A Week of FirstsMary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Best. Week. Ever. My husband Hugh and I were going on a 7 night cruise to the Galápagos Islands, of all places! Although we had never been, we knew it was going to be mind-blowing, so were expecting to be amazed. But what happened was much more than that. We were flabbergasted, speechless even. All we could say was “wow” a thousand times.
It’s not just the fact that when you arrive at the pier you see all the sea lions dozing in the sun or playing in the water, but also that if they bother to look at you, they don’t run away but just look as if to say, “What, another picture? Go ahead then” and then sort of pose for you. They must be posing. And the pictures you take. Oh yeah! Blessed art thou memory cards and digital cameras. There is a fleeting sensation that you might get a bit blasé about taking pictures of these incredibly cute creatures and then you find out that you just don’t. You find yourself taking as many as you can in different poses, angles and degrees of cuteness and never get tired.
It was a week of firsts for both of us. I’m not a keen birdwatcher, but then I had never seen blue footed boobies and their ritual mating dance, or red footed boobies looking smug with their chicks. Or the big, beautiful and slightly comical waved albatross, 50 centimetres away, or frigate birds with their massive red pouches, all of them looking at you as you look at a tree. And, lo and behold, there I was, patiently waiting for a bird to move so I could take the picture.
Then there was the snorkelling. I had done it twice before, and both times were underwhelming at best (mainly because I was a self-confessed coward of the undersea) and Hugh had never done it. But here - sea lions, again, not just cute, but amazing, moving with such grace that you feel like a clumsy monster, swimming playfully around; hundreds of colourful fishes, alone or in banks, under and around you. And then sharks - white-tipped reef, hammer heads, all leisurely moving down there! So, here’s a quick snippet: the penguins, cute and tiny were happily swimming around us until the one miscalculated the jump, landed just by my shoulder, turned around to swim and found me just there, beak against mask. It was exactly as in the cartoons, the same startled face! I almost choked on sea water as I burst out laughing.
, a yacht which we all fell in love with. Comfortable and cosy, we were spoilt rotten with amazing breakfasts, lunches and four-course dinners, to say nothing of the nibbles that were waiting for us after each excursion. A big and comfortable sun deck that we decided was perfect for jumping into the sea on lazy afternoons after lunch, also proved a great dance floor for the party we ended up having after we found out that one of our guides was none other than the composer of the hit Galápagos Paradise that we regularly heard on the local radio!
And speaking of the devil, Ivan Lopez was truly unique: a fantastic guide, native of San Cristóbal, and boasting a depth of knowledge that was second to none. His boundless enthusiasm and undying love for this archipelago was infectious, more so when he brought out an amplifier from under the captain’s desk, plugged in the microphone and guitar and off he went, singing beautifully about the Galápagos, a real paradise. How about that for another first?
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert
Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.
Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert
Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert
After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!
Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.