Gaga for the Galápagos
If you’re anything like me, you likely spent leisure time of adolescent years perusing iconic National Geographic magazines in search of natural phenomena, half-naked jungle tribes, and a milieu of animal kingdom photos. Those youthful fantasies of exotic adventure come to life through National Geographic Expeditions’ global collection of carefully curated travel experiences and cruises. The Galápagos Archipelago awaits.
Securing a fait accompli for those dreams of extreme exploration, the ideal
partnership of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions leverages their highly
regarded reputations into a riveting Galápagos Islands expedition cruise. Prior to
boarding the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II, guests are graciously
hosted overnight in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at the Hotel Hilton Colon, convenient for the
next morning’s early flight to the gateway airport on Baltra or San Cristóbal Island.
A brief and flawless embarkation procedure ushers arrivals onto this nautical base camp of invigorating excursions ashore. The onboard team of highly experienced naturalists exudes a contagious aura of enthusiasm, gleaned from their smiling exuberance and eagerness to share their love and knowledge of this obscure center of biodiversity. Even the aesthetics of the striking blue-hulled ship pay tribute to the spirit of the magazine, appropriately fitted with the hallmark yellow border. With emphasis on the destinations and the indigenous wildlife, there is little need for extensive entertainment or activities, as expert orientations and slideshows facilitate appreciation of the delicate ecosystems of the islands.
RELATED: Going, Going, Galápagos!
The ship’s observation lounge is an attractively appointed gathering point for
educational presentations and sweeping 270-degree views of the passing archipelago. A
well-stocked library provides ample opportunity for personal enlightenment, and as
might be expected, the ship offers cruise comfort in the form of spa services, at an additional cost, for total relaxation after a vibrant day of island interaction. The upper Observation Deck allows for
individual reflection and nighttime celestial views of the cosmic cinema of stars.
Spread over three decks, immaculate and modern designed cabins provide more
space than expected for an expedition ship, and category and configuration selections
appeal to every budget and whim. Meal times are open-seating affairs encouraging
casual conversations with newfound friends, reliving the experiences of the day.
Breakfast and lunch are offered as buffet-style presentations with dinners served by
attentive waiters. Menu preparation highlights locally sourced ingredients with an
emphasis on freshness and healthy living.
Notwithstanding the ship’s menu of amenities, the apex of the 7-day voyage is the complimentary exploration program. It’s not unusual to visit two port calls in a day and the cruise itinerary of captivating islands is chockablock with close encounters of the animal kind, reinforcing the biological diversity.
Hiking verdant highlands in search of giant land tortoises or traversing over volcanic lava fields paints a surreal backdrop of the Galápagos Island’s ever-evolving DNA.
Whether it’s a day of spotting blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, or a surprise viewing of flamingoes or whales, this is impromptu and authentic nature at its best.
To ensure these memories of a lifetime are captured in trophy-quality photos, the ship’s National Geographic-Lindblad certified photo instructors conduct complimentary seminars and instruction throughout the cruise. The photo instructors are part of the Expedition team aboard every expedition cruise.
In the spirit of engagement, complimentary snorkeling gear, paddle-boards, kayaks, and glass-bottom boats further the up-close exploration for active passengers.
Robust snorkeling in turquoise waters with playful sea lions, turtles or penguins adds to the thrills, and the lure of red, green, black, and pristine white beaches provides respite for the more sedentary inclined.
Ninety-six percent of the reptiles, 47 percent of the plants, and 37 percent of the fish are endemic to the Galápagos Islands, species only found on these frontier outposts. Human-viewing movements into their home territory go virtually unnoticed and are merely a sideshow for the indigenous inhabitants. As Charles Darwin noted, the Galápagos Islands are a world within itself. Navigation through this isolated archipelago reveals that world in an extreme and elevated realm. Despite their sometimes-stark landscapes, the islands pulse with life forms that have adapted to their surroundings in spite of obvious adversity.
Galápagos Has It All
This consummate exploration blurs the line between typical cruise pampering and a true expedition experience, exposing a divergent evolution proceeding alongside responsible tourism. There is no lack of comfort and no cutting of corners. The keen eye for detail and professional leadership of the guides prove to be a game changer, underscoring the brand’s esteemed status. Delivering on the promise of thrilling exploration, the confluence of National Geographic Expeditions’ global destinations and an indulgent cruise experience makes for a rare find.
By: Steve Leland
Interested in exploring The Galápagos Archipelago aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II or the National Geographic Islander? Click here to find out more.