May 2016

Before I begin to talk about my 6-day trip to Guayaquil and Galapagos, Ecuador, I want to cover one very important point. A topic most of us don’t pay too much attention to: The meaning of life. I feel that as a 28-year old, I have a responsibility not only to our incredible planet and mother earth but also to you guys! To every single soul reading this. Whatever your age might be, I want to share with you something I’ve a learned in the past year. A simple yet surprisingly mind-opening lesson: Life does NOT have one definition but is all about recreating ourselves and discovering new horizons. You see, we were not put on this earth to work 24/7 in the hopes that we get to enjoy life and travel in a “near” future. At what moment did we choose a job we don't like and the status it gave us over living life to the fullest and overdosing our brains with incredible memories? We are honestly so busy trying to create tangible beauty that we fail to recognize it even when it's standing right before us. We simply are too focused on being and achieving what others taught us to that we lose connection with who we really are. about we start listening to our hearts more?...How about we open our minds to the mysteries and miracles of life, for once?...How about we plant our feet and hands on the ground and become one with the earth's heartbeat?... How about we give life a try? What do you say? If you’re ready, this trip is definitely for you. Trust me, you will not want to leave Galapagos.

As many of you might know, Ecuador was hit by a 7.8 earthquake followed by another replica one month later. The first earthquake managed to destroy and severely affect certain parts of Ecuador. The saddest reality is that it hit extremely low-income areas and left thousands of people homeless. Thus, one of the reasons I decided to embark on this trip was not only to review one of the most amazing eco-friendly hotels I’ve visited for the blog, Pikaia Lodge in Galapagos, but also to document and spread the word about the different organizations that are helping rebuild Ecuador in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. During my 2-day stay in Guayaquil, I was able to experience first hand the construction phase of these projects. Their focus and the people behind them touched my heart on more levels than you can imagine. I’ve never seen so many kind-hearted and intelligent human beings come together from all parts of the world to help a country heal in ways that don’t destroy nature. It is truly inspiring! In case you guys feel like helping (any $ amount counts!), here are some of the projects worth taking a look at:

  • I Love Ecuador: Build eco-friendly and durable homes made of bamboo. More info here
  • Proyecto Amor 7.8: Create a community focused on teaching kinds and adults how to eat, live and benefit from nature in a sustainable way.
  • Un Solo Ecuador: Gathering donations every Thursday at Plaza Lagos Town Center.
  • Yo Siembro: Teaching families and children to build their own orchards at home.

Ok, now to the part you’ve been waiting for. Pikaia Lodge in Galapagos. This eco-friendly 14-room boutique hotel is one more jaw-dropping example that luxury and a conscience do combine. It was designed and built for the environmentally conscious and adventurous traveler by combining high levels of comfort in a remote location (on top of a mountain surrounded by mesmerizing layers of nature) with a unique design that runs on solar energy for electricity and water heating, collects rain water, and treats waste water and reuses it for irrigation. Pikaia is also reducing its footprint even further with a design focused on natural light and air circulation, and a restaurant that serves an organic food menu with vegan and vegetarian options. Now, imagine all that topped with daily animal freedom-oriented adventures! Yes! That’s exactly what we did! Every morning the hotel had scheduled an entire day of activities around the islands. From hiking next to iguanas and the famous blue-footed booby, to snorkeling with white tip sharks, rays, sea lions, hundreds of different fishes, and penguins. I honestly felt I was playing a role in the Jungle Book! It was surreal.

Day 1: I flew from Guayaquil to Baltra. It was almost a 2 hour flight. At the airport I was welcomed by the hotel staff with a glass of fresh juice and a sign that read my name. They also took care of my bags and paperwork. (If you are thinking of traveling to Galapagos, remember you’ll have to pay $100 tax fee for the conservation of the Islands, or $50 if you are part of the Andean Community or Mercosur.) From the airport we drove to the port (10 min drive) and took another 10-min ferry ride to Santa Cruz. There, Wilson- the hotel driver- picked me up and we were on our way to the hotel. It was about an hour drive but the scenery made it seem much shorter. We drove for miles on roads completely surrounded by nature and we even made a few stops to admire a turtle crossing the road, or an uncommon bird only found in Galapagos, or the Palo Santo trees that consume Galapagos entirely and beautify it with a cleansing aroma. We also stopped at Puerto Ayora. Its main attractions were the boutique stores and arts & crafts vendors everywhere alongside fishermen selling their daily catch and sea lions trying to steal it! It’s worth stopping there to walk a little, watch the sea lions sneaking into the market, and take LOTS of pictures. 
Once we reached the gate of the hotel, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Behind those doors, right there, on top of a mountain, was Pikaia Lodge. An eco-friendly hotel with one of the most breathtaking architectures I’ve seen. The solar panels were on top of each villa combining mindfulness of mother earth with a modern design. And my room….my God, my room! It had tall glass windows that framed the bedroom area. This allowed guests to wake up every morning with the rays of the sun and the magnificent view of the 15 acres of elephant grass and huge trees! The bathroom had a shower and a tub both looking straight into paradise, as well. I spent my first day at Pikaia relaxing, enjoying the views, walking around the hotel, and submerging into its outdoors heated infinity pool and its indoors Jacuzzi- both with mindblowing sceneries.

Day 2: My second day started at 7am. After a light and refreshing breakfast, the hotel drove me and two other guests to the ferry to take a boat to Pikaia’s 100ft yacht. Here’s yet another part where luxury meets a conscience. Pikaia has a yacht with 8 rooms to take its hotel guests on full-day excursions to the different islands to interact with nature and wild animals. This to me was priceless! The yacht also serves vegetarian and vegan options, which I devoured!
Our excursion started off with a visit to North Seymour Island and a walk through it to see and learn about the Blue-Footed Booby (Galapagos bird with neon blue feet), huge iguanas, sea lions and the Palo Santo trees. About 2 hours later, we got back on the boat, changed into our snorkel outfits and went for a swim around the islands. This activity is beyond incredible and I recommend it 100%, guys. In less than 1 hour (water temperature in Galapagos is very cold so, even though I was wearing a diving suit, my hands started to shake within the hour and had to get out) we saw white-tip sharks, dozens of different fish species, and starfishes. After snorkel, we had a delicious lunch on the yacht and then proceeded to visit our last stop of the day: Bacha Beach. The softest sand I’ve stepped on in a while. Here, I was able to capture beautiful photos of the beach with hundreds of super bright red crabs roaming around. We also saw flamingoes and sea lions. I ended my day in bed, exhausted, with a vegan burger on top of a mouthwatering avocado-garden salad. Heaven!

Day 3: It started a little earlier than before. 6am. Which meant I had to wake up at 5 to get ready, pack my stuff for the day, have a light breakfast and go! This time, I traveled with a bigger group. We were 13 in total. A group of 5 super entertaining couples that decided to travel Galapagos together, 2 Russian brothers (Yuri and Sergei) who became my travel buddies, and me!! We arrived at the yacht around 6.45, had a healthy filling breakfast, and were able to rest for 2 hours until the captain reached our new destination: Bartolomé Island! We first started by climbing the 370+ stairs all the way up to the top of Bartolomé. The views gave me a whole new perspective of life. You know how sometimes we tend to see the speck in our eyes but fail to see what lies beyond it? Bartolomé forces you to take everything in. You get a 360 view of what it truly means to be alive, along with a powerful reality check! Seriously! After climbing to the top and learning all about Bartolomé, we returned to the yacht to change into our snorkel suits again while the captain directed us towards El Sombrero Chino (The Chinese Hat). Here, we had the option of snorkeling around the island or climbing/hiking it. I chose snorkel. I don’t know… There’s something about the ocean that fuels me up with excitement every time I go scuba diving or snorkeling. I think it’s the fact that I actually get to submerge into an unknown world and become one with sea creatures. And by submerge, I mean literally. Even while snorkeling! I’m the type of snorkeler that likes to dive all the way down to the bottom of the ocean to interact with creatures I have never seen before, and then swim back up once I’m out of air. That’s exactly what happened at this island. Except for one magical occurrence. Sea lions! I somehow befriended two sea lions that followed me everywhere and loved playing with my gopro! The highlight of my trip and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced! This pretty much sums up everything I try to inspire through the blog: admiring and interacting with wild animals in their own habitat. No aquariums, no tanks, no cages! 

We returned to the hotel around 7pm exhausted… once again …but it was that type of exhaustion that brings a huge smile on your face just by thinking about your day.

Day 4: I flew back to Guayaquil but first, I made sure I visited the giant tortoises around the property. You can normally see them sunbathing around a small pond next to the hotel. Did you know Galapagos is known for these ginormous (can weight up to 417kg) creatures and, of course, Lonesome George?! You have to read the story and theory behind this big fellow. It will make your mind wonder with a side of laughter!

As you might have seen on instagram, I decided to take this trip solo. No photographer, no friend. Second time I did this since I started the blog two years ago and it was totally worth it!  Traveling solo is absolutely everything! You learn to connect at a deeper level with yourself and everything that goes on around you. You watch strangers, analyze their actions and try to put yourself in their shoes. This makes you kinder. You learn to read people's energies and trust your instinct. This makes you sensible. You connect with like-minded human beings full of soul, share uncountable laughs and adventures together, and those strangers immediately become your new friends. This makes you an even bigger storyteller. You learn to develop an admiration and respect towards nature much greater than you ever imagined you could have. This transforms you into a free-spirited fairy full of light. And once your trip comes to an end, you'll return home lighter, happier, stronger, wiser and ready to let go of anything or anyone that doesn't add an uplifting breeze to that flow of energy. To that way of life. Traveling solo is absolutely everything!

To know:
-Take a hat and eco-friendly sunblock with you!!!! The UV rays there are intense! I forgot my hat and had to ask the hotel for one before I turned into ashes!
-Take comfy sneakers, shorts, short and long-sleeve tees and swimsuits! (This I did. Thank God!)
-Order your vegan/vegetarian options ahead of time
-Watch the Galapagos documentary the hotel offers every night in their movie room. It will leave you speechless and teach you things about Galapagos, Darwin’s theories, and the animals you probably never imagined! Watch it prior to the excursions to know what to expect.
Planet-loving fashion brands I wore:
-Swimsuits: made from natural and recycled materials by EcoPeaceSwim.
-Blue Jumpsuit: fair-trade jumpsuit made with sustainable fibers and nontoxic dyes with proceeds supporting different animal rescues by SavedKisses.
-White Dress: fair-trade empowering artisans in India by GuadalupeDesign.
-Grey Jumpsuit and yoga set: made from natural materials by PortDeBras.

To watch my Galapagos video, click here!