Guest blogger Larry Grossman shares his Galapagos voyage experience aboard The M/V Evolution.
Be inspired by this extraordinary journey in the Galapagos by THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.
Penguins and sea lions and whales, oh my! Clearly we weren’t in Oz, but had instead landed off the coast of Ecuador in The Galapagos Islands aboard the International Expedition’s M/V Evolution. For seven days, twenty Americans, two Canadians and three Peruvians shared an incredible journey in the world made famous by Charles Darwin in the 1800’s. Today, The Galapagos Islands are operated as a national park by Ecuador with over 225,000 visitors a year. If you love animals, both on land and under the sea, this is the voyage for you.
CAUTION: THIS IS NOT A SIT BY THE POOL AND SIP MARGARITAS VACATION.
No swimming pools, no bingo and not even a beach chair anywhere. If you’re looking for bars, nightlife and live music go to Cancún and skip this place. We hiked, we snorkeled, kayaked and then hiked again, this time over a field of black lava. Picture a Discovery Channel documentary, narrated by Richard Attenborough, populated with doe-eyed animals, closer in resemblance to Disney characters than wild animals. On our journey we encountered Sammy the lovable sea lion, Alfie the grumpy albatross, Toni the temperamental tortoise and Ichabod the evil iguana who spits salt water when you get too close.
After 7 days, 452 nautical miles and 20 panga (zodiac boat) rides we were worn out and giddy from all we had experienced. We visited at close range with giant tortoises, sea turtles, reef sharks, penguins, sea lions, birds of all kinds from the blue-footed boobies (a real species) to flamingos, and quite possibly the ugliest animal on the planet: the black and grey marine iguana. As if that wasn’t enough, we closed out the voyage with a salute from 5 orca whales, one of whom came within 5 feet of our panga. Clearly, these protected Galapagos animal residents had no fear of we visiting humans. It was their world and they knew that despite our abundance of cameras and binoculars pointed at them we were no threat. In fact, the sea lions seemed to take great pleasure swimming circles around the round humans stuffed in wetsuits wearing the funny glasses.
Kudos to our guides Christina and Boli (named after Simón Bolívar of course) and all the staff on the M/V Evolution for great customer service and great food. The M/V Evolution was a cozy place to hang out and get to know our fellow boat mates while learning important information about the volcanic Galapagos terrain and the indigenous animals (according to Christina, Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an albatross). We even got treated to an evening of Ecuadorian music and dancing with complementary shots of Caña Manabito, a local spirit.
This was my second International Expedition arranged through THIRDHOME and it won’t be my last (read more about Larry’s experience aboard the Peruvian Amazon Voyage). My suggestion to fellow club members is get to know Liz Bates, travel agent extraordinaire, and let her make your travel life easier. I’m old enough to remember a time before Expedia and Travelocity when travel agents ruled the travel world. There’s something very reassuring knowing it’s still possible to engage a real, live, breathing human being who can help plan and navigate a big trip from beginning to end. With Liz’s help I can keep whittling down my personal travel bucket list that is loosely based on the National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s “50 Places of a Lifetime”. 27 down so far!
Larry Grossman is a longtime THIRDHOME member and blogger with a home in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.