After several days of searching and bargaining with travel agents on Santa Cruz (one of the larger islands in the Galapagos) we finally decided on an 8-day cruise aboard Nemo I, a 25-meter catamaran. Waiting until the last minute gave us a substantial savings over the regular price of the cruise. The boat was composed of 3 levels. The below deck level was where the sleeping compartments, bathrooms, and engine room where located. The main deck level had a dining area on the aft, a indoor lounge area and kitchen in the middle of the boat, and netting with mattresses to relax on between the pontoons at the front of the boat. The third level was above the back third of the boat and had a space for the captain (and Lisa) to drive the boat as well as a sundeck with couches to relax on. The boat was very comfortable though it had a few service issues such as it only had hot water on one side of the boat (of course not our side) and the ventilation system had a strong musty odor to it.
During the 8 day trip we had vast amounts of time to get to know the other passengers on the cruise. We were lucky to have a wide variety of ages and personalities on our trip. The youngest passengers were Maya and Vivienne (who were 9 and 11 respectively) and the oldest were 3 passengers in their 70s. The large gaps in age weren’t barriers in conversations or participation in the daily activities. Vivienne was able to hold her own at dinner conversations even as topics delved into the future of medical research, the ethics of ecotourism, and rational versus emotional charitable giving and Maya became our tour guide’s favorite passenger to quiz on the information that he taught us each day. “Maya, what kind of bird is that?” or “Maya, how many eggs do marine iguanas lay?”. Many times the adults had no idea so we were glad Maya was there to field all of the questions for us. The more veteran members of the cruise didn’t shy away from hikes up volcanos or snorkeling in strong currents. We enjoyed all of the passengers and crew that we shared the boat with, and we were incredibly grateful to have shared this amazing experience with our friends Anthony and Sarah (the British/Irish couple who have been our travel partners for the past 5 weeks). A thanks again to Anthony for sharing his photos with us, many of the close-up shots of animals in this blog are his. Of the people that we befriended on the cruise, we especially enjoyed our time with Vivienne, Maya, and their parents Frank and Ana. We were so amazed and impressed that these parents were traveling with two relatively young children for several months through central and south america. The kids were extremely well behaved throughout the entire trip. This may be in part because they were on their best behavior or because they had so many people other than each other with whom they could interact.
All of our days on the boat were split into 2 sessions, morning and afternoon. The morning session always began with hiking on the island where we had anchored for the night. Sometimes the hike would take hours sumitting a volcano to see its crater and sometimes it would be a 2 hour nature walk. On the days with the shorter walks we would rush back to the boat, change into our snorkeling gear, and then go snorkerling along the side of the nearby island. After the morning sessions we would return to the boat for lunch and the captain would sail us to our next location. In the afternoon we would either hike or have a floating tour of the nearby coastline in the zodiak (a small inflated raft with outboard motor) if that area of island was protected and off-limits for tourists.
Touring the Galapagos is a truly unique experience. Animals treat the humans as if they were any other non-predatory animal. By this I mean that the birds, lizards, sea lions, and other animals don’t run when humans approach and sometimes even make a point to approach the humans. To protect the animals and prevent domestication or reliance on the human presence, the islands enforce a rule that tourists must remain at least 2 meters from the animals as much as possible. On many occasions this was impossible as iguanas that had found a great sunning spots in the middle of the trail and couldn’t be bothered to move, birds built nests above the trail, and the sea lion pups are like baby labradors and think people look like great fun to play with. It didn’t matter how many times it happened, watching people run as baby sea lions chased them along the beach always made the group laugh. The biodiversity of the Galapagos was stunning and continued to impress even on day 8 of the tour. The variety of birds, reptiles, and marine life is unparelled anywhere in the world.
The itinerary on Nemo I gave us a chance to see islands that were only accesable on a cruise and well regulated by the Galapagos authorities:
- Day 1: Monday AM – Transfer to Nemo I
- PM – North Seymour
- Day 2: Tuesday AM – Darwin Bay (Genovesa)
- PM – Prince Philips Steps (Genovesa)
- Day 3: Wednesday AM – Bartolome
- PM – Chinese Hat
- Day 4: Thursday AM – Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela)
- PM – Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza
- Day 5: Friday AM – Moreno Point (Isabela)
- PM – Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)
- Day 6: Saturday AM – Punta Espinoza (Fernandina)
- PM – Urbina Bay (Isabela)
- Day 7: Sunday AM – Puerto Egas (Santiago)
- PM – Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)
- Day 8: Monday AM – Daphne