Galapagos Sea Lions
A visually stunning and fascinating experience, by Kate Appleton, travelling with Veloso Tours
Never having been on a cruise before, my experience of sailing the Galapagos Islands aboard one of the first class Ecoventura yachts (Eric, Letty and Flamingo) has probably spoilt me for life. From the exceptional crew to the entertaining wildlife this was a first class holiday from start to finish.
It was quite an early start from Quito, with a 6.30am airport pickup, but brains did not need to be in gear as Ecoventura staff at the airport were on hand to give us our boarding cards, which meant that we were whisked straight through to the boarding gate. I was slightly nervous about the local airline we were flying with, however Aerogal proved more competent and comfortable than our long haul flight with Iberia.
Once we had landed and passed through immigration we were greeted by the beaming faces of Gabby and Ceci, our Ecoventura guides who would stay with us for the entire week. We took a bus 2 minutes up the road to the harbour on San Cristobal Island and had to do a 'sea lion avoidance dance', a sequence that would be repeated throughout the week, to reach the pangas (motorized inflatable dinghies) and then a quick ride to the Letty yacht waiting in the bay.
My first impression of the yacht was that it looked quite small, but on closer inspection the cabins although not spacious had the necessary requirements for our stay. Our cabin was clean and well equipped, and our luggage was already waiting for us on the bed. After the requisite introductory meet and greet, rules of the sea and a summary of our itinerary, we were treated to the first of many delicious buffet lunches.
Each day during the cruise we had early wake up calls to beat the high temperatures of the morning. This came in handy when the first activity of the day was a guided wildlife walk, as often the islands offered little shade from the sun. These walks were fascinating and really got you up close with the wildlife and flora of the islands. The walking routes were not difficult and often had wooden boardwalks. The most difficult was the uphill climb to view the famous Pinnacle Rock off Bartolome Island, however, even this was done at our own pace. The highlights during these walks were definitely watching the Albatross dance on Punta Suarez and the desolate landscape of North Seymour, which seemed to be inhabited solely by Blue-Footed Boobies and the eye catching Frigate birds with their blown up red pouches. It was fascinating to be so close to the wildlife and the guides had exceptional knowledge about everything, with a side of juicy historical gossip.
The other daily activity was deep-water snorkelling which at first was quite intimidating, especially as some of the sites had quite intense currents. However, any fears were soon forgotten when we lost ourselves in our own aquatic adventure. Each experience was different, offering a huge variety of marine wildlife, plus after the many group activities it was a nice chance to be alone. It has to be noted that whenever I go snorkelling I want to see turtles, so the highpoint was at the Devil's Crown. At this site I was joined not only by giant turtles but also eagle rays, sharks and enormous parrot fish, making it non-stop visual delight and one of the highlights of the trip.
In addition to the daily snorkel and walks, we were treated to panga rides (rides on the motorized dinghies) around the islands where we were anchored. These were a wonderful, relaxing way to end the active day. The best experience was to be had around Post Office Bay, where after dropping off our postcards, we discovered a whole school of eagle rays which were absolutely magnificent.
In addition to all this, a comment must be made about the food and refreshments throughout the week which were, in a word, sensational. During the cruise we were taken on a whirlwind tour of the worlds more noteworthy gastronomy. From hand-rolled sushi to a Mexican fiesta, the chefs somehow managed to create food fit for a king in the confines of their tiny kitchen. They even provided lunch on the sun deck which given the narrow stairs to climb was admirable.
In short this was a phenomenal experience. We were treated to first class service, amazing food and a genuinely entertaining holiday. The only question is when will we return?
For more photos of the Galapagos please see our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/velosotourspage
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