Guest blogger Larry Grossman shares his Galapagos voyage experience aboard The M/V Evolution.
Be inspired by this extraordinary journey in the Galapagos by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.
Penguins and sea lions and whales, oh my! Clearly we weren’t in Oz, but had instead landed off the coast of Ecuador in The Galapagos Islands aboard the International Expedition’s M/V Evolution. For seven days, twenty Americans, two Canadians and three Peruvians shared an incredible journey in the world made famous by Charles Darwin in the 1800’s. Today, The Galapagos Islands are operated as a national park by Ecuador with over 225,000 visitors a year. If you love animals, both on land and under the sea, this is the voyage for you.
CAUTION: THIS IS NOT A SIT BY THE POOL AND SIP MARGARITAS VACATION.
No swimming pools, no bingo and not even a beach chair anywhere. If you’re looking for bars, nightlife and live music go to Cancún and skip this place. We hiked, we snorkeled, kayaked and then hiked again, this time over a field of black lava. Picture a Discovery Channel documentary, narrated by Richard Attenborough, populated with doe-eyed animals, closer in resemblance to Disney characters than wild animals. On our journey we encountered Sammy the lovable sea lion, Alfie the grumpy albatross, Toni the temperamental tortoise and Ichabod the evil iguana who spits salt water when you get too close.
After 7 days, 452 nautical miles and 20 panga (zodiac boat) rides we were worn out and giddy from all we had experienced. We visited at close range with giant tortoises, sea turtles, reef sharks, penguins, sea lions, birds of all kinds from the blue-footed boobies (a real species) to flamingos, and quite possibly the ugliest animal on the planet: the black and grey marine iguana. As if that wasn’t enough, we closed out the voyage with a salute from 5 orca whales, one of whom came within 5 feet of our panga. Clearly, these protected Galapagos animal residents had no fear of we visiting humans. It was their world and they knew that despite our abundance of cameras and binoculars pointed at them we were no threat. In fact, the sea lions seemed to take great pleasure swimming circles around the round humans stuffed in wetsuits wearing the funny glasses.
Kudos to our guides Christina and Boli (named after Simón Bolívar of course) and all the staff on the M/V Evolution for great customer service and great food. The M/V Evolution was a cozy place to hang out and get to know our fellow boat mates while learning important information about the volcanic Galapagos terrain and the indigenous animals (according to Christina, Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an albatross). We even got treated to an evening of Ecuadorian music and dancing with complementary shots of Caña Manabito, a local spirit.
This was my second International Expedition arranged through THIRDHOME and it won’t be my last (read more about Larry’s experience aboard the Peruvian Amazon Voyage). My suggestion to fellow club members is get to know Liz Bates, travel agent extraordinaire, and let her make your travel life easier. I’m old enough to remember a time before Expedia and Travelocity when travel agents ruled the travel world. There’s something very reassuring knowing it’s still possible to engage a real, live, breathing human being who can help plan and navigate a big trip from beginning to end. With Liz’s help I can keep whittling down my personal travel bucket list that is loosely based on the National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s “50 Places of a Lifetime”. 27 down so far!
Larry Grossman is a longtime THIRDHOME member and blogger with a home in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.
Renee and Patrick have been THIRDHOME members since 2011. Their membership has provided the opportunity for them to book 12 homes all over the world, allowing their daughter to see nearly every continent before the age of 10. Learn how the Finn family uses THIRDHOME to travel far and wide.
FROM THE GALAPAGOS TO AN UPCOMING SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI, THE FINN FAMILY SURE KNOW HOW TO TRAVEL.
How did you get involved with THIRDHOME?
A friend referred me right at the beginning of the company really getting started.
Where are you based?
Where do you usually travel?
Asia, Australia and Europe
What do you do for a living?
We own and manage our real estate portfolio of long and short term rentals and also my husband is a United Airlines Pilot of 21 years.
What are your favorite travel hobbies?
Beaches, seeing animals, surfing, scuba diving and just seeing amazing places of history.
In your past travels with THIRDHOME, what was your favorite destination and what did you love about it?
Galapagos. It had animals that you will not see anywhere else in the world. The home Casa Iguana owner and staff are amazing. We loved it so much we have been 2 times.
Take a note from The Finn family and venture down to their favorite destination, The Galapagos, in this upcoming Inner Circle journey.
What’s the next destination you are eyeing to travel to with THIRDHOME?
South Africa to a Game Lodge in August 2018.
What do you love most about your property with THIRDHOME?
I get to have amazing people come to visit from all over the world and each guest that has stayed has taken great care of my property.
Any personal/family achievements you’d like to share?
After this summer we will have taken our 9 year old daughter to all continents except Antartica. This we are hoping to do this next Christmas. We also enjoy traveling to take our daughter to surf competitions for her around the world.
How has THIRDHOME changed the way you travel?
Instead of booking hotels we always look for THIRDHOME first and then can invite family and friends to come. It sure makes the trips more fun to have friends to come along with us.
What is the nicest amenity you have encountered while staying at a THIRDHOME property?
Trump Towers in Waikiki staff was beyond excellent. We really enjoyed the amenities we received.
How would you describe THIRDHOME to a friend?
Its the best travel club to join if you have a really nice 2nd or 3rd home even if you don’t normally rent it. Its like a trade but you have the control of who is coming to visit plus insurance to cover you if there is damage.
What’s the most memorable restaurant you’ve eaten at during one of your trips?
Galapagos. The staff went and got all kinds of fresh fish and seafood and steaks and grilled for us. They fed some amazing birds and we enjoyed the hot tub while we were waiting to eat. It was a wonderful memory.
Any travel tips for fellow members?
Do watches for anything you are interested in. Don’t wait to book as it will be gone and browse new properties often.
What makes a THIRDHOME stay so special?
You get to deal directly with the owners and they tend to tell you great spots to visit as they know their properties and areas so well. They give more attention than a hotel or company rental ever would. All the homes have been vetted and are higher end properties.
How is staying in a THIRDHOME different than other types of accommodations?
Again, I would say dealing with the owners and the level of the properties you stay at are a cut above.
We’re proud to announce that our partner, International Expeditions, will be sponsoring THIRDHOME‘s Member Appreciation event in April 2018.
Experience the world’s most remarkable destinations with world leaders in ecotourism and adventure travel.
You may recognize the name International Expeditions from our recent Amazon River Cruise aboard the Zafiro. The naturalists, Expedition Leaders and staff at International Expeditions are experts in adventure travel, and our Inner Circle members can vouch for it:
“The International Expeditions team coordinators and naturalists were indispensable in the full educational adventure. Our favorite day was visiting the small village and sharing school supplies with a dozen sweet elementary school-aged children. We can highly recommend this trip to anyone who has (n)ever thought about such an adventure.“-Sherry and Andy
The Amazon cruise is just the tip of the iceberg of International Expeditions’ adventures. Their ecotravel offerings also include:
International Expeditions hosts safaris in Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Namibia. These safaris all include luxurious accommodations in some of the world’s best wildlife viewing destinations. Big 5 spottings aren’t uncommon when you have top-class naturalists guiding you!
Indian Wildlife and River Tours
Discover India’s wildlife, including Asian elephants and Indian leopards, or explore the cultural wonders of Sri Lanka. Travel by land or on the mighty Brahmaputra River with International Expeditions’ land tours or small ship cruises.
Costa Rica Canopy Tour
Explore the lush forests of Tortuguero National Park with monkeys, macaws and an International Expeditions Master Naturalist to tell you about all the critters in the canopy. Coastlines, mountain and cloud forests all merge together in the gorgeous topography of Costa Rica.
Patagonia Glacier Expedition
Experience the remoteness of Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonian region of South America. Inching glaciers, granite peaks and roaming wildlife await.
Iceland Winter Adventures
Venture north to the land of the Northern Lights. Enjoy active excursions across Iceland’s gorgeous landscape. Trek across glaciers and uncover hidden lava caves on this bucketlist journey.
Canadian Wilderness Excursions
Travel + Leisure’s 2017 Destination of the Year is calling for your next outdoor adventure. Embark on an Arctic safari with International Expeditions. Sea kayak amongst Beluga Whales and Bearded Seals or take an ATV across The Cunningham River Delta in search of Muskox.
Alaskan Grand Journeys
Pristine wilderness, glacier-fed streams and frozen tundra all meet in America’s last frontier. Witness wildlife in secluded terrains while kayaking, rafting or biking through the landscape. Or come in the spirit of Alaska’s original colonizers and join in on a gold panning expedition.
Inner Circle members will have the opportunity to travel with International Expeditions again on an upcoming Galapagos Voyage. Keep an eye out for other exciting opportunities from International Expeditions through THIRDHOME!
We’ve narrowed down 1,052 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to 5 must-visit destinations
For some, a trip isn’t complete without a margarita and a beachside sunset. Some just come for the spa. Others like to play anthropologist on their journeys and discover common threads of world heritage and culture in their chosen destinations. This list is for the latter, those adventurers with wonder in their eyes who seek out the greatest accomplishments of both nature and man. Including sites in Argentina, Australia, Ecuador, Italy, and the United States, you’re sure to find a site that will make your jaw drop in awe.
Check out our World Heritage Site picks below:
Los Glaciares National Park
One of the last relics of the Quaternary glaciation cycles, Los Glaciares National Park is a snapshot of a long-lost ice age. These great ice behemoths once determined the very existence of species around the world. At the end of the Pleistocene Epoch (roughly 11,000 years ago), mass extinctions took place as the glaciers covering the Great Lakes moved south, driving North American camels and cheetahs to extinction. Though past their prime, these Argentinian cousins of the long receded North American glaciers are still a sight to behold, covering half of the 600,000 hectares that are designated to Los Glaciares National Park. One of the most famous of 48 glaciers that compose the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is El Perito Moreno Glacier, which has been slowly pushing into Lake Argentina since the end of the last glaciation period. Cacophonous ruptures of ice are a coveted site by the tourists that make the trek out to El Perito Moreno. Argentina’s trekking capital is a small town called El Chaltén which lies within Los Glaciares National Park. El Chaltén is also home to Aoni Yenu, one of THIRDHOME‘s eco-friendly properties with room for 8 adventure-seekers.
Great Barrier Reef
The largest living structure in the world, The Great Barrier Reef is so vast it can be seen from space. Composed of 2,900 coral fields these tiny organisms make a huge impact. Most existing coral structures are between 5 and 10 thousand years old. Reefs survive via a symbiotic relationship with algae that resides within the coral’s tissue, which provides energy for future skeletal growth of coral by photosynthesis. The coral skeleton, made of calcium carbonate, in return offers protection from larger predators. The limestone framework of The Great Barrier Reef is teeming with rich varieties of ocean life, including 1,500 species of fish. The Great Barrier Reef by itself employs 70,000 Australians who work in tourism, preservation and research related activities. Unfortunately, a slight rise in ocean temperatures has killed off large sections of the reef. North of the city of Cairns, some sections have lost 47% to 83% of their coral. Visit this natural wonder before it’s too late. THIRDHOME has two properties, a penthouse and a beach house, that lie between Carns and Mackay. This region’s coral has been in better health, and hope still remains for preserving sections of this World Heritage Site.
If you couldn’t tell from our Curated Journey blog on the Galapagos, THIRDHOME is absolutely in love with these 19 islands. The Galapagos Islands sit at the confluence of three ocean currents making for what UNESCO dubs a “melting pot of marine species.” The species that live here have been extremely isolated since the islands’ formation. This has led to evolutionary developments that have created species endemic to the Galapagos. More fascinating than the extreme uniqueness of these critters, including the land iguana and giant tortoise, is their complete lack of fear of humans. Since Darwin’s visit in 1835, there has been a limited human impact on the island. From our Galapagos Villa, you’ll be just 10 minutes by boat away from the famous Loberia Islet, the land of sea lions. A 20-minute walk inland will take you to a deep water natural swimming pool. For nature lovers and animal lovers, this World Heritage Site is a must.
Venice and its Lagoon
Founded as a Roman refuge from invading Huns and Visigoths, Venice stands as a lasting monument to human adaptability and persistence. Venice was founded in the 5th Century and grew among a collection of 118 small islands covering 50,000 square kilometers of lagoon. The city soon became an important strategic position in the northern remains of the Roman Empire and newly founded Byzantine Empire. In 810 A.D. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, sent his son to lay siege on Venice, but after 6 months of disease brought on by the swamp, the siege was deemed a failure. Charlemagne’s son died as a result of the ill-fated attack. Venice’s lagoon had once again saved its population by its own natural properties, mirroring the military impenetrability of Russian winter. By 814 A.D., Charlemagne had recognized Venice as a Byzantine territory and allowed trade along the Adriatic Coast. This seeded Venice’s place as one of Italy’s most successful trading centers, and for the rise of the Venetian Republic. Venice and its Lagoon is a feat of both human engineering and natural happenstance. It’s seething with historical significance making it a must for the knowledge seeking traveler. In the context of history, THIRDHOME‘s Palazzo Burano, is a relatively new property having been built in 1619.
Yellowstone National Park
No other World Heritage Site can lay claim to the title of world’s first national park, making it THIRDHOME‘s top pick. It was also recently visited by Sorelle Amore, winner of the Best Job on The Planet competition. Yellowstone National Park is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and is covered in many natural wonders. The park sits atop an active supervolcano, which was hit by 450 earthquakes a few months ago, in June 2017. But no need to worry, the chances of this super volcano going off is 1 in 730,000 for 2018. More likely to go off are the park’s 500 active geysers (more than half of the world’s geyser count). At Yellowstone, you’ll find hundreds of wildlife species, thousands of plant species, and historical ties to 26 Native American Tribes. The wild and natural features of Yellowstone were so surreal that most American’s thought the land to be a myth until the Folsom Party conducted a detailed expedition in 1869. Come visit the mythic land of Yellowstone National Park while staying at Island Park Lodge, a 10 guest lakefront house minutes away from the geysers. This is one World Heritage Site that everyone should visit if given the opportunity.
To learn more about the Island Park Lodge click here.
What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips (to The Galapagos Islands AND Idaho) this week?
It’s no surprise why THIRDHOME members love Casa La Iguana Villa on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. Exploration of these islands is on many members’ bucket lists. There’s no better way to cross that experience off your list than from the comfort of this 5-bedroom villa. Resident chef Mariana and villa concierge Alejandro will make sure that your stay is effortless. Alejandro is a Santa Cruz Island expert and will help you plan your expeditions.
THIRDHOME member Teresa says,“What an amazing journey with a fun group of girlfriends. The Galapagos Islands have been on my bucket list for years and thanks to Casa La Iguana it became a reality… I am so glad my first visit to Galapagos was at Casa La Iguana!” Click here to read more of Teresa’s review.
Welcome to southeastern Idaho’s best-kept secret. Bear Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the United States. With premier access to fishing, watersports and boating it’s no wonder why members decide to vacation at Bear Lake Chateau. This massive property can accommodate up to 32 guests and is perfect for large family reunions. Year-round outdoor recreation such as water skiing, golf, snowboarding and paddle boarding makes this the perfect destination for groups who love to stay active. The Reserve at Bear Lake offers extra amenities including pool and hot tub access, a club house, game rooms and tennis courts.
THIRDHOME member Allison says,“We LOVED staying at Paradise Point at Bear Lake. Upon arrival from Salt Lake City, we were staring at the stunning blue lake in such awe, we almost missed our turn into the neighborhood…We are excited for future guests to experience their first views of the crystal blue waters of Bear Lake and the peaceful space of Paradise Point.” Click here to read more of Allison’s review.
Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.
Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME
Set sail through the Galapagos on the aquatic safari of a lifetime with THIRDHOME
This curated private eco-safari of the Galapagos has a maximum capacity of 16 passengers. Read more about this intimate encounter with one of the world’s most preserved ecosystems below:
The Galapagos Islands or Archipiélago de Colón is most famously known for Darwin’s expedition in the 1830’s. Cradling the equator, each island has its own unique habitats and endemic species. This voyage is equal parts leisure and safari-like exploration.
You will experience the Galapagos from the 113 ft. M/C Ocean Spray mega-catamaran. The ship is specifically designed to maneuver the islands’ fragile ecology in a noninvasive fashion.
The interior of the mega-catamaran has 8 cabins with private balconies and en suite bathrooms. The lounge pictured above has giant windows to capture the natural glow of the equatorial sun.
A 360-degree view is offered from the third-floor sundeck. On the main floor, you’ll find a huge aft deck with lounge chairs and a jacuzzi. This is the perfect place to recap your day’s discoveries.
A large dining table can be found on the lower aft deck where fine dining will be provided by the crew’s chef. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset over Baltra Island.
But what would all the luxury be without mingling with the locals? Pictured above is the Galapagos Tortoise, which has an average age of over 100 years. In the water, you might see the ancient Green Sea Turtle, who’s species was around to watch both the evolution and demise of the dinosaurs.
Above is one of 3 species of booby on the Galapagos. The Blue Footed Booby wanders the rocky shores in great curiosity. The term “booby” derives from the Spanish word “bobo” which means clown or fool. They certainly live up to expectations.
The first humans landed on the Galapagos in 1535. Almost 483 years later, you could be landing there as well!
It’s up to THIRDHOME members to cast their votes for the dates of this expedition, and availability is limited. If you’re ready to learn more about the Galapagos Eco-Safari Cruise click here.