Kayaking in the Galapagos Islands

Two NHA kayakers in front of Kicker Rock. Photo by Deron Shields.

Our Galapagos Hiking and Kayaking expedition has grown to be one of our most popular trips.  Why? No doubt it has a lot to do with the trip’s charismatic and knowledgeable naturalist guide,  Luis Rodriguez, aka Champi.  We recently had the opportunity to chat with Champi about why paddling the pristine waters is the most exciting way to see the islands, and why this itinerary makes for incredible encounters with Galapagos wildlife.

Luis Rodriguez, Galapagos guide

Luis “Champi” Rodriguez, NHA Galapagos guide

Natural Habitat Adventures: I hear you’ve been guiding since 1989. What made you want to become a guide?
Champi Rodriguez: I was born in a family of mountain climbers and nature lovers. I was taken to the Ecuadorian volcanoes and mountains from very early on. Andean nature and life forms, together with the Ecuadorian national park,s were my inspiration.  The other side of my family is from the coast of Ecuador, where I spent most of my summers. It is where I realized that the ocean was my calling.

NHA: Why should this trip be on every adventure traveler’s bucket list?
CR: This is the only live aboard Galapagos trip that includes ocean kayaking, having more adventure than any other itinerary.

NHA: Everyone I know who’s been to the Galapagos says kayaking was their favorite part.  What’s special about Galapagos kayaking?
CR: It is a way to visit areas that are rarely visited.  Some of the places we paddle are only seen by kayakers. In a kayak there always chances to approach wildlife in a way that no other marine vessels can, and also enjoy some amazing geological formations.

Kayaking in the Galapagos

Kayaking provides a unique vantage point for geological formations. Photo by Olaf Malver.

NHA: Do you have to be an avid kayaker for this trip?
CR: No, not to worry. This is not very technical kayaking, and the environmental conditions are very mild most of the time. It must be said that it takes some basic physical conditions to enjoy the trip thoroughly.

NHA: And how’s the snorkeling in the Galapagos? Is it true curious sea lions will swim right up to you?
CR: Snorkeling in the Galapagos, you experience the underwater plays of sea lions, sea turtles feeding, even penguins “flying” by with their flippers. The big schools of reef fish are always memorable, not to mention the sharks and rays. The main difference from other areas is the absolute safety of the spot, and the friendliness of the animals.

Sea lion underwater in the Galapagos

Friendly Galapagos sea lions will swim up to snorkelers and say hello by blowing bubbles! Photo by Joseph Sina.

NHA: There’s a hiking component to the trip too.  What wildlife can travelers expect to see on land?
CR: You’ll see giant tortoises, albatross, iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, and everyone’s favorite, the blue-footed booby.  Travelers will experience natural sites with visible differences every day. Every day there will be a new species of animal not seen before. Knowing that these animals are only found here, combined with the lack of fear from the wildlife, allows for incredible and unique experiences.

NHA: How have you seen ecotourism play a role in the Galapagos Islands?
CR: The fact that strict law protects the islands, that their existence is due to environmental policies from the Ecuadorian government. We are all part of an amazing exercise of humanity by protecting the last tropical archipelago in the world from human change.  Tourism is the main source of income on the islands, and this has made people want to protect the Galapagos for economical matters.  The result has been a decrease in extractive activities that harm the environment.

blue-footed booby, Galapagos

A blue-footed booby stretches his wings. Photo by Patty Potter.

NHA: You live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, but being an adventurer yourself, you must like to get away in between guiding trips.  Where are you off to next?
CR: My vacations have to involve healthy nature, good waves, ancient culture, and not too many people.  I’m going to the Colombian Caribbean in March, to visit the Tairona National Park.

NHA: That sounds incredible!  Champi, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy guiding schedule to tell us about what makes your home so special.
CR: Any time!

View our Galapagos kayaking itinerary for more details on this trip, including dates and fees.  Hurry, there are only a few spots left for 2014!