I can’t believe my week in the Galapagos Islands is over. It was quite an experience, and one I would recommend to everyone. While we covered one or more islands in a day, the itinerary was full, but I never felt rushed or pushed too far. I sailed with Ecoventura, and they really made the experience a pleasurable one. Our day started with being woken up around 7am with soothing music and a calm voice from one of our guides and had a delicious breakfast waiting for us at 7:30. Then it was either a morning hike or snorkel, back to the boat for lunch and an afternoon siesta followed by an afternoon activity. They kept us fueled with delicious healthy meals, and we had plenty of sleep at night, so I felt great throughout the trip. The staff on board did an outstanding job in making us feel at home for our week away from home. The boat was a perfect size for an intimate Galapagos experience with one guide for every ten people. The top deck was my favorite place to take a nap or gaze at the stars at night as the wind blew through my hair.
Ecoventura sets itself apart from the other operators in the Galapagos Islands in that the Eric, the motor yacht we took, became the first hybrid energy tour boat following a $100,000 installation of 40 solar panels and two wind turbines on the upper deck. The goal of the solar panels and wind powered generators is to provide enough power to support about 17 percent of the energy formerly produced by two carbon fuel based generators. Since the main objective of the Galapagos is to preserve the wildlife and environment for years to come, they hope to have this finished in all of their yachts by 2011 so they can do their part in making sure our children and grandchildren can have the same experiences as we did. While there are so many species endemic to the Galapagos Islands, UNESCO put the Galapagos on its World Hertiage sites risk list, so Ecoventura is doing everything it can to preserve the fragile and beautiful ecosystem.
They provided us with an outstanding itinerary, and there were usually alternatives if you didn’t want to do a certain activity. For scuba divers like myself, they give you the option of going diving with one of the local dive shops two out of the seven days. I took advantage of this the day we arrived, but chose not to the second time because it would have meant I would’ve missed out on the giant tortoises in the wild on Santa Cruz which is a must see when coming to the Galapagos.
On Sunday, I flew from Quito and met the group in Guayaquil aboard Aerogal Airlines and then it was off to San Cristobol Island where we met our guide for the week and owner of Wreck Bay Diving, Ivan Lopez Ruiz, and my dive master, Shay Katzir. After a briefing on our 20-person motor yacht, Eric, one of Ecoventura’s four boats, Shay picked me up to go scuba diving. I was surprised to hear I was the only one diving. Usually a company will not go out unless they have a few passengers, so it made for a very intimate diving experience. We went diving at Kicker Rock and unfortunately, there was an unusually large swell, so it was a bit of a tough dive but Shay held my hand for a good part of the dive so I would not drift away from him and we saw some great underwater life like an octopus curled up in a rock, a Galapagos and white tip reef shark, a big yellow pufferfish, and lots of beautiful yellow and black starfish. The staff of Wreck Bay were great. Angel Quimis was really helpful in double checking all of my equipment and helping me on and off the boat.
On our eight day, seven night journey, we explored gorgeous islands of various terrain and took thousands of pictures of the various species of birds including the red and blue footed booby, the nasca booby, lava lizards, marine and land iguanas, sea lions, sally light crabs, and huge tortoises. It was amazing at how close we were able to come to the wildlife. Occasionally a sea lion would give out a warning roar to let you know you were a little too close for comfort., but without fail, every time I saw them playing with each other, a baby calling for his or her mom and waddling down the rocks or across the beach, it made me laugh. Underwater, we saw beautiful starfish of many colors, king angel fish, Galapagos penguins, white tip reef sharks, pacific green sea turtles, grunt fish, parrotfish, and leatherback sea bass.
Our tour guides Ivan and Cecibel were very well versed naturalists and made the trip even more enjoyable. Ivan had his key phrases every time he saw something and made sure we always had our cameras out at the right moments, which wasn’t difficult since every moment seemed to be a good one. Each night on board we had a briefing to prepare us for the next day so we knew whether or not to prepare for a dry or wet landing. In order to get to the islands each day, we would put on a life jacket and board the Zodiac raft which would take us to our destination, and upon returning, our wonderful restaurant manager Luis would have juice and a snack ready for us as we got on board…a great touch after burning all those calories hiking or snorkeling. The food was always great on board and Luis was so attentive to my lactose intolerance. Whenever there was something with milk or cheese in it, he always let me know and provided an alternative. There was always fresh fruit at every meal including succulent pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe, and watermelon. In addition, breakfast included delicious fruit juices, eggs, whole wheat breads, yogurt, and cereal. Lunch and dinner ranged from traditional Ecuadorian dishes like shrimp ceviche, and bean soup, to chicken, pork and fresh fish. We all had the honor of having dinner with the captain and hearing his navy stories. As we crossed the equator, which was four times during our 484 nautical mile trip, we watched the latitude turn to all zeros on the GPS on the bridge. The staff put on a great interactive show halfway through the trip which was a lot of fun. We all were like family for that one week and the staff aboard the M/Y Eric was a big part in making that happen.
If you are looking for an experience of a lifetime with memories that will touch your heart and last forever, you definitely want to put the Galapagos Islands on your short list. However, if you are going to make the trip to Ecuador, don’t just go there for four days to say you’ve been there. Spend the entire week so you can fully explore so much of what Darwin saw to formulate his theory of evolution. You’ll go at a relaxed yet active pace while also enjoying the journey aboard one of Ecoventura’s intimate and comfortable boats as it cuts through the water, the wind gently blows in your face as the world surrounds you.