My trip to the Galapaos Islands - Howard Moses
The magic of the Galapagos Islands
(This story has been delayed from the time of our original vacation in 2015.)
My family and I just returned from a visit to the Galapagos Islands aboard Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Endeavour.
Many things in life sound better than they turn out to actually be. Not the Galapagos Islands! Without any hesitation, my family and I can state that the Galapagos Islands are an absolute �don�t miss destination� and certainly should be placed near the top of everyone�s bucket list. Pristine vistas and remarkable proximity to the islands� myriad wildlife make the Galapagos the magical place that it is.
On more than one occasion my family and I found ourselves alone on a beach and felt as if it was a place no one had ever been before. The Galapagos are volcanic islands and very new to our planet in geographical terms. With a limitation of vessel size that accommodate no more than 99 guests, getting away from everyone isn�t particularly difficult. At one point sitting alone on the beach I had a very personal experience with a juvenile sea lion, who seemed just as interested in me as I was in him (or her?). As the park is so well protected, no place seemed crowded and we never saw a piece of garbage anywhere. We rarely even saw another boat or group of people.
Without a question the highlight of this trip is the wildlife. The islands� giant tortoises, sea lions (our favorite!), blue-footed boobies, marine and land iguanas, sea turtles, frigate birds are all literally within arm�s reach, and provide for amazing experiences and photo opportunities. The naturalists aboard the Endeavour did a marvelous job in teaching us about the history of the islands as well as about the endemic animals and plants.
Plan on spending a lot of time in the water. Snorkeling (and optional scuba diving) are a daily feature. Lindblad equips you with everything you�ll need, and truly the highlight of my trip was seeing penguins, sea lions, sea turtles and a Galapagos shark � all in one breath below the surface. Honestly my family could have spent all day in the water with the sea lions, truly one of the most enjoyable, approachable and cute animals on our planet.
This trip is a photographer�s dream � partly due to the beauty of the place and partly due to the proximity of the wildlife. It wasn�t unusual for guests to take thousands of photos during the course of the trip, made all the better by the daily learning sessions with one of the professional photographers on board.
This is a very busy vacation, with one experience following another. On most evenings we were in bed by 9:30 or so, as most days start with a wake up around 6:15am. Lindblad�s viewpoint is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime destination for most people and they don�t want you to miss anything.
The National Geographic Endeavour is not a new ship and doesn�t offer many of the creature comforts cruisers have come to expect. The cabins are quite small, there aren�t any verandahs, there�s no TV, the internet and phone service is spotty (and expensive) and the ship is somewhat dated, however they do a lot with what they have. The food is good, the service is definitely first class, and the experience is altogether amazing. There are 72 crew members aboard to support the 95 guests. From the minute we arrived at the airport in Atlanta the Lindblad staff guided us through every step of the trip, making this a thoroughly seamless vacation experience.
(Note that since the original publication of my comments, the Endeavour has been replaced by the much newer and updated Endeavour II, which is much nicer and more comfortable.)
As we were traveling during spring break, fully 1/3 of the guests on board were kids. Lindblad did a masterful job of engaging the kids of every age with activities geared specifically to their age brackets. It should be noted that this is a vacation for kids who don�t need to be kept entertained all of the time and who appreciate the beauty, wildlife and excitement of this place. Seeing the Galapagos through the eyes of the children made this experience all the more enjoyable. In talking with the staff, during times when kids are normally in school the ship definitely caters more to adults.
Nights aboard ship are comprised primarily of dinner, relaxing, comparing notes on the days wildlife sightings, comparing photos and learning about what we would be seeing the next day.
While expensive, the trip is pretty inclusive. All of the excursions and experiences are included, along with the hotels, transfers and inter-Ecuadorian flights. Booze, massages and the gift ship are additional.
You�ll need a total of about 10 days for the trip, 3 of which are getting from the U.S. to Baltra, Ecuador, and 7 of which are the cruise itself.
Without question the Galapagos are an expensive vacation and not for everyone. If you have mobility limitations, this definitely isn�t the place to visit. The only way to get around is via the Zodiacs, which ferry guests to/from shore and out to snorkeling locations. These require a good bit of mobility, but otherwise are very comfortable and stable in the water.
There are very few people I wouldn�t recommend this trip to, it is a special experience and one you will always remember.
If you�re considering going to the Galapagos we�re happy to talk with you regarding the best options to consider. I�m happy to discuss our trip and the others that are available.
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