Having recently returned from the Galápagos Islands, Product and Operations Executive Adam shares all the incredible experiences that can happen in a single day.
I'm going to come right out and say it: cruises to the Galápagos Islands do involve early starts! It's rare not to be up by 7:00am, with 6:00am and 6:30am wake-up calls being the norm. Days are fairly packed with excursions - as our naturalist guide says, "you have come here to learn about the islands and the wildlife, I will do my best to ensure that we maximise every opportunity to do so", though the peaceful setting and pace of excursions mean that it doesn't feel too tiring.
Early wake-up calls are not such a hardship though: with daylight hours on the equator being 6am-6pm year round (coupled with the rolling movement of the ship), you find yourself naturally getting sleepy at around 9:00pm. The rewards for waking up early are the amazing sunrises, with the sun setting the horizon on fire as it rises out of the ocean.
Today (day 4 on the Sea Star Journey yacht) is no exception, with a 6:45am breakfast, followed by a dry landing on Fernandina Island at 7:30am. We've been promised a wide array of wildlife, including marine iguanas, sea lions, the elusive Galápagos hawk and even a whale skeleton, so expectations are set pretty high! As always though, the Galápagos Islands over deliver, and we tread carefully over the salt-and-pepper coloured volcanic sand, trying to avoid stepping on the iguanas that blend perfectly with the rocks. We stroll among families of sleeping sea lions, who couldn't care less about our presence, and we even manage to spot a solitary Galápagos hawk from a distance using the guide's binoculars.
At 9:30am we're back on board the ship and are met by the crew who, after cleaning our cabins, have by some means found time to put out fruit juice and a variety of hot and cold snacks. As with all other aspects of our cruise, there is a lot of hard work going on being the scenes. The crew works tirelessly to keep the ship in perfect condition, serving meals and snacks and helping with whatever you need, meaning that as a guest you can just relax and enjoy your trip. We have 45 minutes of free time to get changed into swimming gear before our 10:15am snorkelling excursion which I spend eating biscuits and drinking cappuccino (life is tough in the Galápagos).
Snorkelling on the Sea Star Journey is done from the dinghy. Suited up and mask readied, we jump in and are greeted by a lazy turtle, which floats down to the sea bed to eat. There's much excitement when a white-tipped shark whizzes by, but typically when I review the footage, my GoPro has not caught it at all! The hour flies by quickly, and we are back on board the Sea Star Journey at 11:15am. More snacks (and hot chocolate to warm up) followed by free time, which is spent in the top-deck hot tubs. We're called for lunch at midday, which I somehow manage to find space for in spite of the snacks and biscuits!
At 1:30pm we're back on the water. This time in kayaks on our way to another snorkelling expedition. It's great to be moving on the water under our own steam, though I personally haven't kayaked in a number of years, and am doing a good job of spinning around in ever widening circles.
We have roughly an hour to snorkel, though some members of the party stayed on board the ship to relax and enjoy the beds on the sun deck. Those of us who decided to snorkel are treated to a wide array of different wildlife, and the water is a little deeper than the morning's session. We even manage to snorkel in a cave, which is a fantastic experience.
We're back on board the ship for 3:15pm, and have a little time to prepare for the last excursion of the day. At 4:00pm we do our final excursion of the day, which is a dry landing and hike up to the Darwin Lake. It's a steep hike to begin with, but gradually gets smoother. We get fantastic views of the Darwin Lake and then continue to the peak where we have views over the surrounding islands and volcanoes.
We're back on board the boat at 5:20pm and have a chance to shower and get ready for dinner. I enjoy sunset from the top deck, before briefing which begins at 6:30pm. Our naturalist guide gives a recap on what we've seen that day, talks about some of the species in more details, shows us some of his pictures, then explains what the plans are for the following day. By 7:00pm we've started eating (again).
After dinner we are free to do as we please. There are DVD documentaries to watch, board games available, and books to read. Some members of the group are playing cards in the dining room. Others enjoy a beer or two on the top deck as the boats sails along. The darkness and motion of the ship soon makes everyone sleepy, and another fantastic day in the Galápagos Islands come to a close.
It really was a privilege to be able to visit this fascinating destination, and I hope to be able to return at some point in the future.
I flew with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to get to Ecuador. They have daily departures from the UK to Quito and Guayaquil, with an easy changeover in Amsterdam Schipol. As you'd expect from the Netherlands flag carrier, service on board is great, with comfortable seats, seatback entertainment and a nice variety of onboard meals. In business class, there are comfortable lie-flat beds, with a well-designed menu of three-course á la carte meals, noise-cancelling headphones and a comfort kit to freshen up with, which makes for a very relaxed flight.
Flying to most major cities in Latin America, KLM is one of our preferred partners.
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