By Arthur Stampleman
Several years ago, my wife Nancy and I told our grandchildren, Sarah and Sam, that we would love to take them on a trip anywhere they wanted to go when they reached the age of 13. Sadly, my wife died in the interim, but two years ago, I took Sarah to Antarctica, and in December 2017, it was Sam’s turn.
You might think that this keen young ballet dancer would want to go where he could see a world-class ballet company perform. But no, Sam loves the outdoors and being with people. He chose a cruise to see the Galapagos, the islands off Ecuador known for their vast number of native species first visited by Charles Darwin in the 1830s.
In mid-December Sam and I met in Miami, he arrived from his home in California and I from mine in New York. The next day we flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador. This was the first time that Sam had set foot outside the United States.
When Sam was asked about highlights of the trip, he included the two cities we visited, one of which was Guayaquil. It is the largest and most populous city in Ecuador with around 2.7 million people, as well as the nation’s port with access to the Caribbean. He enjoyed touring and was impressed by the historic and modern sections of this clean, thriving city. Then we flew on to the Galapagos.
There we boarded the 96-passenger National Geographic <Endeavour II> operated in conjunction with Lindblad Expeditions. That ship was our home for an eight-day cruise exploring a different island each day. One reason we chose that particular cruise was because we learned that there would be about a dozen children on the ship. Indeed, there were five boys and girls around Sam’s age whose company he enjoyed much of the time. Just as important, the crew, the team of naturalists leading us, our cabin, and the services were first-rate.
A typical day included a morning and afternoon expedition on a zodiac to visit an island or beach where passengers could swim, snorkel, hike, or kayak. Naturalists would lead us on these visits, often previewed by on-board presentations.
The expeditions included visits to a wildlife sanctuary, a farm, and the Charles Darwin research station. We hiked on mountainous and lava-covered landscapes, in lagoons, and on beaches. We saw seals, iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, penguins, boobies, flamingos, gulls, and more. The animals and hikes were the other high points of the trip for Sam.
About 17 years ago, the Stamplemans and twelve others (including the Peter Larrs and Pat McGunagles, both from Rye) cruised the Galapagos on a yacht-sized boat. That trip had only two naturalists, we had no need for zodiacs to visit the islands, more time was spent on land than on my recent trip, and the facilities were sparse. The earlier trip was very different from my latest one, but I had a great time on both occasions.
#1 Mid-morning in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador
#2 <Endeavor II>, in the distance
#3 Sam Stampleman rehearsing a ballet step on top of the remains of a volcano.
#4 Masked boobies performing their mating dance.
#5 A booby guarding her egg.
#6 Giant tortoises mating.
#7 Sam and friend, on a farm on the largest island, extracting the juice from cane as the first step in making sugar.
#8 A seal sunning himself on the beach.