This week ACIS’s Liz Tyrell returned home from family travel in Ecuador and shares her extremely positive experience. ACIS will be sure to update travelers with the latest security and safety recommendations.
As an 18 year veteran of ACIS, a deep love of travel runs in my blood. Which is why, even after leaving ACIS a few months ago to spend more time with my children, I still travel with my family at every opportunity. My kids (ages 11, 8 and 5) are also intrepid travelers. This year, our big family adventure was a late January trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. We spent months reading about all of the amazing animals we were going to see and getting excited for our trip!
When I read about the events that occurred in Ecuador on January 9, 2024, and the subsequent announcements from the Ecuadorian government, naturally I was concerned. Our trip was scheduled to depart in just a few short weeks, on January 26. It was pretty clear that events were localized to Guayaquil – a place we did not plan to visit – so I wasn’t that worried about safety in Quito or the Galápagos. However, news articles made it sound like there would be a military presence and a curfew; I didn’t want to bring my kids somewhere that would seem scary, or where everything we would want to see was shut down.
The ACIS Team Gives the All Clear
During my years of working at ACIS, I learned that what is depicted in the media is often not the reality on the ground. I called my friends at ACIS (I had booked the trip myself, not with ACIS, but they kindly helped me anyway!), and they assured me that they’d been in touch with their partners on the ground in Ecuador and that everything in Quito and the Galápagos was calm and operating normally. Also, the State Department issued several statements reiterating that Ecuador’s risk level had not increased and was still a level two. Hearing from these two trusted sources made my husband and I feel confident in continuing with our plans. The trip was on, and we were off to Ecuador!
Our first stop was Quito. We stayed right in Quito’s historic center, on the Plaza San Francisco, a few blocks from the Presidential Palace. The plaza was full of people out enjoying the city – adults shopping, kids eating ice cream, people walking their dogs, all with the Andes mountains rising in the background. We walked all around the center and had dinner on the Plaza Grande. There were no demonstrations and no military presence, other than normal security outside of the Presidential Palace. Shops and restaurants were open, people were out and about, everything was calm and completely normal.
We visited the Mitad del Mundo, and my kids delighted in being able to put one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere. We went to the craft market and attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to bargain. We ate lots of chocolate and ceviche (separately, of course!)
Exploring the Islands
Next up, the Galápagos Islands! The Galápagos are a two-hour flight from mainland Ecuador and feel like a world away. We flew to Baltra and spent six days exploring perhaps the most unspoiled and natural place I’ve ever seen. We saw giant tortoises (found only in the Galápagos, nowhere else in the world!), iguanas, sharks, blue footed boobies and flamingos. One huge highlight was getting to see a green sea turtle bury the eggs she just laid, and then return to the ocean and swim away – incredible! We walked on lava fields and in lava tubes. We snorkeled with rays, turtles, sea lions and penguins. I’ll admit, while in the Galápagos, we did have one interaction with a police officer… in which he kindly reminded my eleven year old to maintain a two meter distance from a sea lion while we waited on a dock for a ferry (both sea lions and eleven year olds are curious little creatures!)
On the way home, we had a very early flight and had to leave for the Quito airport prior to the stated 5 AM curfew. Again, there was no military presence, no checkpoints, nothing – just some very tired kids who didn’t want to wake up at 4:15 AM to sit at the airport. We were all sad to leave Ecuador behind!
We had decided to visit Ecuador because it is a beautiful, safe, incredibly diverse country with unique wildlife. We found all of those things to be very true on our trip! The Galápagos are like nowhere else in the world, and I feel so lucky that we were able to go.