A week in the Galapagos Islands aboard the Ecoventura Eco-luxury cruise
Words by Anastasia Pittini
Visiting the Galapagos islands is a once in a lifetime experience and likely one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world. The archipelago is composed of thirteen islands and located 1,000 kilometers off of mainland Ecuador, it feels like a separate universe. Inhabited mostly by unique, endemic flora and fauna that has not been subject to the intervention by humans and therefore has remained comfortably on its natural evolutionary path for centuries.
The encounter with Galapagos wildlife is an unforgettable experience. The volcanic islands are home to one the widest collection of endemic species in the world (97% of reptiles, 80% of birds and land mammals and 20% of marine species are found nowhere else on earth).
Even though wild, these animals can be observed with a curious proximity. During our week across the archipelago we swam with sea lions, marine iguanas and white tipped reef sharks. We spotted blue whales cruising by and dolphins swimming alongside our boat. We got up close with penguins, blue and red footed boobies, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises and sea turtles.
Tourism within the Galapagos archipelago is highly regulated in terms of access and sustainability practices. 97% of the archipelago is protected and not accessible by anyone, beside research teams or the Ecuadorian Government. Of the remaining 3%, only 1% is dedicated to tourism and the best way to have the full experience is to visit the islands by boat, reaching the most remote areas which are not a possibility on day trips from the main ports.
Ecoventura is the leader in luxury sustainable cruises in the Galapagos islands, offering various seven night itineraries aboard two different category vessels. While on the first-class expedition cruise ‘Eric’, we sailed across the archipelago, reaching some of the oldest islands and waking up every day to a new landscape.
Designed as a luxury hotel (on water) the Eric offers all comforts in an intimate, small sized cruise accommodating up to twenty guests. The common area featured a bar and restaurant, serving buffet breakfast, lunch and an a la carte dinner. The upper deck was the perfect place to enjoy the views across the Pacific ocean, relaxing with a book or spotting dolphins and whales.
The daily schedule was filled with adventures. Led by two expert naturalist guides, each day is dedicated to the exploration of a different island, both on land and in the water. Snorkeling gear was provided for all guest and after each expedition delicious snacks will greet you on the deck.
Our best snorkel session must have been Santiago island, where in the nippy water we spotted two white tip reef sharks gliding along the bottom of the sea, while next to us sea lions twirled in their playful manner and turtles snacked on seagrass, unbothered by our presence. The underwater world of Galapagos is alive and thriving, making each snorkel session an exciting encounter with the marine world.
One of the most spectacular sights happened just off the shore of Isabela Island, where, against a golden sunset we spotted two blue whales slowly cruising through the channel. The biggest animals in the world were swimming right in front of our boat, occasionally spraying a white mist towards the sky.
The importance of conservation and sustainable tourism in the Galapagos archipelago is paramount. An ecosystem so fragile could be completely wiped out from mass tourism and irresponsible practices, which makes choosing the right cruise a very important decision.
Ecoventura is undoubtedly a pioneer with regards to sustainable tourism. The company takes part in a remarkable number of sustainability commitments, from being the first recipient of SmartVoyager, a voluntary environmental program, to partnerships with WWF and a scholarship program. Aboard the Ecoventura cruises, luxury is seamlessly combined with respect for the environment and conservation is promoted through every detail.
A trip to the Galapagos islands is truly an unforgettable experience that changes your appreciation for the natural world and will give you memories for a lifetime. Definitely an addition to your bucket list!
All photography courtesy of Jean-Pierre Jordaan
For more information on Ecoventura expedition cruising in the Galapagos Islands visit ecoventura.com.