Why we recommend experiencing the Galápagos by boat
Before my trip to the Galápagos Islands, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. However, the truth is, nothing will prepare you for this incredible place. Situated around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these isles are a must-visit for any nature lover. Their isolation and the ongoing seismic and volcanic activity there has led to them being known for their abundance of rare and unique wildlife. Indeed, the Galápagos has more endemic species than any other part of the world and was the source of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. There is so much to see both on land and underwater – and in my opinion, there is nowhere better for a truly immersive wildlife experience.
I am a strong believer that the best way to explore the Galápagos is by boat. This enables you to take your time on each island, enjoying the vast array of flora and fauna that each one has to offer in utter tranquillity. There are two crucial factors when choosing your vessel: the guide-to-passenger ratio and the boat’s sustainability. I was lucky enough to spend four nights onboard the very comfortable Ocean Spray and experienced first-hand how much more you can learn from your naturalist guide in a smaller group – not only about the flora and fauna but also the conservation of the region.
In our rapidly changing world, it has become more important to me than ever to minimise my footprint I travel, particularly in such ecologically sensitive parts of the planet as the Galápagos. Ocean Spray is environmentally aware, offsetting all its carbon emissions through CanopyCo, an organisation dedicated to reforesting Ecuador to benefit the climate, empower communities and protect wildlife. It also supports the Simon Bolivar Volunteer Program, which supports health, environment and education projects.
What struck me most about the Galápagos was the fact that the animals there were not at all intimidated by our presence. I haven’t experienced this anywhere else on earth. Within a few days, I had snorkelled with sharks, stingrays, Galápagos penguins, sea lions and turtles, and all of them were happy for us to swim within a few feet of them. The terrestrial wildlife was also completely unafraid, and I saw giant tortoises, marine and land iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs and countless bird species, including magnificent frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants to name but a few.
A moment that stood out for me was a morning snorkelling with a raft of sea lions. There was one creature, in particular, who was completely fearless. I was initially quite apprehensive, as the friendly sea lion was getting so close, but soon, I realised he was completely harmless and simply wanted to play. My nerves turned into exhilaration and we spent almost an hour swimming along, with the sea lion doing laps around us and coming within centimetres of our underwater cameras.
It was an awe-inspiring experience – and one that I’ll never forget.