Galapagos Safari Camp
Sitting on the rim of an extinct volcano in the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador’s Galapagos Safari Camp is the perfect place to base yourself while you explore the spellbinding landscapes and incredible wildlife of the Galápagos Islands archipelago.
Tucked away on the edge of Galápagos National Park, Galapagos Safari Camp is immersed in nature—far from the coastal crowds, yet within easy reach of all the natural attractions of Santa Cruz Island.
It’s just as easy to be captivated by the camp’s sweeping views of lush forests, Pacific shores, and intriguing islands as it is to be charmed by the giant tortoises that lumber around its grounds.
With nine safari-style tents, one family suite, a rustic-chic lodge, a small infinity pool, and an amazing viewpoint, there’s plenty to do at this peaceful camp when you’re not out on tailormade land or sea safaris. And with its strong environmental focus, Galapagos Safari Camp offers a refreshingly-responsible way to experience the wonders of the Galápagos Islands.
What we love about Galapagos Safari Camp
You may not think it’s possible to have an Out of Africa-style safari experience in South America—but it is, thanks to owners Michael and Stephanie Mesdag’s shared dream. Galapagos Safari Camp embodies all the laid-back ambiance and gentle pace of an African safari but in Ecuador. From its serene location to its traditional Meru-style tents designed in Kenya—we adore Galapagos Safari Camp’s ability to bring a taste of the African savannah to the Galápagos.
We also adore that Galapagos Safari Camp offers a whole new way to experience the archipelago. If you’re not a natural cruiser and the thought of being on a boat makes you feel a little seasick, a land-based safari is the ideal alternative. On a land-based safari, you get to combine all the wildlife-watching opportunities of a day cruise with the comforts of a hotel—and you get to sleep in a bed that doesn’t rock and sway.)
Land-based safaris at Galapagos Safari Camp also provide a whole lot of freedom to dictate your day—so sleep in as late as you like. Moreover, unlike a cruise, you can arrive and leave whenever suits you—your schedule is in your own hands.
Galapagos Safari Camp’s unique conservation and sustainability model
Sustainability is a way of life at Galapagos Safari Camp. The property has been working hard to hone its environmentally friendly ethos since its foundation back in 2003. Here are just some of the ways the camp focuses on making the Galápagos Islands a better place:
- Low-impact construction: The semi-circular facade of the main lodge has been designed to follow the contours of the land. Only three trees were removed to accommodate the camp.
- Natural ventilation: Tents have been strategically positioned to take advantage of the cool air currents that flow through the Santa Cruz highlands. This eliminates the need for air conditioning. (An air conditioning unit is present in the camp’s family suite villa, but it’s rarely necessary.)
- Eco-friendly lighting: Low-consumption lighting is used throughout the camp. This minimizes light pollution and reduces the disturbance to wildlife.
- Solar-powered hot water: Solar panels outside each tent are used to generate hot water for ensuite bathrooms.
- Rainwater harvesting: The camp’s rainwater reservoir and cutting-edge water treatment process reduce dependence on desalinated water, which relies on fuel-powered plants and transportation to extract and deliver it.
- Farm-to-table cuisine: The camp’s carefully crafted tasting menus showcase what is readily available on the islands.
- Flora restoration: Working closely with the Charles Darwin Research Station, Galápagos National Park, and Conservation International, Galapagos Safari Camp transformed the land it occupies from a former cattle farm back into wild, native forest. This “endemic garden” showcases Santa Cruz’s native flora—much of which is found nowhere else in the world.
- Tree planting: You can contribute to the camp’s rewilding efforts by planting native species in designated areas around the property. Not only is this a way to participate in conservation efforts, but the ceremonial act of planting a tree is also a beautiful way to mark a special occasion or honor the memory of a loved one.
Galapagos Safari Camp accommodations
Set in an arc on a hillside overlooking Galápagos National Park, Galapagos Safari Camp’s nine safari tents and one three-bedroom family suite villa look from above like little canvas cocoons nestled in a vast wilderness—and that is essentially what they are.
Covered by three layers of canvas, they offer shelter and comfort, but they still allow you to immerse yourself in the natural world. Private balcony decks—perfect for a little hammock time—give way to spacious, stylish interiors decorated in tasteful safari-style simplicity. All tents have several electrical sockets for charging cameras and devices.
For a great way to start the day, stretch out on your bed to enjoy the views. After a day exploring the national park, take a solar-powered hot shower in your ensuite bathroom and then head to the camp’s fabulous viewpoint for a sundowner.
Galapagos Safari Camp amenities
Dining: Take a seat at the lodge’s long hardwood dining table inside, or choose a private spot on the veranda to savor fresh Ecuadorian dishes served with passion and flair.
The camp’s four-course tasting menu offers a nightly journey across Ecuadorian cuisine, with traditional dishes reimagined with refined simplicity. Think quinoa pesto salad with roasted carrots, vegetables and yogurt, grouper in an Ecuadorian coastal-style coconut sauce, or Wahoo ceviche with sweet potato cubes. The camp’s expertly curated wine list complements the menu beautifully.
Unique, in-camp culinary experiences also include chocolate-tasting sessions, a ceviche cooking class, wilderness picnics, and artisan fishing experiences where you can catch your own dinner for the chef to prepare.
Relaxation: The opportunities for relaxation at Galapagos Safari Camp are endless. Grab your yoga mat and greet the dawn with a stretching session at the viewpoint. Enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool before a Santa Cruz land safari. In the afternoon, take a nap beneath a moss-laden tree or lose yourself in a book from the library. Watch the sunset over the archipelago, and after dinner, treat yourself to a cocktail or two in the bar.
Is Galapagos Safari Camp family-friendly?
Galapagos Safari Camp is one of the most family-friendly ways to experience this UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, the owners’ children were born and raised for the first few years of their lives at the camp, so its family-friendly credentials are tried-and-true.
The three-bedroom villa has a primary bedroom and two twin rooms to accommodate up to six people, plus a downstairs playroom. (A baby cot can be added to the safari tents if parents are traveling with an infant.) During land-based safaris, families are paired with kid-friendly guides, and private vehicles offer utmost flexibility. During school breaks, GSC runs an afternoon Kid’s Club so parents can unwind solo after the day’s big outing.
Getting to Galapagos Safari Camp
The easiest way to get to Galapagos Safari Camp is via a two-hour flight to the small airport on Baltra Island from either Quito or Guayaquil. A guide will then drive you approximately 10 minutes to the Itabaca Channel, where you will transfer onto a boat for a short hop to Santa Cruz Island. From there, it’s a 30-minute drive to Galapagos Safari Camp. Door-to-door, the journey from the airport to the camp takes around an hour.
Galapagos Safari Camp activities
If you prefer a more laid-back adventure experience, one of the benefits of staying at Galapagos Safari Camp is that you can alternate a day of excursions to other islands with a day of exploring Santa Cruz or relaxing in camp.
Land safaris on Santa Cruz: All land safaris are private, meaning you have your own naturalist guide and a chauffeur-driven vehicle at your disposal, allowing for maximum flexibility and spontaneity. Discover colossal volcanic sinkholes, visit the giant tortoise reserve, and explore the lava tunnels. Pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, chill out at Tortuga Beach, or enjoy an al fresco lunch in Puerto Ayora. Whatever your heart yearns for, it’s on the schedule.
Sea safaris: Hop on a boat to visit North Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, and Santa Fe. Meet land iguanas on North Seymour, stretch out on Bartolomé’s white-sand Bachas Beach, see the large seal colony on South Plazas, and snorkel with white-tip reef sharks on Santa Fe. Included sea safaris are semi-private but can be privately charted for exclusive use.
Scuba diving: Explore the waters of the Galápagos Marine Reserve—one of the largest marine reserves in the world. According to UNESCO, 2,909 marine species have been identified there, making the archipelago one of the best places in the world to dive.
Itineraries featuring Galapagos Safari Camp
This week-long trip to Ecuador highlights two of the country’s most coveted regions
Wilderness of the Galapagos and Cultural History of Machu Picchu