DARWIN'S GUIDE TO THE NEW WORLD
A week in the Galapagos with Ecoventura
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. A perfectly fitting quote to describe our week discovering Darwin’s enchanted islands with Ecoventura. A week of pure and utter fascination and adventure.
Visiting Galapagos is more than just a holiday, it’s a gift that will forever change the way you understand and appreciate the Earth and its natural mysteries. Stepping on the ancient lava rocks and walking alongside thousands of endemic animals can only be described as a gift. The gift of discovering a part of the world still untouched, unchanged and unexploited. A land where animals are not afraid of humans, not having any reasons to be, giving us the privilege to set right beside them allowing for a sense of connection and empathy.
A week in Galapagos with Ecoventura brings the experience to the ultimate level of perfection. Onboard the first-class expedition cruise Eric we sailed across the archipelagos, reaching some of the oldest islands and waking up every day to a new landscape. Our minds expanded with every bit of information our expert naturalist shared while discovering the islands and their inhabitants. We swam with sea lions, marines iguanas and sharks. We spotted blue whales cruising by and dolphins swimming alongside our boat. We got up close with penguins, blue and red footed boobies, giant tortoises and sea turtles. We admired the sun setting while quietly sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Below is our travel diary of this unforgettable week.
After getting to know our vessel, the crew (who took care of our every need) and the Captain (who guided us expertly around the archipelago) we had the first taste of Galapagos fauna by visiting a breeding centre for giant tortoises on San Cristobal island.
The Ecoventura Eric is a first-class hotel on the water, where comfort is in every detail. All the luxuries are combined with a sustainable approach and respect for the delicate ecosystem. From the comfort of the cabins to the delicious dinner, it was clear from the first minute that we would have an unforgettable week. Before dinner our naturalist guides, Fabricio and Jose’, gave us the first briefing of the week, also taking us through the following day’s plan in detail.
The beauty of travelling by boat is waking up every morning in a new location, opening our cabin’s blinds and looking at an unknown landscape waiting to be explored. On our second day onboard we woke up in the crater island of Genovesa, a five-million-year-old island, which was once the crater of a volcano. The sea is of the most intense turquoise, glowing against the black lava cliffs. The island is famous for being home to thousands of birds who live and nest in between the vegetation.
Exploring this island is our first real encounter with the Galapagos wildlife. We were amazed at the animal’s behaviour of complete trust, so much so that not even birds fly away when we walked up to them. Blue and red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, & frigatebirds were all taking care of their newborn chicks. We saw them flying around and taking a break on the sandalwood trees and black mangroves. Looking in between the foliage we spotted fluffy white chicks sleeping in their nests, waiting to be fed. We even found an owl resting in between the cracks of the lava rocks, so close that we could look each other in the eye.
Our guides are a well of knowledge, providing us with fascinating information about the flora and fauna during our walks and never failing to amaze us with their experience.
Day 3 - Black Turtle Cove & Santa Cruz Island
On the third day, breakfast is made all more exciting by hundreds of blue-footed boobies frantically diving under our boat to catch their portion of a large school of sardines. What a way to wake up!
The marvellous world of Galapagos continues to show off by gifting us with unparalleled views during our panga outing in Black Turtle Cove where we spotted baby sharks, manta rays, golden rays and stingrays, hawksbill sea turtles (which are an endangered species), herons and blue-footed boobies.
We snorkel at least once a day during the week and it’s definitely our favourite experience. The underwater world of Galapagos is alive and rich with coral and plants that we have never seen before. There is so much happening around us, making every snorkel an exciting adventure.
Snorkelling equipment, including wetsuits, mask, snorkel and fins are provided by Ecoventura, along with delicious snacks once we get out of the water.
Back on land on Santa Cruz Island, we missioned out to look for Galapagos land iguana. We spotted them thanks to their beautifully burnt orange colour which stands out in between the almost fluorescent green vegetation.
Day 4 - Fernandina Island
It's not everyday when you see an ocean of black marine iguanas basking in the sun. Hundreds of them, perfectly camouflaged on the black lava rocks, sitting on top of each other in comical positions resembling affectionate hugs.
Another impressive sight is the giant tortoises who live in Urvina Bay, slowly moving around the islands and living up to 200 years.
We were also fortunate enough to see the erupting Volcano Sierra Negra on Isabela Island. A cone of smoke in the air and the red, incandescent lava covering the earth.
Day 5 - Tagus Cove
You know you had a stellar week in the Galapagos when, while from the top deck of the boat, you get to spot not one but two blue whales, the biggest animals on the planet. Seeing blue whales is a very rare event, so much so that it was the first time even for Fabricio, our naturalist who has been working in Galapagos for the past 36 years. The magic of the enchanted islands!
Day 6 - Santiago Island
During the previous days, we had the luck to swim and admire an incredible amount of underwater wildlife. From turtles and marine iguanas placidly eating algae to sea lions swimming and playing with us. Fishes of every size and colour and sea stars with funny names and shapes (like ‘chocolate chips’, yellow with blacks spikes, just like a cookie!). On the fifth day, we had the most unforgettable snorkel of the week. Finally, at Santiago Island, we spotted two whitetip shark gliding through the water looking for breakfast just below us. It is a very special experience to be able to swim in such a rich underwater world, a sign that the ecosystem is healthy.
Day 7 - Santa Cruz
Without much notice, the end of the week arrived. On the last day on Santa Cruz, we went out looking for more giant tortoises and spotted a vermilion flycatcher, which used to be extinct but has been spotted again lately. On the last evening, we left the boat for a dinner on the island. All together with our two guides, we enjoyed locally sourced lobsters (it was lobster season) while taking in the last moments of this wonderful and unforgettable time in.
Day 8 - San Cristobal
Sadly our adventures came to an end. After a visit to the Darwin Interpretation Centre, we had to say our goodbyes. We have gotten used to waking up to new landscapes every day, ready to learn, admire and discover. We will certainly miss the cosy cabins, delicious meals and perfect service. Most of all, we will miss being immersed and surrounded by so much natural beauty, memories that will forever stay with us. Some travels change you forever, for us this was one of them!
We leave Galapagos with an enhanced sensitivity to the importance of conservation and to the fragility this ecosystem. We are happy to know that there are people and companies like Ecoventura taking care of these special places through their relentless dedication and passion.
Ecoventura and sustainability
The Galapagos islands are one of the best protected natural habitats in the world. 97% of the national park is not accessible and of the remaining 3% only some parts are reachable by boat for tourism purposes. This is a confirmation of the importance of protecting this ecosystem and of the seriousness towards conservation applied by Ecuador and by the companies that operate in the archipelago.
Of these companies, Ecoventura is undoubtedly a pioneer with regards to sustainable tourism. If there is one proof of how embedded sustainability is within the company, it surely is the way our naturalist guides care about Galapagos. As they explain, there is no need for patrolling as they are the eyes of the national park, ensuring that the norms are respected by both tourists and other operators.
Ecoventura 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. Read more about Ecoventura sustainability programs here.
It was very inspirational for us to collaborate with an organization like Ecoventura, experiencing first hand the power of an aligned vision and mission put into action.