Into a land, undivided by the abuses of man, absent from further exploitation. A lesson in compassion, understanding, and acceptance. Beasts living not in fear, rather the joy of coexistence, the truest nature of life. Lost are the preconceptions, the animosity, each moment shared in silence. Breathing as one, seeing as one, living as one. Peace.
We can only imagine how wonderful the world once was. When all animals lived in balance. Where fear did not pervade all chance encounters, destroying the moment. To have experienced how differently we could live among our friends in nature, we will never be the same.
What We Did
After a fair amount of research, almost a month, we decided that taking a two week cruise was the best option for our visit to the Galapagos…reaching every single island that was at the top of our list. Many ships advertised special cruises for photography or biology, marketing themselves as visiting the islands earlier than others and/or spending more time on the islands to maximize the experience. While they seemed appealing, our exchanges with the operators left us feeling like it was more hype than truth (an unfortunate reality today). One ship, the Angelito I, was not only highly recommended by other overlanders but our exchanges with them were fantastic. The guide we wanted, Maja, happened to be performing a longer than usual stint which also spanned the only available two week cruise that fit within our travel schedule. After a short text with Joe & Josee, who were currently sailing on the Angelito I, and learning Kirsi was negotiating a booking with them too, we committed.
We knew the ship was classed as tourist superior, not first class or luxury, but the layout in our opinion was much better than many of the more expensive ships. What we didn’t know was that on almost every day we were the first to arrive on the scheduled island and usually the last to leave. We spent much more time learning and witnessing the wonders of the Galapagos, taking way too many photos, than even the National Geographic Explorer. This is not trivial, cruising in the Galapagos is expensive, maximizing the time spent on the islands really enhances the experience. We would take the long loop trails, seeing many animals and different plants, when most other tours took a short back and forth trail (many lasting only 30-45 minutes when ours were several hours). This became a topic of conversation on our ship. A fellow passenger told us that in his research he read many complaints about other ships stating they only spent 1 hour each day exploring, a 30 minute hike and a 30 minute snorkel, and 23 hours on the ship…how awful.
Long days might not be for everyone, but for those wanting to get lost in the essence of the Galapagos…there is no other way. Standing or sitting among wild animals that accept us as equals, not a threat, is indescribable. The history, the science, the anecdotes, the silence our little group of 15-17 shared alone with nature can never be fully captured with words. The snacks provided after our hikes, the warm water rinses with fresh towels after our snorkels followed by a warm drink, the care and effort put into every need of each passenger, it was beyond luxurious. Then, as if it could get any better, we learned that the Angelito I is one of only two remaining Galapagos-owned ships. Built by two brothers, the son of one is the current captain, still family run and operated.
Looking back, we easily attribute our wonderful experiences to our guide Maja, the crew of the Angelito I, and our fellow passengers. While we started as guests, we all left as friends. To call our visit an experience of a lifetime would be a severe understatement and a great disservice to what the Galapagos really is. Yes it is unique, but it doesn’t have to be. It is more a lesson than a place, a way of life over beautiful photos, a memory that shouldn’t be forgotten. In what we thought to be our only visit, now lives a great desire to return.
Each day usually was as follows: breakfast, board zodiac to visit an island, hike around island, return to ship via zodiac, snacks, change for snorkeling, board zodiac to reach snorkeling area, snorkel, return to ship, warm rinse with fresh towel and warm beverage, break, lunch, short siesta, board zodiac to visit another island, hike around island, return to ship via zodiac, snacks, break, dinner, briefing for next day and sometimes a slideshow or short informational video, bed. Some nights before bed we had a “shark show”, meaning we watched the sharks and sometimes sea lions swim around the ship looking for fish. We snorkeled 5 out of the 6 full days and only had one hike on a couple days due to ship navigation. One day per 7 night cruise the ship is required to be in a port so we had time to wander town and purchase souvenirs after a hike, lunch, and visiting a breeding center. Among the wonderful group of passengers was another overlanding couple, Kurt & Monika, whom we plan to visit in Switzerland when we one day tour Europe. There was also an empty room, meaning there were only 14 passengers, making the total of our group 15 counting our guide Maja.
Instead of too many details, the remainder of this blog entry will mostly be photos by location. We did use our GoPro and took short bursts with our cameras so we’ve compiled videos for the 5 days we have footage. We didn’t enhance any of the video and just strung together a bunch of short clips all set to the free music provided by the software we used. Some parts may be a bit choppy but we feel they present a good idea of what we experienced. Reminder: if you would like to load higher quality photos, use the toggle to the right of this entry’s title.