Interview with Stephanie Bonham-Carter of Galapagos Safari Camp

Stephanie Bonham-Carter grew up in Ecuador and England, but has studied and worked in more than 20 countries. Her husband, Michael Mesdag, was born in Spain to Dutch parents, and studied in England and the USA. With their two children, the family shares a deep love of the Galapagos Islands and commitment to conservation.

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Stephanie and Michael are the creators of Galapagos Safari Camp: a luxury tent-camp lodge nestled on a private farm in the wild highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Local wildlife visits the camp freely; among the resident species are finches, warblers, Galapagos doves, egrets, owls, and tortoises. Camp efforts have helped reestablish several local tree species—palo santo, scalesia, and guayabillo—after decades of overgrazing by non-native livestock.

The camp offers nine comfortable guest tents, a three-bedroom family suite, infinity-edge swimming pool, and a central lodge with bar, fireplace, and dining room. Guests are led on expertly guided wildlife tours, visits to research stations, and explorations of the island’s volcanic terrain. These outings can be tailored to fit the interests and requirements of families with young children. Other excursions allow visitors to snorkel, dive, surf, ride, kayak, bike, or day-trip to neighboring islands.

 We asked Stephanie about her family’s love of travel.

Michael and I have done much traveling before having a family. We both feel that travel is a wonderful way of learning—of apprehending the world, life, and humanity. Meeting new people; eating different food; immersing ourselves in history, culture, nature; and admiring different landscapes causes us to stop and ponder. One becomes more humble and human as a result.

Having our two children changed the nature of our travel, but we have managed to give our kids plenty of exposure to the world. For them, it is normal to jump on an airplane on a long-haul flight and wake up on a different continent; they don’t bat an eyelid, and the world is their oyster.

What are some of your feelings about choosing family travel destinations and experiences?

Our modern children are getting too far removed from their environment. Their natural inclination is to embrace nature, yet they can be too used to comfort, technology, and speed. As parents we can give them great gifts by allowing them to slow down, detach themselves from screens, and feel the “right” balance of time and place. Sometimes parents can overdo—thinking that more is best. Questioning this tendency when deciding how and where we travel is pivotal to enriching the family experience.

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How has traveling together brought your family closer?

The underlying factor is that we slow down and spend time together. We have time for each other—far more than during our daily routines and chores. It is a sacred family time. The excitement and wonderment of our travels resonates in all of us as a family unit.

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Where would you encourage families to travel?

The world over! I think that one does not necessarily need to go far. The process of opening all senses is what makes travel important. Sometimes a simple weekend away is all we need to recharge. Sometimes a far-flung African Safari might be a memorable trip. Nothing is impossible and everywhere is possible en famille.

In terms of picking a destination, I am horribly biased; the Galapagos is simply an extraordinary experience. Having had my kids born and brought up in such a pristine and natural environment, I see the benefits of communing with nature. It is a wonderful gift for all.

What is the best time to visit the Galapagos?

The only months I would avoid are September and possibly October due to the drizzly season. Nature is there year round!

Editor’s note: the Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons. During the warm season (December to May) temperatures hover in the 80’s and 90’s. Rainfall is uncommon but strong, and water temperatures near the surface average 75°. The Garua, or cool season (June to November) brings fog, drizzle, and cool winds. Air temperatures reach the 70’s and water temperatures fall to the 60’s. These months are the height of the breeding season for many of the island’s avian species.

Thank you Stephanie!

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