By Plan South America Galapagos Specialist, Kendall Roberts
“Moored off the coast of Floreana Island, I plunged into the water, flippers and snorkel primed, to start blowing bubbles into the faces of six enchanting playful sea lions…
Moments like these are a regular occurrence in the Galapagos Islands, where a vast assortment of fauna roams free, protected by law and apparently unfazed by human visitors – in fact, they revel in socialising and you’ll find the underwater creatures to be the most relaxed as you swim near them.
Plan South America takes you away from the crowds for a more intimate experience of the increasingly popular archipelago. Whether it be by privately chartered yacht/ luxury catamaran or a land based expedition, our favourite experiences are those with just a few guests, a handful of doting staff members and several dedicated naturalist guides who always manage to take you to the right spot at just the right time for spectacular wildlife sightings.
With PSA’s expert guidance, you will have the chance to swim with sea lions, giant turtles and penguins (reef sharks and rays appearing as regular snorkeling buddies as well). If you’re lucky you might see a marine iguana speeding through the water on his way to grab some algae for dinner, dolphins racing against you to the your next island, in slalom with the bow, and humpback whales teaching their babies how to leap above the water surface, just feet away from your boat. In the Galapagos, we suggest always keeping an eye out for the unexpected!
Having spent just a week in the Galapagos, I was greeted by all these wonderful surprises and more. I couldn’t have imagined all that was in store for me. We’ve all read about Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, become familiar with his finches and snickered with our friends at the name of the beloved Blue Footed Booby. If you are a bit of a nerd (like myself), you’ve also watched several wildlife documentaries on the topic. Still, even all that knowledge can never prepare you for actually being there and seeing the miraculous islands and their extraordinary endemic species first-hand. The effect of the landscape alone is immediately breathtaking: volcanic craters juxtaposed by white sand beaches, colourful desert-like flora speckled with napping sea lions and their pups…
Your days in the Galapagos are full on to maximise on the adventures at your fingertips: morning treks, boat rides and beach landings, usually followed by swimming or snorkelling. You can also take kayaks out to explore in the mangroves, visit the town of San Cristobal or just take an afternoon to relax and read a book in the sunshine (because let’s face it, everybody needs a break at some point to reflect on all the excitement).
The best way to see as much of the Galapagos as possible is on a cruise. We will be sure to secure you a spot on the best small boats to ensure the experience is as intimate and flexible as possible. A 4/5-night cruise is ideal for getting a real taste of the islands, but we’d recommend 7/8 nights for nature enthusiasts and photographers, or indeed anyone who wants to break up the adventures with some R&R, surrounded by beautiful views. These cruises will take you beyond the regularly visited islands (accessible via day trips from land), up to the richly diverse Isabela Island or south to Española Island, home of the famous Albatross. To see it all? You would need a solid 2 weeks, and I hope you fair well on the seas if that’s your wish!
For those keen to remain firmly on dry-land, several stunning luxury hotels have cropped up in the past few years that are well worth the visit. Some cozy African safari-inspired retreats bring you closer to nature, while others stand as high-end works of art perched gloriously upon green hilltops promising stunning island vistas. Most Galapagos lodges have their own boats for day trips, but if you are looking for a special experience, don’t hesitate to ask our team of Galapagos specialists about different island-hopping options (Santa Cruz isn’t the only great spot to stay!).”