Jonathan Tapia is a member of Happy Gringo’s sales team; keep reading for his first-hand account of a wonderful 8-day Galapagos cruise aboard the Galaxy Yacht.
An experience of a lifetime came true for me past November 16th, 2019 when it came my time to explore the amazing Galapagos Islands. I had the opportunity to enjoy an 8 day trip through the western islands on the always highly praised Galaxy yacht. Since I was a young boy I had the chance to travel to many different parts of the world but this trip was truly like no other!
So, I invite you now to relive with me this amazing adventure…
The Galaxy yacht is by experience one of the most recommended boats in the Galapagos Islands and I was quickly able to realize why. It is simply a great luxury boat that combines impressive onboard comfort, and attentive crew service. The boat itself has a great appearance from the first moment you see it. It is super well taken care off and you can tell right away you will feel as comfortable as ever! Once onboard you can see the large living room which is a social area where you can relax and read up about Galapagos when choosing from their big variety of books. There is enough room in this living room for every passenger and crew so this is always the guide’s preferred spot to give great briefings before and after each activity. On the same main deck, you also have 4 dinner tables where you can get to share quality mealtime and get to know the other people on board.
It was very hard getting to choose just one social area that was my favorite, but I would say the sundeck wins! This area located at the very top of the boat is just amazing and was the best place to be in when sailing the Galapagos for the views and the chilled-out ambiance. All of us really enjoyed being up in the sun deck relaxing, having some refreshing juice, and with our cameras ready to take landscapes of a lifetime or passing wildlife! The volcanic sceneries were just superb and the wildlife spotting for dolphins, mantas and whales were so exciting!
Regarding the actual accommodation, this yacht has a wide variety of cabins that are located on different decks. There are 3 cabins located on the upper deck, 3 on the main deck, and 2 on the lower deck. They all have some great wide windows and the cabin itself was very spacious. The amenities in each cabin are great, such as temperature control of the air conditioning, 3 different room towels, hairdryer, toiletries, and a safe deposit box – additionally a complimentary water canteen and a notepad so you can write down all the highlights of your trip.
I spent 7 nights in one of the two lower deck cabins, and I have to say I enjoyed it very much. The overall cabin accommodation was as nice as the main and upper deck cabins, the porthole was good enough for me – quite frankly I spent time in my cabin just to rest, sleep and shower. I do want to point out that you can feel any occasional sea movement much less on the lower deck.
One of the very best things about the Galaxy Yacht experience was the onboard crew and guide. They are a great onboard family that makes you feel right at home as soon as you step aboard the boat. The guide waits for you at the airport so I felt very safe about the whole trip as soon as I arrived at Galapagos and met him. Since the very first moment our guide, Juan, made me feel like this is going to be a trip where I will not only learn about all things Galapagos but also make new friends! Sincerely Juan is the most knowledgeable guide I have had the pleasure to tour within all of Ecuador. He went above and beyond to make sure we got the most out of each day, and that everyone in the group had the happiest of times.
I took the opportunity to really get to know everyone from the crew, and get to know about their day to day lives. Everyone from the staff is so caring and passionate to make this experience a once in a lifetime! Every single person was amazing, but I have to say that the hostess/bartender Dianita was extra special! She simply makes everyone feel as comfortable as possible and ensures that all details are perfect for everyone to get along during the trip.
I have always believed that the most important factor for a great trip to the Galapagos is defined by its itinerary – and I have to say that this trip definitely proved it to be true. Of course, any Galapagos trip is a nature and wildlife paradise for all passengers, but if you are looking for the best then this western loop itinerary goes over the top. The wildlife spotting is very easy, everywhere you look you can see native species and enjoy the wonderful volcanic landscapes. The crystal-like turquoise waters make this area paradise for snorkeling lovers – even if you are not an expert, like me, it just takes simple instructions to see so much!
To start off any trip in Galapagos I believe it is important that you get a nice introduction to the national park and also all its efforts done for wildlife conservation, this trip did just that. We began with a great visit through the Santa Cruz Highlands and then the Charles Darwin Station. Here we already got a good idea of why Galapagos is so important to the world! Even though you are in Puerto Ayora on the first day you can still see nice animals like sea lions, iguanas and Galapagos finches.
After an overnight navigation to the west, we began to explore Isabela Island. Endemic animals like the Galapagos penguin are very common to see on the western side, but I was still blown away to see them at the very start of my second day of the trip!
At Tintoreras and Punta Moreno we were able to enjoy soft hikes and a calm panga ride that allow you to get up and close to animals like the blue-footed booby, frigate birds, pelicans, sea lions and see some pretty big white-tipped reef sharks.
During days 3 and 4 we explored Isabela from south-west to north-west, while also getting to Fernandina Island. Visiting Elizabeth bay on a panga ride was especially exciting for me, as a Galapagos junkie I was well aware that this was the best place to see the largest colony of Galapagos penguins. Well, all that I read was true – it took just minutes to see more penguins than I could point my camera at! In the skies, we could also see Nazca boobies, which have a peculiar “black mask” that makes them look very interesting. The number of marine iguanas that we saw was overwhelming – there were everywhere on the sandy beach and rocks on Urbina bay and Espinoza Point. One of the best places that we visited was Tagus Cove, which simply had the best landscape of the whole trip and was a crowd favorite – I have to say the look of the lake you can capture here is only comparable to Quilotoa lake in the high sierra region of mainland Ecuador.
To wrap up the visit to the western islands, I have to talk a little bit more about Fernandina island. I visited Espinoza point, which was crawling with marine iguanas diving down under the waves to capture algae to eat. The sea lions that surround this area give you a really unique welcome in – they bark so loud that you can hear them from the yacht itself! It is also the perfect spot to see flightless cormorants; I was lucky enough to see them interacting with each other looking for a mating partner. Fernandina is not only special because of its wildlife but also because of the black lava formations. Fernandina is the youngest island of all the Galapagos, and it shows when you see and touch such well preserved geological formations.
The last 3 days of the cruise I spent discovering some of the highlights found in the central islands of Santiago, Rabida, and North Seymour. Rabida is very memorable as we spent time on a lovely red sanded beach with sea lions. Close to the shore, there is also a lagoon where we saw 4 flamingos super close to me, we even got to see them fly around the shore too. After a short hike I did some of the best snorkeling on this trip in super calm waters with great visibility, swimming next to sea lions, turtles and many colorful fishes. I am not a very good swimmer, but from above I was able to take glimpses of sharks that were right below me! Overall I got to enjoy 6 different snorkeling activities and they were all very special. To finalize the trip, I got to visit the Chinese hat, which in fact does look like a traditional Chinese hat from any angle you look at it. Here I was very happy to get up and close to newborn baby sea lions – they were just as cute as you can imagine!
So, as you were just able to read – this trip was the true Galapagos experience. I have never ended a trip so happy and not only because of the things I got to take pictures of but also because of the experiences that will be with me forever. I can’t wait to be back here again, so if you have the chance to visit South America don’t even think about missing out on a trip to Galapagos!