Charles Darwin came to unlock the secrets of our existence; you’ll probably be content to see otherworldly volcanic landscapes, unique wildlife and unspoilt jungle. If so, Galápagos Safari Camp is your ideal eco-luxe launchpad for exploring these near mythological islands: 10 teak-floored super-tents and and a sweeping ocean-view lodge sat subtly in 135 acres of farmland where passionate staff ensure you’ll experience the Galápagos’ greatest hits with the lightest of footprints.
Get this when you book through us:
A cacao plantation tour, a visit to the camp's own reforestation project, and a bottle of wine with your first night's dinner
Rates include a buffet breakfast and a set-menu evening meal.
At the hotel
Outdoor infinity pool, communal lounge with WiFi, viewing deck, laundry service. In tents: jungle-view balcony with hammock, en suite bathroom with Ninacuro products, desk, hair dryer, tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Our favourite rooms
There are nine foliage-fringed luxury tents, and a larger family-friendly cabin – all with en suite bathrooms – pitched about 70m from the main lodge, simply decorated with handwoven Ecuadorian rugs and locally made teak furniture, with balconies peering over verdant valleys down to the ocean. You’re unlikely to be bothered by neighbours at the best of times, but if privacy is your priority, secluded tent number one is nicknamed the ‘honeymoon suite’.
If it weren’t for the lounger-lined decking, you could mistake the infinity pool for a natural waterhole. Thankfully, you can dive into it after a day of adventuring and gaze out to sea without the fear of upsetting thirsty wildlife. Take a dip at night and you’ll be dazzled by stars.
A copy of The Origin of Species, your sturdiest walking boots and your longest camera lens for snapping shy animals.
There’s some learning to go with your leisure – all guests get a background on Darwin’s work on the island and the evolution of its distinctive wildlife.
All ages welcome, as long as everyone's up for the trek. There's a designated family tent that sleeps six and there is plenty of room to roam outdoors. The kids club distracts small ones with art classes, cookery lessons and storytelling.
In a big way. They help with reforestation (guests can help out if they like), have begun growing native cacao plants, use purified rainwater across the camp and most produce comes from their farm.
For a sundowner, head straight to the viewing deck and drink in the showstopping sunset panoramas. For dinner, take a seat at the communal dining table – it’s the best place for swapping Galápagos tales.
You’re in one of the few places on earth where khaki safari gear is de rigueur, so embrace your inner Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.
Creative young chefs Sebastian and Paula serve up two Ecuadorian-accented, organic-as-it-gets dinner options in the lodge each evening (Mr & Mrs Smith snacked on sesame-crusted tuna with nori sauce and honey- and mustard-glazed pork, but the menu changes nightly). A social atmosphere is encouraged but there are plenty of smaller tables on the veranda if you feel like dining à deux.
There might not be an actual bar, but you can kick back in the convivial lounge – or anywhere else you fancy – with a cold beer, a glass of wine or an island-themed cocktail. We liked the tequila-laced Blue-footed Boobie and the Caipirinha Galapagueña, made with local sugar-cane spirit.
The lodge and tents are off the beaten path in 135 acres of farmland on the island of Santa Cruz.
Flights from the US and Europe land daily at Quito airport. From there it’s a short flight to Baltra airport where you’ll be met by a driver from the camp.
This isn’t hire-car country, but you’ll be driven to and from the airport and on as many day-trips as you care to book.
There’s a short boat ride across the Itabaca Channel between your airport pickup and your drive through Santa Cruz.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of adventure, and your safari-camp base couldn’t be better placed for exploring them. You won’t need to worry about organising trips either: your hosts will take care of everything, including packed lunches and picnics.
Choose from an expertly planned list of five-, six- and seven-day itineraries that take in land-based highlights (giant tortoise reserves, active volcanoes, flamingo-dotted lagoons, iguana-spotting on the coast, pristine white sands at Tortuga Bay, tours of the Charles Darwin Research Centre), aquatic expeditions (boat trips to uninhabited islands, scuba diving among penguins, turtles, hammerhead sharks, stingrays and reef fish, snorkelling with sea lions) and action-led excursions (a surf and yoga safari). If you’ve a particular interest (science, wildlife photography etc), let the owners know and they’ll try and tailor a trip to suit.
No interest in an early-morning wake-up call? No worries. Just laze around by the pool and have a leisurely hike around the Highlands.
Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay but if you do decide to venture out for food, bear in mind that many restaurants come without an actual address, so add ¿dónde está…? to your Spanish essentials. Avenue Charles Darwin is the main strip in Puerto Ayora: seek out the tables of La Garrapata (+5935 252 6627), serving up seafood in a candlelit alfresco setting; climb through Il Giardino’s (+5935 252 6627) wooden walkways and nestle yourself among locals for fresh Italian fare and a tempting ice-cream selection; or try Isla Grill(+593 5 252 4461) for pizzas, burgers and island-authentic seafood barbecues. A good dinner – or Sunday brunch – is always deserving of a water-taxi commute, and Angermeyer Point(+5935 252 6452) is well worth the $1 round trip. Reserve a table in advance, ask for seats on the deck and enjoy some of the best seafood around. Further down the waterfront is the Finch Bay Hotel restaurant, where Cordon Bleu-trained (and excellently named) chef, Byron Riviera, delivers an inspiring menu of Galápagos-meets-international flavours.
Mr & Mr Smith have just returned from a stay at this eco escape in the Galápagos Islands and as soon as they've finished their last bar of cacao and downloaded their giant-tortoise snaps, a full account of their back-to-nature break will be with you. In the meantime, just to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Galápagos Safari Camp.
There are islands and then there are the Galápagos Islands: biologists' paradise, birthplace of evolutionary theory, once-in-a-lifetime adventure playground. If you're going to explore them, you'll need to do it right, and Galápagos Safari Camp will ensure you do just that.
This eco-sensitive spread of 10 luxury tents and terrace-toting lookout lodge sits inconspicuously among the jungle of Santa Cruz's Highlands. Owners Michael (from Spain) and Stephanie (half English/half Ecuadorian) were the last foreigners to buy Galápagos land before the laws were changed, and they look after their abundant acres as well as they look after their awe-struck guests. With so much to explore on these legendary isles, the passion and knowledge of the staff couldn't be more welcome – they've expertly crafted day-trip (and longer) itineraries to ensure every guest gets as much out of their visit as they can.
Head up to the lodge for dinner after a day's adventuring and you'll be enthusiastically swapping wildlife stories with other guests before you know it, over farm-fresh Ecuadorian food and well-earned cocktails. Retire to your teak-floored mega-tent and it feels not much like a tent at all, but an elegant forest lodge a world away from the daily grind.