by Jon Jared
The Galapagos Safari Camp began when Stephanie Bonham-Carter and Michael Mesdag visited the islands on vacation. While exploring the highlands of Santa Cruz, they found a farm for sale and their journey started. More than a decade later, the enclave is a hub for families to explore the islands exclusively.
Meeting Stephanie and Michael is a breath of fresh air; the couple bring the spirit of the Galapagos with them wherever they go. Their narrative brings a contemporary light to the romance of the islands, inspiring others to break out of the mold and set sail in new directions.
The story of the Mesdag family goes hand-in-hand with the tale of the camp. Stephanie and Michael lived on their property with basic island utilities during the first few years; loving island life while slowly building what would become the first safari camp in the archipelago. The retreat is a place where the focus is discovery, the family, and preserving the islands for future generations.
The couple’s two children, Lawrence and Jasmine, were born in a makeshift building in the highlands; amidst the stunning scenery that the Mesdag’s fell in love with and adopted as their home. Stephanie was obsessed with giving birth in the islands despite the lack of medical infrastructure, spending months doing research in between visits to Quito to check on the progress of the pregnancies.
The water births were a blessing, ushering in a new chapter in the story and marking a remarkable turn of events that shaped the way the camp would evolve. As Stephanie puts it-
“With babies in arms we finished building Galapagos Safari Camp and started operating. As the first years went by we saw how very special it was to have our children being brought up learning how to walk on lava gravel, playing hide-and-seek with tortoises, waking up to the sound of finches, going to sleep to the chanting of owls.”
These experiences became the backbone of the family safari and the kid’s club at the camp. The Mesdag’s first group of guests were enthralled with the notion of raising a family in the islands. As the word got out, mothers began contacting Stephanie about bringing their kids to the Galapagos; an option for travel that wasn’t widely available or considered by the status quo.
As time went by, Stephanie and Michael were designing itineraries for families with children, using their experience with Lawrence and Jasmine to craft custom experiences for multiple generations.
“We knew what children needed and easily catered for it, loving hosting families who bonded in a very special way as nature embraces parents and children.”
The camp’s signature family safari is the fruits of these labors, designed to give the whole family an exceptional experience that inspires a love of nature. The 6-day, land-based excursion visits nearby uninhabited islands, explores the highlands and coast of Santa Cruz, and has a day on the water with local fishermen that is a favorite of children and their parents.
The kid’s club is another innovation that sparks the imagination of the children who visit the camp. Held in the afternoon after a morning of exploration, the young generation is encouraged to participate in activities created around their interests.
A local artist comes to the camp for hands on lessons, the camp’s staff holds informal Spanish and cooking classes, and afternoons are spent learning about conservation. Elsewhere on the property, the pool and trampoline are at the ready for fun, supervised playtime.
As family and multi-generational travel have caught hold, the Galapagos Safari camp is continuing to host groups of avid travelers ready to explore together. The staff of the camp have watched Lawrence and Jasmine grow with the camp, and treat each guest as an individual; creating new innovations and activities according to their passions.
For the Mesdags, their labors of love have bloomed, breathing fresh life into a dream which ushered in a new era of travel in the archipelago. As Stephanie puts it-
“The most gratifying experience is seeing families of three generations coming together; grandparents, children and grandchildren all being amazed at how each other falls under the spell of the Galapagos magic.”
For more information about traveling with your family in the Galapagos and the programs that Galapagos Safari Camp have to offer, contact a member of our team through this site or our toll-free number.