An Active Trip for the Luxury Minded on the Silver Galapagos
As a Luxury Travel Agent, I did all the research and I knew what we were going to see and do on our seven day cruise to the Northern and Central islands of Galapagos on the Silver Galapagos. Still, there were those surprise experiences only those willing to go to the islands themselves will experience.
Surprise #1: The overwhelming feeling of astonishment.
There is no way to truly describe the feeling you have when, rounding a corner in the “trail” and breaking through the bushes into a “clearing” when you come upon a nesting area for literally dozens and dozens of various kinds of seabirds. The sound of them cooing, cawing, calling and flapping their wings all at the same time is so otherworldly, you would swear you had just time traveled to the Cretaceous period!
Surprise #2: The animals don’t even know what you are.
Picking your way through the scree and lava rock “paths” (Ha, ha. There are no real paths here- so bring your walking sticks!), large land iguanas don’t even move their tails out of your way. Sea lions may turn their heads to look at you perhaps, while carrying on with their “barking”, nursing and lolling all about. All of the animals are so unafraid of you that you can get face to face or even nose to nose with nearly any one of them, but I don’t recommend it, They are generally a bit smelly close up, or could decide to bite you. Our Guide (your constant companion) as dictated by Galapagos park rules, will instruct you to stay your distance.
Surprise #3. I was extremely comfortable, even though I was sailing on an “expedition” ship
(and I am a Princess, so that is saying a lot).
The food was very good on the ship. The beds were dreamy and the pillows were comfortable. Each cabin had our own butler and the service was quite good. Why should that be a surprise? Well, it’s an expedition ship, after all. My reading about expedition vessels had prepared me for a rougher go of it on board. Silversea has upped the ante – taking its expedition vessel to standards unexpected in Galapagos waters. No, you will not find seven restaurants to choose from, nor is there a casino or any nightly big name entertainment on board as most luxury liners – but that’s precisely the point. Silversea has mastered the art of obtaining the necessary comforts while not sacrificing one bit of adventure.
Surprise #4. The water is really cold!
I brought a “rash guard” as instructed by Silversea, which was actually more like a light weight dive suit to wear under the full length dive suit that Silversea assigns to you while on board. But even then, be prepared for chilly water. I took my underwater pics, swam with the sea lions, and couldn’t wait to get out of the water to warm up in the sun. Others, more toughened to the elements than I, will not notice the cold. But if you are sensitive or have little body fat, be sure to bring an under layer of warmth to go under the dive suit.
Surprise # 5, Daily death and suffering abounds here.
I’m not going get specific, but you will see real life, real world sans civilization here. That means witnessing the food chain in action, the full cycle of life and death and the mercilessness of the natural world. Life finds a way, even on these glorified rocks called the Galapagos, but not without some suffering and death. Which is why it’s a great “gratitude check” for all who come here of how lucky we are to live a life outside the bounds of such a place. Thank you ancestors, for crawling out of the primordial slime and building condos (with indoor plumbing).
Surprise #6. Babies, babies, everywhere.
The object of all life in the Galapagos seems to make more of itself in the face of so many obstacles. The guides will educate you on the trends of El Nino (which have cut the numbers of sea lions dramatically) and all the other myriads of hazards that trim and then swell the population of animals you see. Everywhere you look there are parents rearing young. Eggs to hatch. Pups to raise. And all the babies are so darned cute. Nature even makes Sally Light Foot crabs look cute, so maybe we will be careful not to step on them?
Things That Did Not Surprise Us:
- How well we got along. The memories we made together will last for a lifetime- a cliché I know, but in this case, it’s absolutely true.
- Economy air from Chicago to Quito Ecuador was just fine. Here’s why. It’s only a 2 ½ hours from Chicago to Miami. Then you have a short layover. You hop on for the second leg to Quito and that’s only 5 hours travel. Time it so that you travel during day light hours and you won’t even miss the fully reclining first class seats. Well maybe you will, so if you have the points or the cash to spare, why not go first class instead? But we elected to do the economy and it was not a struggle one bit, and I am a princess remember. There is no time difference from Chicago, no jet lag. Yeah!
- I saw all the other competitors’ ships from the deck of the Silver Galapagos. They all go to roughly same places to dock. For example, in Santa Cruz there were at least 6 of them in the harbor. When choosing your vessel to travel on in the Galapagos, it’s going to be the quality of the guides that make the difference to you, and then it will be the style of the ship suiting your personal style and expectations.
- Swimming with the sea lions WAS one of the highlights of the trip! I didn’t even care about the cold water.
- Yes, there’s nothing to do at night on the ship, but who cares? You better get to sleep early because the excursions on the zodiacs start early! You won’t want to miss any of them!
- Go now. Before it’ gone. I don’t mean literally gone, more like “not in its present unpolluted state of natural perfection” gone. There is much economic pressure on the Ecuadorian government now, after both the recent earthquake and the sharp decline in oil prices. You never know what they will be forced to do to meet expenses. There is a rumor that they may open the islands up to more land based resort development (there are only two there now). There are rumors about the need to take investment money from China and elsewhere to pay for the cost of repairs related to the earthquake. Which, if true, will be added pressure towards further development.
If there were a tag line for the Galapagos, it would be “Life will find a way”. But perhaps not forever.
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