The guides in the Galapagos Islands are some of the luckiest in the world. There is nowhere else quite like it, though if you are guiding here you really need to know your stuff! Today we speak to a Galapagos Islands travel guide – Maria. She gives us an insight into her world as a travel guide as well as some great tips for a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Name: Maria del Carmen Ramirez
Country you guide in: Ecuador
Area of the country you are a guide: The Galapagos Islands
What inspired you to become a guide?
I started as a Galapagos Islands travel guide in the Amazonian rainforest and then went to the Galapagos Islands. What inspires me is nature and people. I am a “people´s person” and I’m proud of all the cultural and natural highlights that Ecuador offers.
What do like most about being a guide?
That I get to meet interesting people and travel around.
When guiding, what is the one thing you always have with you and why?
A Galapagos Islands travel guide should always have binoculars, a field guide, map of Galapagos, a radio and first aid kit. A field guide and map are very important so I can show the group where they are and what they are seeing. The binoculars enable us to spot birds and mammals far away. For safety it is critical to have a radio and first aid kit.
Which areas of Ecuador really stand out as must-visit destinations?
All of it!! Galapagos is a real highlight and it is the most visited area in the country, the Amazonian rainforest is beautiful too. The national parks in the highlands have amazing wildlife and natural resources. The country´s history and traditions are shown in our architecture and culture which reveals an amazing diversity in local markets, handicraft and artisans.
Are there any seasonal events that you would recommend as a travel guide, maybe even something most tourists wouldn’t know about?
A very important one is the Inti Raimi Festival, or “festival of the Sun”. This festival has its roots in the ancient Inca culture that once ruled most of the Andes, including Ecuador. In the festival, native Ecuadorians dress up in traditional clothes and celebrate the sun and the fertility of the “Pachamama”, mother Earth. It takes place every year on the summer solstice, June 22. They celebrate it in different places around Ecuador, including in the “Mitad del Mundo” monument, a big tourist attraction.
Another important event is the “Semana Santa” or holy week festivities which are a group of celebrations taking place all over the country. Holy Week (happening the last week of March) is the one event that allows visitors to witness Quito’s significant expressions of faith. While admiring liturgical rituals and traditions, which shed light on the cultural complexities of a mixed heritage. During Holy Week, visitors can also taste the delectable blend of indigenous and Spanish cuisines in the popular “fanesca” dish. This is a unique soup that combines flavours from both the Andes and the coast. It’s an elaborate and hearty treat that will make this week in Quito truly unforgettable.
You must go to the historical part of the city and join the celebrations. There will be music, costumes, parades, processions and sacred music concerts.
What do you think is the most amazing animal in Latin America and why?
For me, it is the giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. It represents longevity, serenity and adaptation. It has been through a long process of survival from its very beginning till now. Along the way it has had a lot to cope with such as the threat of new species on the islands that have the potential to harm them.
What tips do you have for families hoping to go to The Galapagos Islands? – e.g. when to go, things to bring
My best advice is just to come! In Ecuador, any time of year is great – we are very lucky with the weather here.