Ellen Regenstreif

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

The Nature of Ecuador

My ties to Ecuador go back to a two-month visit with my grandparents when I was 14. My grandparents were based there for my grandfather’s work—installing a water-pipe system across the country--and I had a magical summer with them. 

One of the highlights was a cruise through the Galapagos. I knew that I was witnessing something very different from anything I’d ever seen in my life. What stands out most in my mind is the amazing diversity of wildlife. Seeing a blue-footed booby, Darwin’s finches and giant Galapagos tortoises was amazing.  

I have a vivid memory of an island where iguanas were sunning themselves on a lava bed. They were so perfectly camouflaged and motionless that at one point, I realized there was a four-foot iguana right where I was going to put my foot down. They were scary looking yet totally mild in temperament.  

Another great moment was when a baby seal sat on the backpack I’d set down on the sand. We weren’t allowed to touch the seal, so the expedition was delayed by about 30 minutes until the seal decided to move on. I was thrilled that the baby seal had chosen my backpack. 

We also went swimming in a grotto with fur seals. The water was gorgeous and the seals would sunbathe and then jump off the surrounding ridges and swim with us. We weren’t allowed to reach out but they could approach us, and they seemed to enjoy swimming under and alongside us.  

While the nature of the Galapagos remains pristine, the boat we traveled on was spartan in comparison with the luxury ships that explore the Galapagos today. Interestingly, that trip was arranged by Metropolitan Touring, the company I usually contact when sending clients to Ecuador because they still know everything and everyone related to tourism in the country. 

I’ve returned to Ecuador many times and lived there twice; once in college and then in graduate school. It is a destination I love to share. The country has been environmentally conscious for a long time, and was, even when I first visited.  

As a result, despite its much-improved infrastructure, much of what I loved about Ecuador is unchanged. After each rainfall in Quito, the smell of eucalyptus fills the air, and farmers grow their crops on the steep mountains outside the city, their fields turning the slopes into a quilt pattern of colors. 

A welcome addition to the tourist scene is an array of lovely beach resorts; swimming was not part of the culture when I first started coming, but now there are great swimming and surfing areas. And thanks to my grandfather’s work, there is fresh running water along the coast!  

Ecuador is an incredible place for families because there is such a variety of things to see and do in one little place. In addition to the Galapagos and Quito, you can hike in the Andes Mountains, visit traditional towns like Cuenca, known for its ceramics, and ancient Inca sites, and explore the Amazon, where you can swim with piranhas if you dare. Every time I go, I find new wonders to share with my clients and I would love to share my Ecuador with you!