After returning from the Galapagos in October, I kept referring to it as a “once in a lifetime trip“, encouraging others to add it to their bucket list. Little did I know, we would be blessed enough to head there for a second time in less than 4 months!
When my sister began formulating her itinerary for her family’s gap year, she honed in on the Galapagos Islands as their first destination. She had invited Bridge and I to join in any or all parts of their gap year, but brushed off the idea of inviting us to join the Galapagos since we had just been there. That was when the idea of potentially joining them as a surprise started swimming around in my head. However, I was concerned that it would be a waste of money to do the exact same cruise we had done just a few months earlier.
I held off on making any plans for this potential surprise, but assisted my sister in putting her plans together with the few contacts that I gained during my own trip to the Galapagos. I honestly didn’t think this surprise could pan out, especially because traveling during COVID times has been exponentially harder and came with way too much uncertainties and risks. But when my sister ended up choosing a different cruise itinerary than ours, I decided it would be worthwhile to at least try to move forward in the planning of this surprise trip.
I knew getting to the Galapagos was no easy feat, having done it just a few months earlier. It required a transit in Houston, a one night layover in Quito, a final flight to the Galapagos and then a bus ride, boat ride and a car ride to get to the hotel. How on earth would I pull all that off as a surprise??
I immediately called on one of my contacts in the Galapagos, as I needed someone local to help me pull the surprise off. She was Blanca, the owner of the boutique hotel that I had recommended for my sister to stay in prior to the cruise. I met her when we dined at her hotel with our friend Ayaka, whom stayed there after our cruise. Blanca was so friendly and kind, and I had gotten her contact then thinking maybe one day I’d go back and stay at her hotel! That “one day” would be much sooner than I could have imagined!
Blanca was super excited to help me with the surprise. She and I exchanged Whatsapp nearly daily as we put the plans in place, particularly the actual timing of when we’d show up to surprise my sister Mimi and her family. It all seemed so far fetched, but I was eager to try, because I just LOVE surprising my family, especially my sister!
In the end, we successfully pulled the surprise off, without Mimi suspecting a thing! The video below will show how incredibly surprised her whole family was, when Bridgette and I just showed up at their dinner on the Galapagos Island! It definitely took an immense amount of time and effort, but it was totally worth it!
We spent several days on the island of Santa Cruz with the Chuangs, strolling around town and exploring nearby beaches and islands nearby. We took a day trip to Tortuga Bay and spent a leisurely afternoon snorkeling, swimming and kayaking there. An exciting moment was when a Galapagos shark began circling around Brianne and Bridgette’s kayak. It was like the movie Jaws when the fin of the shark suddenly surfaced and appeared right next to their kayak! Fortunately, no harm was done and the girls paddled safely to shore. The excitement did tire them out though and they totally crashed on our boat ride back.
On another day, we took a trip to Pinzon Island with a Naturalist who taught us so much about the wildlife and geological history of the Galapagos. Even though Bridgette and I had learned a ton on our previous trip to the Galapagos, we realized there was still a lot more to learn! We sailed on a nice yacht where we got to sunbathe, eat snacks and lunch together, and nap soundly after all the wildlife viewing and snorkeling. Little Brady snorkeled for the first time ever, and though we had practiced with him in the bathtub prior to the trip, it was still quite challenging for him because of the rough current of the sea and the cold temperature of the water. He ended up snorkeling for just a short amount of time before getting back onto the boat, but he sure showed a lot of courage in the water!
My sister, who loves scuba diving and is a certified scuba diver, invited Brianne and Bridgette to join her for one of the scuba diving trips she booked in the Galapagos. Neither girls had ever tried it before but were eager to give it a go! I was a bit concerned for Bridge, since she’s always had problems with equalizing the pressure in her ears, and told her not to push it if her ears became too painful. In the end, she was only able to stay in the water for a short amount of time before the pressure indeed became too painful for her, but she was really happy she got to at least give it a try!
While they were out scuba diving, I got some quality time with my little munchkin nephew, eating his favorite Hawaiian pizza and saying hello to all the wildlife we came across.
It was such a leisurely few days staying in Puerto Ayora before we embarked on our cruise. There were very few tourists at the time, so none of the stores or restaurants were crowded at all. We tried out several delicious restaurants near our hotel where we enjoyed some really fresh seafood!
Also want to give a shoutout to Blanca and her family who owns La Isla Hotel in Puerto Ayora, where we stayed during our time on the Santa Cruz Island. This boutique hotel is super stylish, yet cozy, with comfy, spacious rooms. Breakfast is included every morning, and you can book in advance to have dinner up on their beautiful rooftop. On our first night, Blanca arranged for their cook to prepare a sumptuous dinner for us on the rooftop, with fresh seafood that was caught that very morning! We absolutely loved our stay there, and would highly recommend it to everyone. Blanca and her family made sure we were well taken care of during the entire stay, and she even prepared a thoughtful surprise for Brianne’s birthday while we were on the cruise. Now that’s hospitality at its finest!