Ecuador luxury travel with Ker & Downey offers the best accommodations, friendly and knowledgeable guides, and exciting and unique excursions. The best things in life aren’t free. They’re priceless. That’s what Ker & Downey’s Trista Gage learned on her latest trip to Ecuador.
In the ever-escalating world of luxury accommodations, a great management company can bring flawless design and dreamlike comfort to any hotel experience. They can create exquisite spaces, appointed with creamy linens and high end bath ammenities. But only a handful of hotels, lodges, and camps can claim that something special that turns an accommodation into an experience. It’s the owners, families with deep connections to the places and histories touched by their property, that make the difference.
At Galápagos Safari Camp, it’s Michael Mesdag and Stephanie Bonham-Carter, who lived on site with their two children until recently, when they converted their family space into an ideal suite for the families they hope will share their love of the islands. Their hospitality echoes in the attention of their staff, with hotel manager Katrien Bauters anticipating guests every need after long days exploring the rugged terrain.
Galápagos Safari Camp guests have access to the VIP lounge in the new airport on Baltra, setting a personal and private tone from the moment they arrive on the islands. Upon guests’ arrival, Bauters and her team take the personal attention to another level entirely. Galápagos Safari Camp is one of the few land accommodations in the Galápagos to offer private excursions, a considerable luxury, but guests are still treated as though they are returning home from a bold expedition at the end of each day. Sore muscles are met with hot water bottles, tired parents get to relax while their children participate in the Kids’ Club.
Mesdag and Bonham-Carter are constantly investing in the experience of Galápagos Safari Camp. This year they will be enlarging the safari tents to give guests and even more inviting home to return to after day of exploration.
Back on the mainland, Trista visited Fernando Polanco at Hacienda Zuleta, the working hacienda that has been in former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso’s family for three generations. Polanco, Galo Plaza’s grandson, lives onsite and manages the property along with the working dairy farm and cheese production facility, and the Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso, a non-profit working for cultural and environmental sustainability in the region.
Polanco’s personal interest in the property has brought research and conservation projects to the 4,000 acre farm, as well as increasing cooperation with the artisans in the nearby village. Listening to him explain his many projects, guests will quickly understand that this is a passion project, not a slick marketing gimmick. Palanco talks quickly, jumping from subject to subject in excitement, never following any sort of script. He’s at his best by the fire before dinner, snacking on the farm’s delicious cheese, telling funny stories of the celebrities and presidents who visited the hacienda in the time of his grandfather.
Dinner is then served family style, with Palanco at the head of the table. The luckiest of guests will share the experience with another member of the Galo Plaza family, Palanco’s mother. The two have a charming mother-son banter, in the middle of which she may stop and look about the room in surprise.
“Who moved the silver platter? It’s always there on the wall!”
The family’s intimate knowledge of the property, and their commitment to making the region more just and prosperous for each generation in the village surrounding the estate.
With the improvements surrounding the Quito airport, getting in and out of the city promises to be a quicker endeavor, making it tempting to use Ecuador as a nothing more than a port of entry for the Galápagos. However, for those who want to feel at home in the tiny country, so dense with cultural and natural diversity, we recommend taking time on the mainland. Spend some time. Break bread with the people, and enjoy their hospitality.