctuated with a couple of bumpy island crossings. It was not hard to distinguish the happy land travelers from the haggard, bloodshot-eyed ship groups.
Red Mangrove has two hotel facilities in Puerto Ayora. Their flagship location is the Aventura Lodge situated directly on the water at the far end of town. As such, you have a perfect blend of privacy with your room nestled among the mangroves coupled with immediate access to shopping nearby. RM has several good-quality bikes available for free use (with locks provided) so you can ride across the island or into town. I actually rode into town to the wine shop and purchased a case of goodies for much less than I would have paid at RM or at any of the local watering holes and had them deliver the order to RM for our weeklong stay. RM's other location in town is their Diver's Hotel which is two blocks from the waterfront and everything that is happening, but has a unique charm and tranquility. The Divers Hotel offers breakfast and the Ventura has a fully staffed kitchen for all the day's meals (and room service).
As for the food, both hotels did a good job preparing and presenting their meals. For travelers accustomed to sumptuous Latin American buffets, suffice it to say that it's both difficult and more than a bit inappropriate to replicate the typical offerings when you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but we found everything that was provided to be exceedingly well-prepared, tasty and well beyond our expectations.
Red Mangrove's Three Island package is a great way for young and old to experience the rich biodiversity of the islands. Starting with Santa Cruz, the trips to Los Gemelos (The Twins) sinkholes and the lava caves offer a great look into how the Islands chain has formed. If time allows, make a trip to Tortuga Bay -- the walk there is fascinating and will delight with its rich display of flora and fauna.
Floreana Island excursions provide a chance to snorkel with sea lions and sea turtles -- an endless source of giggles, smiles and memories -- along with some great outings where you will learn about the intrigue and mystery surrounding the island's first inhabitants (soon to be featured on the big screen in a movie entitled "The Galapagos Affair). You will meet many giant tortoises and see more of the wondrous plant and animal life which makes this area so unique.
Finally, Isabella island offers an other-worldly experience in a side trip over to Las Tintoreras where you will literally feel as if you have been transported to another planet. Suffice it to say, we could have spent several daysbthere with the white-tipped sharks, sea turtles, penguin, lava iguanas ans sea lions. Absolutely unforgettable. As an aside, I would definitely opt out of the climb up to Sierra Negra if it is cloudy, overcast or foggy. If you go for it, ask for a boots and a walking stick as it is a nonstop slog uphill and then back down on the muddiest trail I've ever traversed (and I was a US Army ranger). It's a great workout if you want to get a closeup view of fog, but not much more than that -- and you will get covered in mud. Have them take you directly to the farm at Campo Duro instead, and spend your time exploring there. It is beautiful.
Diving with Raphael at RM is absolutely the best thing you can do in the Galapagos. We spent the first to days getting my daughter PADI certified and then did our open water dives. Giant rays, sea turtles, sea lions, billions (yes, with a "b"), hammerhead sharks, octopus, reef sharks . . . He is exceedingly professional in every regard and my daughter left the Galapagos with memories which will last her a lifetime.
Throughout our time with RM, we met so many fascinating and wonderful fellow travelers from the US Europe and Latin America. I am already planning a return to Red Mangrove next August with more of my family and hope to see you there.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This is not camping as you’ve ever known it. This is culinary camping in the majestic green highlands perched above the blue sea. The iconic giant Galapagos tortoises graze alongside horses here much of the year and leave a wide trail in the high grass for relatively easy sightings and leisurely observation. Have a glass of wine in a whimsical cave, once part of a lava tube. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Red Mangrove Galapagos Camping Galapagos Islands/Santa Cruz, Ecuador