Sunning with sea lions. Swimming with sharks. Getting up close and personal with giant tortoises, before retiring to the comfort of a chartered yacht where a cool drink is waiting. This is exactly what those who explore the unrivaled Galapagos Islands can look forward to, as part of the fantastic itineraries set up by Ecoventura.
For more than two decades, the Ecuador-based company has been guiding travellers through the ‘Enchanted Islands’ on their 20 passenger yachts—named Eric, Flamingo and Letty—as well as a dive live-aboard that holds 16 guests. While passengers on the week-long jaunts are usually made up of couples or families, the boats have also hosted a certain dot-com billionaire, as well as a couple of movie stars (sorry, I’m not allowed to name names!)—so you never know who might show up!
How it Works
Yachts have about a dozen crew members, which includes the captain, cooks, steward, bartender/server and two naturalists—aka walking, talking encyclopedias who have an astounding knowledge of everything Galapagos. Every day, the group is split in half and paired up with a naturalist, who will guide you around the different islands while explaining the geography, pointing out animals, and fending off sharks as you snorkel (JOKING!). Our guides Gustavo and Cecibel were absolute gems, and their 6 a.m. wakeup calls set to the sweet sounds of Dido were hilarious!
Excursions start at dawn in attempt to beat the heat, and will see you chow down a big breakfast before heading off to an island via panga (also known as a zodiac) to explore for a few hours. A snack and fresh juice is waiting when you return, and there may be time to snorkel near the boat or simply lounge on the top deck before lunch. The second half of the day includes more island time or a chance to go on a kayak or snorkel excursion. Of course, being a vacation, all outings are optional. Dinner is usually served around 7 p.m., and most people head to bed by 10 p.m. Prepare to fall asleep to the rocking waves, as the boat sails between islands overnight.
Each voyage last seven nights, and the key benefit of sailing on a smaller boat is more flexibility.
For example, whenever we saw a dolphin or whale, the captain was happy to quickly change course in hopes of getting closer to the mammals. Since Ecoventura only has 20 people on board, it only takes about five minutes to board or disembark the pangas, which means more time on the islands and less time sitting in a sweltering, tiny motorboat. To put that in perspective, cruise ships that hold 90 people can take up to half an hour—which also means you’re out of luck if you forget something and need to turn around!
What You’ll See
Incredibly diverse landscapes make up the Galapagos, boasting everything from dazzling white sand beaches to craggy cliffs with crashing waves. As such, the species vary greatly, and many are endemic to the islands. (FYI, you will hear the word ‘endemic’ a lot—it means an animal or plant that is only found in a certain area). It is absolutely mind-blowing how many animals you’ll see up close, but here is a list of just some that we saw:
- Sharks, whales, dolphins, penguins
- Eagle rays/sting rays
- Sea turtles and tortoises
- Flamingos, owls, frigates
- Sea lions—everywhere!
- Blue-footed booby, red-footed booby, Nazca booby
WATCH: If you time your trip right, you might also see animals mating—the blue-footed booby dance is so cute!
READ MORE: Animals of the Galapagos Islands
Along with all the animals, there are also incredible landscapes which are a photographers dream. For example, Bartolome is volcanic and its craters are like something from outer space—in fact, movies have been filmed there! Espanola is home to dazzling white sand beaches, while Floreana has lush vegetation. With 13 major islands making up the Galapagos, there is no shortage of things to see.
What it’s like on board
The morning of embarkation, all passengers are herded into the lounge for a quick meet-and-greet. These people will quickly become your besties! The whole week you’ll be eating together, exploring together and generally just hanging out—and there is no internet access, so you’ll actually be forced to have conversations (gasp!). As for the actual boat, it’s made up of the aforementioned lounge stocked with games, books and a TV, the bar and restaurant, a sun deck and 10 cabins.
Speaking of those cabins, rooms range from double beds to two singles to triples including a bunk bed. Be warned—they’re on the tiny side, so don’t bring your crazy big suitcase. Despite their small size, there is loads of storage in every nook and cranny of the cabin, and Claudia the steward keeps them crazy clean. Like, leave-for-five-minutes-and-she’s-already-made-the bed clean. The private bathrooms are also stocked with biodegradable soap, shampoo and conditioner, which go hand-in-hand with Ecoventura’s environmental protection practices.
Now the part you’ve been waiting for: the food! All meals are included, which are made up of buffet breakfast and lunch, and a plated dinner with two options as well as vegetarian meals. Snacks are available at the bar all day, as well as drinks. Oh, and you know what else is at the bar? Sea sickness pills! Be warned that you’ll feel a lot of movement on the yacht as it’s small, and a few guests felt nauseous at points throughout the trip. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed with a few pills (and by the way, the captain just so happens to have a pharmacy at his disposal should you come down with anything else!).
All in all, our week in the Galapagos Islands was absolutely incredible, and without question is something everyone should have high up on their bucket list.
When to go: December to May are the warmest months, and March is excellent due to the mating seasons of animals, low winds and hot weather. August and September aren’t recommended, due to high winds which result in choppy water.
Cost: One week cruises on Ecoventura start at $4000 per person, which includes all meals, and use of snorkelling equipment. Tips ($200 per person is the recommendation), airfare and park fees ($110) are not included.
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Globe Guide travelled to the Galapagos as a guest of Ecoventura, Hotel Oro Verde and AeroGal. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles
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