The Galápagos Islands are of course well known due to Charles Darwin’s research; however, the Bishop of Panama first discovered the islands back in the 1500’s. These volcanic islands are situated on both sides of the equator just west of Ecuador.
A cruise offered by Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic Endeavour II, is designed for travelers seeking unique experiences intricately guided by highly-regarded scientists, key-thought leaders, and naturalists.
Lindblad Expeditions is the pioneer for discovering the Islands via a cruise ship, as the first international tourist expedition cruise to the Galápagos Islands was in July 1967 with Lars-Eric Lindblad. The ship is designed for passenger comfort, style, education, and personalized service. Holding just 96 passengers, the National Geographic Endeavour II offers custom-tailored attention, interwoven with topnotch amenities like world-class cuisine to spa and wellness treatments.
Debby Denham, Travel Specialist with Preferred Travel of Naples recently returned from a ten-day Galápagos Island voyage through Lindblad Expeditions. We asked her to tell us more about her personal experience.
The ship is anchored, so passengers must take a zodiac to board. Once you embark, the crew invites all travelers to a meeting in the lounge. There, they introduce themselves, the National Geographic staff and all passengers are encouraged to mingle and get to know one another.
The Ecuadorian Government has a tight reign on the tourists traveling to their National Parks and Islands; so guest must be understanding of a few details. The first is that the land, sea life and animals are to be protected and never disturbed from their natural habitat. And the second issue is for tourist to be somewhat flexible and understanding that the schedules may vary a bit from day to day depending on the government’s agenda. One of the great things about traveling with Lindblad Expeditions is that they are well respected in the Galápagos for their long-standing commitment to the Islands and Lindblad’s highly-trained naturalists, and specialists are all well-respected.
The ship offers various off-board activities from early morning to late afternoon, and every evening, there is what is called “recap.” Recap is a sort of happy hour with cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres for guests to enjoy as naturalists give talks, or the undersea specialist show videos on the plasma screens of what they discovered, or what to expect for the following day. This is the time when the expedition leaders will also explain the next morning’s itinerary.
In San Cristobal, Debby awoke to early morning stretching on the deck, and then a delicious breakfast was served before the daily activities began. The choices for the day were snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and paddleboarding. These activities were spread out over different times at various stops throughout the day. Lindblad Expeditions offers several different fitness levels for most of their tours and activities.
The following day they left San Cristobal to the island of Española. There, they snorkel while exploring vast amounts of sea life including sea lions, rays, sharks, turtles, octopuses and penguins. The Galápagos Islands have laws regulating how tourists interact with wildlife. Visitors are not allowed to be within 6 feet of the various creatures. However, the sea life is amiable and unafraid, and they will approach you, which is okay by the government because this means that the animals do not feel threatened which is the main point of regulation. This is one of the only places in the world where animals are unafraid and friendly towards humans.
Española is very well-known because this is where Darwin got his education. Debby got to see humpback whales, and in fact, one of the whales was breaching and teaching her baby how to do the same. The baby whale would pop up next to the mother and gave the passengers an incredible sight to see. The bird species and tortoise are endemic to each individual Island. In the Galápagos Islands, tourists observe the most unique creatures compared to anywhere else in the world.
When they left at Española, they headed to Floreana Island. This Island is known for its post office barrel. The history of the barrel is that the pirates and travelers from years ago left notes which were taken by other travelers and hand-delivered to the recipients. This tradition still holds true in Floreana Island. Debby actually left three postcards, and since returning to the states, two of those were dropped in the mail by strangers, and one was actually hand-delivered for her.
The schedule on Floreana started with stretching in the morning, zodiac rides, shallow or deep- water snorkeling options, and a glass bottom boat tour. One of the leading naturalists was a man who is a professional photographer; he was available to passengers to teach them how to take high-quality pictures during their trip.
They traveled to Santa Cruz. This is where the Darwin foundation and tortoise breeding area are housed. Santa Cruz offers tourists a very educational day for, as talks about preventing tortoise extinction and traveling up into the highlands to see the tortoise firsthand living within their habitat took place.
The following day, the passengers shifted to the other side of the island. There were hiking options early in the morning; however, passengers needed to be in reasonably good shape as the footing there was a bit rocky. The tourists saw land iguanas, and later that morning there were snorkeling opportunities available. In the afternoon the ship was transferring, so while they were sailing, informative lectures were being given.
The following morning they explored on the island of Bartolomé. This Island only offered a wet landing, which means the zodiac disembarks the passengers into the shallow water. All tourists need a change of shoes for hiking when they have a wet landing. Bartolomé has a wild volcanic moonscape appearance and allows for unique photography. The highest elevation is 359 feet. There is a 376-step staircase that takes you to the peak of the highlands. The tour offered two hiking levels, but both required a functional range of motion and fitness level. The views were spectacular and overlooked Pinnacle Peak which is where they filmed part of the movie, Master and Commander.
Here the passengers had one-hour to spend on the beach. There was once again snorkeling opportunities to see such vast amounts of fish and sea life including penguins. There was a zodiac ride to the other side of the island, and later in the afternoon, a glass-bottom boat ride was available to relax and enjoy the picturesque creatures below.
The last stop was Genovesa Island. Here, they also had a wet landing. The itinerary offered hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. Because the walls of the island go straight down into the water, Debby saw unique sea life including blacktip sharks. The expedition leaders know exactly what to watch for to keep all tourists out of harm’s way. Even with the prevalence of hammerhead sharks, there is not much to fear in the Galápagos Islands because sea life has an abundance of food and don’t view humans as a threat.
Debby told us this was a phenomenal trip that she could not recommend to friends, family, and clients enough. “If you love wildlife, this is the place to go! I’ve been to Africa and Antarctica and have seen immense amounts of the animal kingdom, but when you travel to the Galápagos Islands, this is a totally different experience with unique creatures that you’ll never encounter anywhere else in the world.” Debby told us. “This trip is for people who love wildlife and/or photography. There were a lot of families on the ship and all ages from preteens to the mid-70s. Some people were walking with canes, but they are directed by a naturalist on board to let them know what activities are safe for them to do.”
Debby said she took about 500 pictures and that her husband probably took three times that amount. If you’ve always wanted to go to the Galápagos Islands, there’s no better way to travel than on Lindblad Expeditions.
Preferred Travel of Naples
If you would like to learn more about your opportunity to visit the world, Preferred Travel of Naples is the best place to start. With the highly traveled and experienced staff to guide you, rest assured that you will be in the best hands.
To find out more about this trip or other fascinating destinations, please contact Preferred Travel of Naples at 239-261-1177 or visit preferrednaples.com.