Yes, I’m here, fulfilling a bucket list requirement at last, and it’s everything I’d hoped for. The animals, the weather, the seclusion…here you have it all. Endemic species, brilliant sunny equatorial days, no crowds. What more could I want?
Well, a cruise on a luxury yacht that once was home to Princess Grace of Monaco comes to mind. The M/Y Grace is outfitted for opulent expedition and there are only 16 passengers on board. The ship’s crew goes out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Hot chocolate served at the side of the Jacuzzi after a snorkel dive in the Pacific? Check. Thrice daily excursions with Park Naturalist guides? Check. Towels at the ready as soon as you shake off your life jacket? Check, check, and check.
This is an old vessel that has been refitted for modern duty, and they’ve done a splendid job of it. Quasar, the company that operates the ship, kept the intimacy and the dark-stained mahogany woodwork while upgrading the audio/video, climate control, and, of course, the safety equipment to create a unique yacht for these waters.
To get here, I had to fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador (from Orlando, one stop, no time change). From there, we arrive at San Cristobal airport, the fifth largest island in the chain, we’re taken to the ship, and it’s been our home ever since.
On day one, we see marine iguanas by the dozens, sea lions basking on the rocks, and blue-footed boobies lifting, and, it seems, comically inspecting their own strange appendages, not to mention lava lizards, falcons, and some spectacular cliffside scenery on Espanola Island. On day two, we snorkel with sea lions, black sea turtles, and an aquarium full of fish off of a sea cliff south of Floreana Island. On day three, we view Galapagos Tortoises lumbering through a cloudy green forest in the morning, and watch flamingos wade through a brackish lagoon on a desert island in the afternoon. On day 4, we swim with Galapagos Penguins, and on day 5, 6, and 7, we crawl through lava tunnels, kayak around sea caves, and jump straight off the ship into the cool blue water, and it’s all done in style.
I spend a week exploring these unique islands, and it isn’t enough time. I would gladly spend months if I could, or maybe a lifetime, if the Ecuadorian authorities would allow it. As it is, I’ll simply say it was magnificent, and I am very happy that I was privileged to see it.