Life in the Galapagos
We were tucking into our first lunch on board the Cachalote just after boarding and the guide was explaining the day's schedule when I caught movement in the sea out of the corner of my eye. Two of the group members facing that direction stopped chewing and pointed – “What the hell was that?” excitedly whispered one. As a wildlife philistine, my heart sank – perhaps I’d come on the wrong trip?
Fausto, our naturalist guide calmly lent down on the table to peer out of the window as we all craned our necks in the direction of the disturbance. Up it came again, a giant dark diamond shape leaping out of a wave and quickly crashing back down and disappearing. “Oh, it’s a manta ray jumping, we believe to try and shed parasites. It’s the season for that,” Fausto explained. Well, that was lunch pretty much ruined by this rude marine interruption as the group then all eagerly stared out to sea in the hope of catching another glimpse of another ray. They did. Lots. We also had plenty of other rude animal interruptions, during meals on board (pesky whales), talks (inconsiderate Orcas suddenly breaching just off-shore), walks (sea lions and tortoises blockading our route, the former always demanding attention) and snorkel trips (turtles and penguins obstructing my view of the fish). Much as I tried, there really was no escape from the wildlife activity amongst these islands.
Perhaps the highlight for me was waking up at dawn in Urbina Bay just off Isabela and coming up to deck to find the boat surrounded by five huge volcanic cones, hemming the sea in on all sides. For a bit, there was silence and no animals to be seen – well except for a few Frigate birds that had settled in the mast. The escape was only temporary – soon enough someone spotted a three-metre Galapagos shark off the bow, we saw a bait-ball feeding frenzy from the inflatable and then we were ashore and all fauna-hell broke loose.
If you want to avoid the interruptive animals in the Galapagos, I’d strongly suggest booking with another company - one that doesn’t follow our route around the far West of the Galapagos to the most pristine islands of Isabela and the still-volcanically-active Fernandina (it was here that the Orcas, whales and by far the biggest land iguanas showed up). Certainly whatever you do, fellow wildlife-haters, please don’t book onto our Galapagos Wildlife Cruise trip, one of the very few in-depth two-week cruises on the market.
However, if walking with giant tortoises, inquisitive sea lions, resplendently tame bird life and amongst the richest marine systems on the planet sound like your thing, then the Galapagos Islands are a must-see. Please do make sure you do them justice by heading to the western islands and if you only plan to visit once, do consider joining our two-week cruises, as nothing else will delve so thoroughly into this remarkable Eden.
By the way, I am now a full convert to wildlife holidays; I’m just back from a research trip in Sierra Leone… don’t go there if you don’t like chimpanzees!
By Dan Cockburn, Senior Product Manager
Dan travelled on travelled on the Galapagos Wildlife Cruise