Is there anything more magical than getting the opportunity to spend 5 days on board a sailboat in the tropics of South America? I was lucky enough to travel around the Enchanted Islands onboard of one of the best Galapagos cruises: the Mary Anne yacht. Keep reading for some of the highlights of this unforgettable trip.
The Mary Anne yacht is a luxury, three-mast motorized boat that travels the islands in style- with 12 cabins, a lounge, bar and sun deck, and kayaks for exploring off the coasts when anchored.
Even though my program was short, it was really complete; the itinerary navigated through the best of the central islands including Bartholome, Santa Cruz, Rabida, and Chinese Hat-plus an incredible visit to Genovesa Island.
The journey started with a flight from Quito to Galapagos, arriving to Baltra airport. The excitement elevated when crossing the Equator line from the sky –it was a really amazing feeling. After touching down at the Baltra airport I quickly realized how many other people were also thrilled to explore the unique environment of the Galapagos Islands.
At the airport, I was met by our charming guide Nadine Graziani, and introduced to the others who would join me on my journey. It was a small but very diverse group -intrepid travelers from Spain, the US and the UK, Sweden and Peru would be my family for a couple of adventurous days.
We soon found ourselves at the port and the Mary Anne yacht came into sight… a 60-meter sailboat with a fantastic captain and crew who welcomed us onboard with a piña colada.
I would like to say that the accommodation on this luxury Galapagos cruise was better than I could have imagined, there was always a great deal of delicious food from the talented kitchen, and the entire crew endeavored to provide the best level of service during the entirety of the trip.
One of the best things about being onboard the Mary Anne sailboat is that everyone really cared about our experience- the services that the captain and crew provided both on and off board were amazing. I really think that our great guide as Nadine is definitely a must-see was quick to point out the animals of the islands and made sure that everyone was looked after.
Every night we had a briefing of all the species that we saw while exploring. It was really helpful and fun to share our experiences at the end of the day while gearing up for the next leg of the journey the next morning.
Our first trip onboard the Mary Anne yacht was to Black Turtle Cove. We visited the mangroves of the secluded spot in a panga ride, only to find brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, yellow warblers, sea turtles, rays and more. Boats are asked to turn off their motors when in the cove-bringing a connection with nature to light and setting the stage for the rest of the voyage.
To finish the active day I watched the first paradisiac sunset of many from the bow of the boat-a great introduction to a luxury Galapagos cruise and something I will never forget.
The next day we woke up very early in the morning and had already arrived at our next destination: Genovesa Island. If you are interested in birdlife: This is the place, this is the paradise!
There were colorful, exotic birds everywhere you looked! We saw lovely chicks, frigate birds, Galapagos doves, lava gulls, short-eared owls, Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, and blue-footed boobies nesting, feeding, and learning how to fly.
A visit to Genovesa Island is a fun combination of bird-watching (don’t forget your binoculars), hiking and also snorkeling at Darwin Bay.
The bay is a wonderful & peaceful place to explore the underwater world of the Galapagos Marine Reserve– with lots of marine life-even white-tip reef sharks. It was the first time snorkeling that I experienced this, and I was just amazed! After dinner, the boat started sailing-these journeys can seem long at times, it is recommended that you take some seasickness pills and rest after the full day of activities while enjoying the camaraderie of your fellow travelers.
The third day we went on excursions to Bartholome Island in the morning and Chinese Hat (sombrero chino) in the afternoon. We hiked and snorkeled all day, so once again a very active adventure – great fun!
Bartolome Island is such an amazing place, one of the most recognized sights in the Galapagos Islands. During our visit, it was a very sunny and clear day and we could see the neighboring islands from the island’s viewpoint.
The hike to reach the viewpoint is a bit long, but when you get to the highest point on the island, the landscape is unbelievable-overlooking the beach, Sullivan Bay and its iconic Pinnacle Rock, where Galapagos penguins gather to feed in the nearby waters.
During the second trip of day three, we sailed for two hours and found ourselves on the shores of the small island of Chinese Hat, off the coast of Isla Santiago.
Only smaller boats are allowed to moor here, making this a secluded spot where the marine life of the islands is in full effect. It was particularly easy to snorkel here, so if you are a beginner this is a good place to practice.
During our time in the water, we had the incredible opportunity to see lots of sea lions swim with Galapagos penguins, and lots of colorful reef fish like parrotfish, flounder fish, trumpet fish, and many others including starfish.
Next stop on the itinerary – Day 4 – we visited Rabida Island, which has a red sand beach due to the presence of iron in the area’s volcanoes. This is a very stunning, surreal landscape and a great place for pictures and birdwatching-pintail ducks and both blue footed and Nazca boobies live here.
The next part of the day was an amazing afternoon at Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island, where marine and land iguanas are everywhere you look. During our visit, we also saw two Galapagos snakes and lots of sally lightfoot crabs along the path.
Did I mention that there is an abundance of Palo Santo trees and cactus in the area? The views and the scenery are very special here; catching the sunset from the distant vista was one of the breathtaking highlights of the day.
Sadly the fifth day arrived and after packing and having one last delicious breakfast we said goodbye to the great crew and captain, and we were transferred to the El Chato Reserve on Santa Cruz Island. Before catching a flight back to the mainland, we learned much about giant tortoises, the environment, and had a bit of a wander around the nearby town of Puerto Ayora and its shops, restaurants, and waterfront market.
The cherry on top of the pie for this luxury Galapagos cruise was that after one fun-filled day, the Mary Anne raised her sails during an evening’s epic orange sunset. We all felt like pirates traveling in Darwin’s footsteps!
For those who want a classic adventure into the natural sights and sounds of the Galapagos Islands, the Mary Anne yacht is a great option that makes the most out of your time in the archipelago. For more information and expert advice about the Mary Anne yacht and other luxury Galapagos cruises or land tours, contact a member of our team.
Paola is a member of the Happy Gringo sales team and was kind enough to write a review of her experience when traveling to the Galapagos Islands. She is an active explorer, with a knack for finding our clients the right fit for their trip.