At one point, Jeneen Sutherland found herself holding her daughter’s hand as they snorkelled in the Pacific Ocean. “She was swimming with white tip sharks, and rays and sea turtles and all sorts of fish, and accompanied by a naturalist guide,” Jeneen says of her seven-year-old daughter.
“They’re just so nonthreatening,” she assures. “Some people would freak out about that sort of thing, but when you’re on a cruise in the Galapagos you’re always accompanied by a naturalist guide. The guides know these animals so well that there was never any danger.
“It is such a great educational experience for the kids.”
So Much to Offer
A UNESCO world heritage site and the locale that Charles Darwin famously called, “A little world within itself,” the Galapagos Islands’ reputation is well known—and rightly so. But on a recent family trip with her husband and two young children, Jeneen, a longtime B&R staffer and current director of business development, found the Galapagos to be just one piece of a larger Ecuadorian puzzle.
“Ecuador’s known for the Galapagos, but really the country has so much to offer,” she says.
Jeneen and her family started their trip in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Also a UNESCO world heritage site, the city is home to one of the best-preserved historic city centres in the Western hemisphere.
“In Quito we stayed in a restored colonial house in the heart of the old city, which was really neat for the kids to climb up the spiral staircase and check out the views,” Jeneen says.
From Quito, Jeneen and her brood headed two hours north, into the Andes mountain range, where they stayed at the 300-year-old Hacienda Zuleta. In addition to being one of Ecuador’s top-ranked hotels, the 4,000-acre working farm features a condor rehabilitation centre where injured vultures are nursed back to health.
“That was pretty cool for the kids to see,” Jeneen says. “Of all the places I went to, that’s the one I want to go back to. I wanted my kids to stay for a month so they could learn even more!”
Into the Wild Green Yonder
From the elevation of the Andes, the family next headed deep into the Ecuadorian portion of the Amazon rainforest, where they stayed at a remote forest lodge.
“At this particular lodge, they had what’s called a canopy walk where you climb up what’s like 10 flights of stairs so you’re above the trees,” Jeneen says. “The views were just incredible.”
But even better than the treetop views were the rainforests inhabitants—human and otherwise.
“What left quite an impression on the kids was when we were in the Amazon we would go off on these nature walks with a local guide from a nearby village, and he was amazing,” Jeneen recalls. “We’d be walking around and he’d hear a crazy noise from far away, and he’d point up and we’d see monkeys up there. People who live there, they’re so in tune with their surroundings.”
By the end of the trip, Jeneen, her husband and their two young kids took in a historic city centre, the top of the Andes mountains, the depth of the Amazon rainforest and the majesty of the Galapagos Islands—all in the span of two weeks.
“I’d love to take the kids on one really cool trip like this once a year. They just learned so much,” Jeneen says.