Galapagos iguana crab

We’ve reported on quite a few different experiences in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, but this time we went on a wildlife overload. As many travelers start to discover reasons to stick around longer in Ecuador, we tried out a popular itinerary of exploring the Amazon jungle before heading out to the islands. With Columbus Travel, this is a seamless trip because they own the best jungle lodge and two of the most luxurious catamarans cruising the islands.

We’ve posted before about the trip getting to La Selva Jungle Lodge. The two-hour speedboat ride up the Napo River goes too fast for any wildlife viewing, but the last section of walking and traversing the lake by canoe is a different story. The setting on the lake is gorgeous, the light changing throughout the day. Being on a lake also means that some excursions can be done by canoe instead of on foot. We spotted as much from there as we did while walking, plus there’s a giant observation tower on site that lets you get up to the canopy where the tropical birds are flying and landing.

Check out this short video for some spider monkeys, hoatzin birds, leaf cutter ants, parakeets, and some long-nosed bats waking from their slumber at sunset.

After a few nights in the jungle I boarded a flight back to Quito then out to Baltra Island to begin a high-end cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Our story runs down some of the activities and sightings you can expect on a trip like this, but what really differentiates one tour from the other is where you’ll be sleeping and eating while on the water.

Ocean Spray GalapagosWe were on the Ocean Spray, which is a wide luxury catamaran sleeping 16 passengers. This is the perfect number for a cruise like this as everyone can fit into two zodiacs to head to shore or to go snorkeling. It also means you get lots of space in your cabin: mine was much larger than some city hotels I’ve spent the night in before. The cabins are air conditioned and have good water pressure, but the best feature was a private balcony for each cabin so passengers can sit outside and watch the scenery go by.

There’s also a terrific view from the top deck too, of course, which runs the entire length of the ship. There are deck chairs to lounge in and a whirlpool that makes for a nice place to relax while the sun goes down. Meals were excellent throughout the cruise and the indoor dining room is like a nice restaurant with a view.

See our full story here: Wild Ecuador by Land and Sea.

See more on luxury tours and hotels in Ecuador.