58 countries and counting: One family's quest for adventure!

David Gibbons is a single dad devoted to showing his two boys, Sam (aged 16) and Harry (14), the most spectacular places on earth. The Gibbons’ are frequent Peregrine travellers and together they’ve conquered over 58 countries!

For their most recent trip, the Gibbons' went on the 7-day Galapagos Encounter.

Who chose the Galapagos as your next family destination, and what were the reasons?

I always book our trips before telling my sons where we’re going to avoid disappointment if, for whatever reason, the trip cannot be arranged.  So I chose the destination, but I knew that they would love to go the Galapagos Islands.

We love watching animals in the wild, having been to Africa a couple of times to go on safaris.  And we have watched all those wonderful “Life” documentaries by Sir David Attenborough, several of which cover the amazing and unique wildlife found in the Galapagos Islands.

What were you all looking forward to the most?

Seeing Lonesome George.  At the end of one of the “Life” programmes, Sir David says “This is Lonesome George….” and goes on to explain that George is the last surviving member of a sub-species of giant tortoise from Pinta Island in the Galapagos.

When we were watching this I said to Sam and Harry “That’s the same as being the last Black Rhino. Once George dies there’ll never be another one. It’s a current-day Tasmanian Tiger.”

At that time I was already thinking of going to the Galapagos Islands but hadn’t yet mentioned it to my sons.  About a month later, after I’d booked the trip, I asked them, out of the blue, whether they wanted to go and see Lonesome George and from the delighted look on their faces I could tell that they knew immediately what I was talking about.

Which wildlife experience do you remember most fondly?

The incredible variety and number of fish we saw when snorkeling – there were many colourful large parrotfish, hawkfish, angelfish, etc and enormous shoals of millions of salemas.

Did anything surprise you during the voyage?

The spaciousness of the cabins on the boat. Cabins are usually very cramped with small bunk-beds but on the San Jose each cabin was large with two good-sized single beds (although the toilet/shower was small).  Also, I was expecting there to be lots of other tourist boats at the various bays etc we visited but I was pleased to find it was not at all crowded.

What was the boys’ favourite part of the trip?

We were in the dinghy returning to the San Jose after our last snorkel and Fabien, our guide, spotted some penguins in the water and told us to put our masks back on and jump in.  For a short while we were able to swim amongst about half a dozen Galapagos Penguins before they sped off out of sight.  Fabien said it was very unusual to be able to approach penguins like that when they are in the water.

What was the highlight of the trip?

It was amazing how close we could get to the iguanas, lizards, seals and birds when we were walking on the islands.  I was taking a photo of one small bird and twice it flew straight at me and pecked at the lens of my camera because it saw its own reflection and thought it was another bird.

Any hints for families thinking of travelling to the Galapagos Islands in the future?

We did the seven day trip and it was too short because, after joining the tour in Quito on Day 1 and flying to the islands on Day 2, it really leaves just three days for visiting (but 7 days is much better than no days).

I would recommend spending three or four days in Quito (the capital of Ecuador, high in the Andes) before or after the tour.  Quito has some fine Spanish Colonial-style buildings and plazas and it is easy to organise day trips into the mountains and to nearby local market towns.

Sam and Harry particularly enjoyed going to Mitad del Mundo, 20kms north of Quito, which is located bang on the equator and has an amusing museum where there are interactive exhibitions and demonstrations showing the various effects of being exactly on the equator (water going down plugholes, etc).

Also, as it’s a long way to travel to Central America from Australia, I think it’s a good idea, if possible, to visit a couple of countries once you get there.  This time, before going to the Galapagos Islands, we spent a couple of weeks in Cuba, which was amazing, and had a short stop-over in Panama City, but great destinations like Peru, Costa Rica and Mexico are also nearby.

Any tips on handy things to pack?

Aqua-shoes for some of the “wet-landings” on beaches followed by walks on the rocks, sturdy walking boots for excursions over the lava and extra memory cards for your camera.

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