So what really happens in the Galapagos? What happens when you subject yourself to a week-long cruise that has equal parts adventure and indulgence?
MAGIC. That’s what happens. Prior to coming to the Galapagos, I’ve heard and read from people who’ve been, all about the amazing and magnificent encounters they’ve had.
“We swam with sea lions!” “We played with giant tortoises!” “We saw giant land iguanas!”
Yes, wonderful. Wonderful indeed. BUT….WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE?
It’s hard to just describe these things as simply magical. So I thought it best to relay to you how one magical day in the Galapagos would usually go, and my thoughts around them.
These are all in the video I created, located somewhere down this post.
“Rise up this mornin’…as high as the rising sun….
…three little birds pitch by my doorstep…
…singin’ their sweet songs…of melodies pure and true…”
The soft tunes of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” sung in Bossa Nova style ever so slowly and softly weave its notes from the room speaker to my ears. And then our Concierge (and MV Origin’s 2IC), Maria del Carmen would make her wake-up call announcement. An announcement that we all looked forward to every morning, and have come to miss.
“Good Morning, Galapagos lovers! It is now 6:30 in the morning. A beautiful sunrise is waiting for you!”
Now normally, if I was back home and my alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning, there would be at least 3 other back-up alarm times in 5-10 minute intervals. And the snooze button so abused it would hide from my thumb if it could.
But as I told you, there’s Galapagos magic in the air and I would actually wake up feeling excited, (what is that snooze you talk about?) and I’d be up and ready in less than 5 minutes. I may even have woken up with a smile on my face which, in ‘normal life’ would be considered a freak phenomenon.
We normally get 1 hour and 30 minutes to have breakfast and get ready before we hop on to the Zodiac for our first adventure.
We would be told if the first activity of the day will be a wet or a dry landing. It can sometimes be both, so it helps to have footwear that you can on both conditions. Thank goodness for Keens! (and Tevas).
Our first activity would usually require walking or a little bit of hiking. And it made perfect sense to start early in the day. That way, the sun is not in full blast and more importantly, less chances of bumping into other tourists.
Almost every island we go to would have its own endemic species, and our naturalist guides Gustavo and Josy would help us spot them. Often, we didn’t need to be told as wildlife would just appear out of nowhere, and curiously look at the group of humans gathered round.
We learn something new every minute. For instance, did you know that the Galapagos Land Iguana would indicate territorial display with rapid head movements (similar to nodding)? It’s quite fascinating to watch two land iguanas nod to each other, as if on to a secret language.
After more exploration of an island’s flora and fauna, we would head to the morning’s second activity. Sometimes there’s only one activity for the morning. But it’s always a great day when there are two explorations in the morning. It means your day’s just going to get exponentially better.
We then reach an island inhabited by Marine Iguanas. This is the only place in the world where you can find these cool creatures. As we arrived still a little early on in the day. The marine iguanas were all gathered in rocks, shores – any land formation really, and try to warm up and soak up some vitamin D from the sun.
I am so fascinated by the faces of these Marine Iguanas. They look so bad-ass! And they all look different, you know. For instance, the guy (or gal) above looks almost like a human being wearing a warrior mask.
Then this guy below looks so smug or guilty (depending how you view it), as though he just swallowed someone’s fluffy toy (or kitty!)
But it’s not always rough around the edges with these Marine Iguanas. There were also cute displays of affection:
Or is it possession? I don’t know. With everything that’s happening in our world, I choose to see it as an “I’ve got you, mate” gesture.
But is there anything else cooler than these Marine Iguanas?
Absolutely. A Marine Iguana underwater.
You’ll be able to see this guy more clearly and in action in my video below.
They are so fascinating to watch! With four legs, they almost look like Aquaman swimming on first glance. You’ll see what I mean around the 2-minute mark.
These iguanas feed on algae, which thrives when the weather gets cooler. So the colder the water, the more minerals there are (which makes the water slightly murky – it’s all minerals though), the better for the marine iguanas.
In the Galapagos, you always need to keep your eyes peeled for some kind of action. On our way back to the MV Origin, we saw the above sight in the water.
Water splashing everywhere and birds going on a feeding frenzy. We can only conclude that there’s a big school of fish that’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. There’s something bigger chasing them from underneath the water, so they swim close to the surface and even jump up. And then they are met by a flock of birds who were only too happy to catch them. What can I say, it’s tough to be a fish!
We head back to the MV Origin. As always, we are assisted not just in getting off the Zodiac and into the boat, but also in rinsing our footwear, etc.
We take a quick shower and head to Darwin deck for lunch.
There’s a varied buffet selection and there’s always seafood available. As we eat lunch, Jairo, in charge of the Food & Beverage, hands out tonight’s dinner menu and takes everyone’s selection.
The menu is varied every night and there’s always a seafood option, which is excellent.
After lunch, we usually have a bit of time to chit chat with other passengers, talking about our amazing mornings or about our next activity. And then its time for Siesta.
Yes, you heard that. NAP TIME. We would always have ample time after lunch for a nap.
“Only kids need naps”, I would snigger. And browse through the free movie selection in our stateroom. And everytime, I end up sleeping 10 minutes into the movie. I soon learned that these naps are actually necessary.
Naps would be around 1-2 hours long depending on what our activities were in the afternoon.
Usually though, we’d have my favourite kind of exploration in the afternoon.
The MV Origin was completely equipped with new snorkels, fins and masks. Wet suits were also available for those who needed it (Well, I won’t lie the waters of Galapagos are cold, you will definitely need it). I had my own suit but it was great to see that what Ecoventura provided for its guests were almost brand new.
We again hop on to the Zodiac and reach our snorkelling point.
For the rest of my days, I will NEVER forget the very first morning we snorkelled.
I was one of the first to hop off the Zodiac. First thought: Holy Smithereens, it’s cold!
After a few seconds, when my eyes have adjusted to what was coming towards me:
After a few seconds, when it has finally sunk into me what I was seeing before my very eyes, I managed to surface, and blubbered incoherently to everyone else,
“R-r-rr-rRAYS!!! Right beneath us!!!!” I yelled at Zombie to get the camera ready as we both went underwater.
They were still there, just calmly cruising past us. Guys, this I have to say is the most unbelievable and unreal sight I’ve ever come across in all my underwater experience, both snorkelling and diving.
And yes, we managed to get clips of these graceful creatures. Like I always stress, the wildlife of the Galapagos has such a blase attitude towards humans. Stingrays and Eaglerays, especially, normally avoid any contact. You just swim an inch towards them and off the scoot. But this! They were so close I could see the textures of their skin.
We didn’t see these guys from the surface. From the Zodiac, it looks just like any ordinary morning. What luck we had that we managed to dive right when the rays were migrating! And we were told that the rays don’t normally appear in that area of the Galapagos. Hands down, a hashtag-blessed moment!
Time for the video! I urge you to watch from start to finish, but if you really just want to see the rays, the underwater magic starts at around 3 minutes 5 seconds.
And then there were the Sea Lions.
Similar to the stingray moment, I will always remember that morning. We were snorkelling, just cruising along this wall looking out for fish and turtles. When ZOOM! A black figure swam so quickly, it whizzed past us. And then it swam back, and started doing flips.
These Sea Lions! Puppies of the sea indeed.
In the beginning, I didn’t know how to react as this little guy would turbo-charge towards your face, and just when you think he will smash into your mask, he will do a flip, look at you, and flip again.
Later on, I realised that it wanted to play! It was engaging us in a “Can you do what I’m doing?” kind of play, so when I figured this out, we spent about 5-10 minutes playing.
Swimming with wild sea lions is not so uncommon in the Galapagos but still, these are magical moments that make me feel so, so grateful to be alive.
Grateful that I am not swimming in a tank with trained sea lions. Grateful that in this world, there still exists a place where inhabitants feel only kinship and acceptance towards you.
And of course, the good old sea turtles. In other parts of the world, we would be so elated to see ONE sea turtle. In the Galapagos, our eyes didn’t know where to look. Turtles left, right and centre. Unbelievable.
Some days, we would have two activities in the afternoon. We sometimes would have a choice between activities, usually a water-based vs hiking /dry activity.
One such afternoon, all of us visited the island where Galapagos Tortoises are (and protected). They are so protected and confident in their surroundings, they even know how to cross the road.
Around 6pm, we would head back to the boat. And as always, as ever – Jairo will be waiting for us with refreshments and snacks. And you know that familiar ravenous feeling after a swim? Indeed. They’ve anticipated our needs before we even realised it.
And we would hear Maria del Carmen’s voice on the speaker telling us we have about 30 minutes to get ready for dinner.
I ALWAYS lose track of time whenever these ‘pre-dinner’ preparations and showers came. I mean, how can one shower for only for 10-15 minutes (given there are two of you) with this kind of magnificent view! You’re just replaying all the magical moments that happened through the day, when here goes this gorgeous sunset wanting your attention.
Before dinner, we would have our briefing. During briefing, our naturalist guides would discuss what our highlights of the day were, and go in-depth with Galapagos’ Flora and Fauna.
During one of our briefings, one of the MV Origin’s staff excitedly interrupted us. The Captain has asked us to all go in front of the vessel as he’s just spotted a pod of dolphins.
We all rush to the front, and as we scanned the horizon, we see not only dolphins, but a Sperm Whale swimming right next to our boat! (this is all in the video)
That’s just how it is in the Galapagos. Nature’s show just never ends!
Dinner is always a nice affair. We’re all relaxed and starting to wind down. We sit with different groups of people every night and we all excitedly exchange highlights of our day.
Food is always amazing, and everytime I’m in the middle of the main course, I make a mental note to either skip or just have half of the dessert.
And then the dessert comes, and I would be afflicted with short term memory loss, and completely finish it.
By the end of the night, I’m so full of memories, exciting moments, and good food that just seeing the turned-down bed is enough to make me just plop down and sleep.
And so I sleep as soundly and as blissfully as a sea lion in Santa Cruz.
And all that magic repeats itself the next day, and the day after, and the day after…….
…It is simply what happens in the Galapagos.
I hope I was able to relay to you even a fraction of what it really is like in the Galapagos. Which of these moments do you think would be your highlight?
Rates for Galapagos Cruise departures (7 Nights / 8 Days) onboard the MV Origin with Ecoventura:
As of 2016 May- USD 6,500 per person for a double room.
Included in the rate:
Cabin accommodation, all meals and snacks, All beverages including open bar, Captain’s welcome and farewell party, guided shore excursions, Concierge, use of wet suits, snorkeling equipment, sea kayaks and stand up paddle boards, transfers in the Islands between the airport and dock.
What’s not included:
International Airfare, Airfare to Galapagos, Galapagos entrance fee (park tax), transit control card, premium alcoholic beverages, gratuities to guides and crew (suggested amount is USD 300-350 per person per week), purchases on board, laundry service, and travel insurance.
Galapagos Park Tax: The entrance fee to the National Park is $100 for adults and $50 for children 11 and younger and is not included in the cruise rate.
Transit Control Card – A TCT card or tarjeta de control de transito is $20 per person and is required by INGALA for all visitors to Galapagos to control migration to the Islands.
Many thanks to Ecoventura for hosting us onboard the MV Origin on their Itinerary B Cruise. All thoughts and opinions are mine alone.
Anna @ shenANNAgans says
Holy sh!t indeed seeing all those stingray coming at you, not sure I would have hung around to get that shot. Shudder!!!! The iguana however, what a beauty. I cant wait to see one in the flesh. I forwarded your post onto my Momma whos nickname is Susanna the Iguana, a nickname she was given when I was born Anna the goanna. So uncool! But kinda sweet too. Looks like you had an amazing time. 🙂
Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says
I’m not sure about the stingrays but it’s a big fat yes for the tortoise! I loved the video so much to love – what an amazing adventure! The underwater footage was like watching a documentary…but better. I’m adding this to my “when I win the lottery” list!
Becky Padmore says
Ahh your amazing photos are really bringing back happy memories for me! I loved my time in the Galapagos Islands – such a unique travel destination!
Alex | Wanderlust Marriage says
Wow, that’s amazing! The Galapagos Islands is definitely on my list and the cruise with Ecoventura looks awesome!
That tortoise is just massive and it’s so cool you can get that close to them! Lots of highlights here, with another being snorkelling with that sea turtle!
Wonderful video! Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing.
Simply amazing photos and Galapagos is in deed a great place to venture around. I havent been there yet but it’s on my things to do list for next year. If you want to see the evolution according to Charles Darwin, this is the place to be.
Suze - Luxury Columnist says
This sounds like the most amazing trip, I love your shots of the iguanas and the sea lions. How fantastic to swim with the rays too!
Shikha (whywasteannualleave) says
Not even remotely jealous at all Jean!! 😀 This trip looks exhilarating and inspiring beyond words! I can’t even imagine what it must be like to swim with rays, to walk alongside giant tortoises and see all those iguanas. Best trip ever would you say?!