Ecuador without the Galapagos

Most people think about visiting Ecuador and head for the Galapagos Islands for animals galore. Sadly on our budget we left out a visit there for a time in later life and we’ll do it the luxury way. Despite that, our trip to Ecuador was incredible and my addiction to Instagram kicked in all over again!

If you’re thinking of a trip there then you’re in for a treat.

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First stop for us was Quito, one of the highest cities in the world and it showed! With a hostel up a very steep hill, we were pretty breathless whenever we returned back to our room. However, instead of taking it easy we decided to go higher, firstly by going up a very long cable car for a view of the city and later improving that by climbing to the top of a gothic church.

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If you’re ever in Quito, find the large gothic church and scale the ladders to the top – no health and safety rules to go with the holy view!

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From Quito we headed south to take in a bit of the countryside. Firstly by mountain biking down the side of Cotopaxi through stunning scenery and later by heading up to the incredible crater lake of Quilotoa. Upon reaching the edge, not only was I breathless from the altitude but by the the scenery too. I’m sure you’ll agree.

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The surrounding alpacas were pretty cool too.

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Our next stop was Banos, one of Ecuador’s most popular local tourism spots. The hot springs from where the town gets its name are an experience. Packed full of local families with a different idea of personal space and water predominantly a sludgy green colour we didn’t stay too long.

The highlight of Banos came from renting an off road buggy to drive down the valley past tens of waterfalls until we reached the crescendo of noise from the Pailon del Diablo. Not quite as good as a Honduran waterfall that you can walk under, although the approach right up to this one left me absolutely soaked through!

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Despite not visiting the Galapagos we wanted to see some wildlife so chose to visit the next best thing, Puerto Lopes, referred to as the Poor Man’s Galapagos. For just $20 we signed up to a whale watching tour on the way to Isla la Plata, home of the Blue Footed Boobies (feathered kind, not ladies with cold feet)!

The experience was incredible, for about an hour we saw several whales jumping right out of the water. Sadly each time I tried to snap a photo I seemed to miss. In the end it was almost better to watch, and thankfully Katrina got a great shot. Here’s my best effort.

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The whales may have been the highlight of the day but there was still great wildlife to come. We saw hundreds of boobies – incredibly strange birds with no fear of people walking within inches of them.

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To cap it off as we left green turtles circled the boat to see us off back to the mainland.

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After some time to chill out by the beach (literally – Puerto Lopes is hit by cold currents from Antarctica) we started to make our way to Peru via Guayaquil, the biggest city in Ecuador. Guayaquil was just a short stop but we couldn’t visit without seeing the so called Iguana Park – yes they have a whole park in the middle of the city filled with tame and curious Iguanas!

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In all we had an awesome time in Ecuador, and I could say so much more but these are my highlights and favourite Instagrams. Don’t just visit for the Galapagos, see a great country too!

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Acting like Attenborough

So I’ve made it into Costa Rica – the poster child of Central American tourism. It’s an shock to the wallet after months in places like Nicaragua and Honduras which to a northerner like me ain’t good.

However, despite a being swindled by overly bureaucratic immigration officials on the Costa Rican side of the border (more on that in a later blog post) I’ve grown to like the place.

One of the highlights was visiting Tortuguero (literally meaning place of the turtles) to see giant Green Turtles lay eggs on the beach. I actually found the experience to be a bit of an anti-climax, we saw one big turtle give birth but much of the spectacle was spoiled by too many American tourists making noise and jostling for space. I felt sorry for the turtle.

Beforehand, we headed out in a canoe with a guide to look at the local wildlife. I wasn’t expecting too much but I was sold on the idea by the guide and he didn’t disappoint. In just a couple of hours we saw 3 types of monkey, sloths, many beautiful birds, insect, turtles and caymans.

I’m not the best at wildlife photography – getting there slowly – but here are some of the better snaps. Enjoy.

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Talk about camouflage!

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Camera and cayman eyeing each other up.

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Turtles basking in some rare sunshine.

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Sea birds soaring over the jungle.

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Monkeys climbing for fruit.

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Beautiful plumage as a Python once said.

Kinda scary looking fella!

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Swallows – almost like from the movie.

Just hanging out.

If you enjoyed these you’ll find many more awesome Central America photos on my Instagram account here.

Hi, my name is Iain and I think I’m addicted to Instagram

I’m a bit in love with photography at the moment and I’ve gone through phases with Flickr, Snapseed and various other iPhone camera app type things. However, one I’d always avoided was Instagram. Don’t ask me why because I don’t think I have any real or good reason for it. Maybe I’d just heard bad things.

Lately however I’ve got a bit mental with it in Guatemala. And why not? It’s an especially beautiful place in both towns like Antigua, the former capital full of historic ruins and surrounded by volcanos as well as the countryside around Lake Atitlan (though not the lake itself which is really rather dirty).

So this is me admitting I have an addiction – perhaps the first step to weaning myself off of it at the same time as showing some photos of this beautiful country.

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