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By: María Gracia Banderas
Photos courtesy of Quasar Expeditions
To live the Galápagos experience on board a yacht or a cruise ship is something else. The ship sways and lulls its passengers to sleep, while the night cruise to the next island destination saves daylight travel time and frees more hours for exploration. Passengers are able to enjoy all the expected attractions which, in most cases, are far from the inhabited islands.
To stay on a floating hotel means taking advantage of the opportunity to unearth all the mysteries of this archipelago, while simultaneously sharing interesting moments on deck with other passengers from around the world and with the certified Galápagos National Park guides. Tourists finish their trips, not only with photos and memories that will endure forever, but also with new friends whom they shall probably see again on some future trip.
Ship tours are available to visit the northern islands, the southern ones, or both. The best option depends on the number of days you have available. A warm breeze will be the first companion as you float on a panga (small canoe) on your way to the floating hotel, your new home for a number of days.
On board the Grace, you will find four decks designed for different purposes. Yet, on each one of them, you will find fun activities plus a welcoming crew. The Sun Deck is the highest, the best place to sun bathe on deck chairs, to admire the dusk or to gaze at a star studded sky. One level below is the Albert Deck that houses two Master Suites and two Twin Suites with sea view windows. The Captain´s bridge, the Al Fresco salon and an open air bar are also on this deck. All these spaces have luxury fittings.
The main deck is the Monaco. There you will spend a good portion of your time, be it in the dining room, the reception area or the main ballroom. On the outside, is an open air restaurant surrounded by a leisure area and a jacuzzi, the perfect place to relax after long hikes on the islands. The Carolina Deck, the lowest, has five Premium cabins.
During your stay aboard the Grace, you will enjoy two daily tours, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Among the destinations are small hills, providing great vistas of wonderful landscapes, and lava fields. You will stroll by perfect beaches and walk along the edge of rock cliffs. An exciting event will be to see wildlife up close, practically face to face. Meanwhile, your guide will be sharing interesting and entertaining information regarding each environment and its unique plant and animal life.
Keep in mind that one of the special traits of the Galápagos is the diversity of its marine life. Naturally, in several places, you will be able to snorkel alongside sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, iguanas and all sorts of exotic fish.
One alternative is to ship on board the Evolution. Its crew will welcome you with a tropical cocktail, a chat about the ship´s layout, travel routes, security instructions, appropriate clothing and accessories for each hike, as well as an introduction to the members of the crew.
The menu on board offers the most traditional and exquisite recipes of ecuadorean cuisine, plus seasonal fruits and a variety of other optional dishes. Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet style, so you can taste all types of food.
You will land at Baltra airport. Then, after lunch, the Dafne Major islet will be your first visit. This enchanted place is where you meet blue footed boobies, masked boobies and other tropical birds. As nowhere else in the world, you can only be astonished how close you can get to these birds that, surprisingly, are not scared away by human beings.
The second day begins with a visit to Isabela island, the biggest in the archipelago. The afternoon belongs to Fernandina island. There, on Espinoza Point, you will be amazed to see a huge number of marine iguanas lying on the lava fields, under the sun and absorbing its heat, while the cormorants make their timely appearance.
On the third day, it´s back to Isabela, but this time to Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove. There you can relive the antics of old pirates and whalers who were actors in some of the many mysteries that abound in these islands. Also, the views from these places are simply spectacular.
Some of the other spots visited are Saint Bartolomé, a well-known peak featured on postcards and magazine covers, a sight you most likely wish to capture with your camera. Swimming in the red sand beach of Rábida island, hiking up to the highlands of Santa Cruz island and watching lumbering giant land turtles are additional attractions.
It would require too many pages to describe this unforgettable experience. Sufficient to say that the Galápagos are a true paradise, where you shall discover animals and sea creatures you have never seen before and where you may enter into a state of deep meditation while hiking through paths across a countryside where nature still retains its original feeling.
Exploring Galápagos, in sum, is a rare privilege that you ought to enjoy at least once in your lifetime. Why not enjoy it on board a ship that offers so much more than you can imagine?