Everything wonderful you’ve heard or read about the Galapagos is true. It is an amazing place, with incredible scenery, astonishing wildlife, and interesting people
at every turn.
For our visit, we chose to cruise for a week on an all-inclusive motor yacht charter out of San Christobal, 400 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The Eric’s two
different itineraries rotate every other week, in order that the visitors’ footprints leave as little mark as possible.
Eric is a 85 ft motor yacht with a large indoor salon, bar, and dining area, and 10 cabins. The cabins were far more spacious and nicer than anticipated, with
plenty of teak wood drawers and closet for storage, and a very roomy and comfortable bathroom (head) with separate shower. Of the outdoor areas, the huge top deck, half
under cover and half open to the sun and with plenty of comfortable cushioned chaise lounges and chairs, was the most popular place to be while underway and between
shore excursions. The second outdoor deck was in full sun at the bow of the main deck, also with chairs facing forward and into the wind for a spectacular viewing
station. A third outdoor area aft was the staging area for all excursions, and held all the water activity gear including full wet suits for those who wanted them. The
two pangas (dinghys) were large, stable, and ferried us comfortably to and from beaches and for long sightseeing jaunts.
Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all snacks and appetizers, beverages, and wine with dinner are included in the charter price, as well as all shore a excursions and
water activities. There is a full bar available at additional cost for all other types of adult beverages. The food was plentiful and varied. My favorites were the
arepas ( kind of a maize grilled biscuit with or without cheese), and the several succulent shrimp dishes.
The snorkeling was incredible, and we had sometimes two opportunities at different locations in a day. My 3 favorite experiences – having a blue- footed booby dive
into the water right in front of us, causing an explosion of fish and bubbles, and snagging a snack for himself – yikes!; seeing a pod of 12 penguins shoot past us in
a flash, then rush back again 5 minutes later going the other way – so fast and so funny; and hovering above a veritable river of yellow-striped surgeon fish that
went on and on for several minutes, 5 feet wide and thousands of fish long, undulating thru the water just a few feet below us – breathtaking!
Kayaking was great exercise and fun, cruising with sea lions and sliding by the iguanas and cliff and shore birds. Several of us who probably should have known better engaged in an activity that did result in some aches and pains – jumping into the water from the top deck of the boat. Would have been smarter to just go off the back deck for the swimming. But it was exhilarating!!!
One surprise activity on our boat was a concert by the musical members of our crew. Singing was done, dancing was done, even a conga line was done!
A pick-up soccer game on the beach with the crew and some of the more daring guests was as fun as it was hard-played. We watchers had as good a time as the players!
Our two terrific nature guides, Karina and Ivan, briefed us aboard and led us every day in the water for snorkeling, on the water in our panga coastal explorations, and
on our walking/hiking/island and wildlife adventures. Always explaining, illuminating, story-telling, and joking about everything cultural, geographical, zoological, biological, every -ogical you can imagine. Smart, sharp, knowledgable, engaging naturalists that we were so lucky to have guiding us. We hiked to an active volcano; we climbed to a waterfall, we circled an island on a lovely walking path and saw so many breeding boobies, and babies too; we went underground thru a wet, rocky lava tunnel that went on and on below the earth where the sun did not shine, we explored a breeding ground for giant tortoises and were amazed at the number, strength and size of them; we climbed 400 wooden steps to a
stunning 360 viewpoint; we walked into an island to see “the post office” ( a unique way of networking and contacting other Galapagos explorers by hand- delivering postcards around the world, traveler to traveler) that is basically a row of waterproof boxes, and a bunch of wood city, country, and mileage signs.
Wildlife and flora:
Up close and personal every day with sea lions, marine iquanas, land iguanas, Christmas iquanas, blue- footed boobies, red-footed boobies, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos wrens, vermillion flycatchers, albatross, frigate birds, gulls penguins, all kinds of fish, rays, sharks, giant tortoises, flamingos, and so many more. When you walked the beach or hiked the islands you actually had to be careful not to step on the locals!
We saw unique trees, flowers, cacti, and other plants that were clever adapters to the unique environments of the Galapagos. The scenery was as various as it was
spectacularly lovely. The geological formations were also awesome, from islands pushed straight up from the sea with straight, sharp, hard rock cliffs, to moonscapes, to cactus forests, to rolling ground vegetation and rock fields that looked like sepia meadows – unbelievable!
Not that difficult, I’m glad to say! Flying into Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, and transferring to a Galapagos shuttle airline was accomplished with a minimum of
hassle. Time spent before the cruise in Quito and afterwards in Guayaquil was an added bonus to our Galapagos adventure. The only thing we regretted was that we did
not think to stay an extra day or two before leaving San Christobal for Guayaquil so that we could do some sport-fishing but we’ll certainly plan for that next trip. (We
met with a great fishing guide and toured his very comfortable boat, so we know how to do it when we go back).
Finally, a special thing about this trip was the people we met. The other guests on our boat were from Sweden, New Zealand, Britain, Hong Kong, Canada, and many parts
of the US. All of our fellow cruise mates were excellent travel companions – smart, fun, engaging, curious, active and adventurous sorts – and all became friends to
connect with in future all over the world. And the crew were all unfailingly polite and accommodating, always service with a smile. Finally, the people of Ecuador and
the Galapagos all seem to have an innate sense of kindness and courtesy – rarely have I traveled a country with nicer, friendlier local people.