If you want to visit the Galápagos Islands, you are most likely interested in seeing the incredible wildlife and getting up close and personal with the resident birds, marine life, reptiles, and mammals. Most of the islands can only be accessed by water, which means to see the Galápagos you will be traveling by ship. For my trip I chose Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour II. I wanted to learn as much as possible about what I was seeing and experiencing, and I hoped to gain some insight on photography from one of Lindblad’s National Geographic certified photo instructors.
When you’re on one of the islands that make up the Galápagos archipelago, you would never guess the Islands receive over 250,000 visitors a year. Depending on the island within the Ecuadorian national park, there may be only 32 people at a time visiting the island, and they will always be accompanied by a licensed naturalist. There is no marker for time, few airplanes fly over, and there are no boats or kayaks littering the shore. At one point I remarked that it felt like we were in The Land Before Time. When visiting the islands, we were reminded not to bring any food from the ship and to not leave anything behind. We were visitors – a blip on the radar at most – and were to leave no trace.
Exploring the Galápagos Islands means you are most likely going ashore via Zodiac for either a “wet” or “dry” landing. Before stepping foot onto Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour II, all passengers were given instructions on the correct way to get into a Zodiac, and we were instructed on the etiquette and rules for Zodiac riding. Secure in our lifejackets, our first Zodiac ride was to embark on the Endeavour II, and our week-long cruise of arguably one of the most fascinating parts of our world had begun.
The 96-passenger Endeavour II was retrofitted for the Islands in 2016, and it was very comfortable. Galápagos itineraries are year-round cruises, and the exact routing of the islands depends on the Ecuadorian authorities. Their careful oversight ensures the islands are not overrun and adversely affected by people. We flew from Guayaquil (mainland Ecuador) 1.5 hours to San Cristóbal Island, the third largest island in the Galápagos, which is where we embarked. Immediately, I was impressed with the crew and staff on the National Geographic Endeavour II, who were mostly Ecuadorian. Their love and enthusiasm for the Galápagos was infectious.
For those who found extra time onboard, there was a spa, gym, library and the “Global Gallery” – a small shop with sales benefiting Ecuadorians. One of the most popular features of the ship was the self-service coffee machine. Most importantly for exploring the Galápagos, the Endeavour II was fully stocked with enough wetsuits and snorkels for everyone. And for those who wanted, there were kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and a glass-bottom boat for those who did not snorkel.
Then, our trip truly began. I will tell you more about our first day, and the days that followed, on the islands in my next blog post!