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Cruising the Galapagos Islands
I’m a bit nauseous so I’m not sure how this will come out (pun intended). I’m on a yacht cruising through the Pacific waters to another island here in the Galapagos. The “Estrella del Mar” (Star of the Sea) sleeps sixteen passengers plus a crew of about seven. The boat is much nicer than I imagined – ultra shiny wood floors throughout, a lounge with white leather couches, and a lovely dining room. The rooms are small, but have comfy beds. The three course meals are amazing, plus every day after returning from an excursion we are greeted by tuxedo-clad Herman, the waiter and all around manager of the boat, with plates of snacks like pizza or chicken wings.
This barren, volcanic group of islands lies directly on the equator about 600 miles west of Ecuador. This ecological wonderland was discovered by Peruvian Spaniards around the 1500s, but really hit the spotlight thanks to Charles Darwin. He visited the islands for three weeks in 1853 and what he discovered here eventually led him to write his theory of evolution. There are 13 major islands and many small ones and the whole lot of them is a national park and biological marine reserve.
Javier is our ‘naturalista’ guide. The boats all come with different guides of varying degrees of knowledge. I chose this boat, which cost a bit more because Javier is a “Naturalista III,” which means he has a biology degree (in his case he studied biology for two years) and speaks very good English.
The main show here is the scenery and wildlife. It is truly amazing. Most of the animals are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. And there are no predators here so none of the animals are afraid of us (although, looking at our motley bunch, they should be). We stroll by one hundred-year-old tortoises, admire the blue-footed booby, swim up to sharks and penguins, and even snap photos mere inches from sea lions basking in the sun.
Every day on our eight-day cruise is another adventure. Our guide leads us around a different rocky volcanic island. Most islands are off limits to visitors unless you are escorted by a guide. Many of the islands appear very dry giving it a moonscape-feel, but in actuality life abounds. We see hundreds of marine iguanas and lava lizards lying next to crabs and barking sea lions. We also get to snorkel nearly each day swimming around rocky outcroppings and waters teeming with beautiful coloured schools of fish, star fish, blowfish, stingrays, and even a few white-tipped sharks.
There are a number of different Galapagos tour options to choose from with Tropical Sky. The best way to tour the islands is by boat with a guide since many of the islands aren’t accessible without a guide. It’s truly an amazing place and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip you will never forget.