I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands and after friends of mine travelled there in recent years and sent me very positive reports it made me even more eager to travel there. One such friend recommended Stephanie Kitchin at ‘Into Latin America’ as she had organised my friend’s hotels, transport and boat in Galapagos – everything went exactly according to plan and the whole holiday was a huge success. I therefore followed in my friend’s footsteps and made contact with Stephanie at ‘Into Latin America’.
The Galapagos were my main reason for travelling to Ecuador. And they did not disappoint. I opted not to finish my holiday in Peru but to do 2 weeks instead of one week in Galapagos. This enabled me to see everything there is to see in this magical part of the world. During the first week I sailed round the Eastern Islands and in the second week the further Western Islands. Different islands have different things to offer. For instance I saw lots of the Nazca and Red footed Boobies in the first week and Blue footed Boobies and flamingos in the second week. I saw Frigate birds (the male of the species has the bright red pouch to attract females) on their nests during both weeks. Snorkelling was best in the first week due to calmer waters yet I saw more turtles swimming during the second week. I saw Whitetipped Reef Sharks (max 1.6 metres long) during both weeks. We saw about six of these sharks come within a metre of the shore on one beach were were at. The landscape of each island is different. They are all volcanic but the younger islands are lava rock with little to no vegetation but with insects and lizards, including Marine Iguanas, while older islands are very green and some support the fascinating Giant Tortoises and Land Iguanas.
There are about 90 boats visiting the islands at any one time. They are restricted where they go and the authorities authorise routes so they are not all at the same site at any one time. We usually shared the site with on average one other boat. I chose the ‘Mary Anne as I am a single traveller and it is the only one that does not ask for a heavy single supplement. It is also an old fashioned barquentine ship although it was launched in 1997. I absolutely loved her and did not want to disembark at the end of my two weeks. The cabins were a pleasant surprise, being bigger than I expected and the bathroom was well designed with a good mirror and lots of cupboard storage space compared to one towel rail and no cupboards in the Manatee bathroom. there were bunk beds so i could use the top bunk to lay out clothes although there was a wardrobe hidden in an awkward place behind the bathroom door. I would describe the cabins as basic but comfortable. If I was after luxury then this would not have been the vessel for me. The communal lounge and dining room were kept immaculately tidy at all times. Briefings were sometimes held here and sometimes on the stern outside deck. This was a great meeting place where we were greeted with snacks and drinks each time we embarked the voyage after an excursion to one of the islands. Sometimes the tables were laid with dinner mats and even candles at night so we could have our meals here under a canopy for shade for lunch and without it for diner so we were under the starts which are so bright due to lack of light pollution. I had to pinch myself on many occasions during this fortnight just to check I really was living this and not just dreaming!
Each morning and afternoon we were helped onto the ship’s pangas (zodiacs) by a wonderful crew who looked out for your safety at all times. Our naturalist and guide accompanied us to all our destinations giving us full information about what we were seeing. We sometimes went deep water snorkelling from these pangas or for more shallow snorkelling from the beach. most days we did two lots of snorkelling a day. For most of us this was one of the highlights – I couldnt get enough of the underwater wildlife with seals, shooting up from below to play with you. One passenger had a seal on each of his fins (flippers) but they left no marks and only held on lightly. Sometimes huge shoals of fish or twenty golden rays swam right below you or a a 2 metre turtle swam gracefully by just a foot or two away. However if you were not into snorkelling, the pangas took other passengers around the coast to look at all the birds and seals lying on the rocks.
The crew put up the ‘Mary Anne’s sails on average twice a week so you see what the ship feels like under sail, usually on a long daylight voyage, although most voyages between islands took place at night. They also raised the sails while we were ashore so we could photograph the ship from the pangas as we returned but they did not do this during the second week for some reason unbeknown to me. When you are on board you can help with raising the sails as I did on one occasion but you do not have to.