I've been on many Exodus holidays but this one was something special. A cruise on a lovely ship like the Cachalote would be fantastic anywhere, but among the scenery and wildlife of the Galapagos it's unbeatable.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Swimming with a sealion at Sombrero Chino.
A passage under sail between Sombrero Chino and Isla Rabida.
Seeing a newly-hatched baby tortoise at the breeding centre in Puerto Villamil.
Cruising with dolphins into Elizabeth Bay.
Penguins and a cormorant swimming alongside my kayak at Tagus Cove, completely unafraid.
- What did you think of your group leader?
In Quito, Gloria was efficient about organising transfers and other logistics. She left us on our own for the free day, but the hotel staff were very helpful with advice about places to see and areas to avoid in the city.
In the islands, our guide and leader David was first class. Very friendly and helpful, got on well with everyone, and he organised our visits ashore and other activities without ever being pushy or leaving us feeling we didn't have enough time. He was extremely knowledgeable about the landscape and wildlife, but also admitted when he didn't know something and often came back to you later on with an answer. He really did his best to make sure we had a good holiday and experienced as much of the islands as possible.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Don't take too much luggage on the ship. A soft holdall is far better than a hard case as there's little storage space in the cabins. You mostly go barefoot on the ship, but walking sandals are good for wet landings, and a pair of good trainers or walking shoes for longer hikes on the islands. Lightweight clothing is best, but include some long sleeves and long trousers and a hat for sun protection. A light waterproof is recommended but you are unlikely to need it more than once or twice.
Go prepared to do lots of photography! I took 1500 images in a week. However, a medium telephoto zoom is good enough, as you can get really close to all the wildlife. On our trip David took pictures of the group during the day's activities, and each day ended with a briefing about the next day and a slide show. He copied the pictures to our own cards at the end of the trip, so bring plenty of memory.
Take some medicine for seasickness with you if you think you might suffer, although none of us did. Sleeping on your back is the most comfortable when the ship is under way, as you just move with it rather than fighting the motion while lying on one side. Getting into the top bunk while the ship is rolling requires some agility!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was very pleased to see the standards of environmental protection that were applied on this trip.
The Galapagos is a very special place, and tourism is tightly controlled in order to protect the environment and the unique wildlife, much of which is endangered. We were expected to follow the rules, keep on paths, not get too close to or touch the animals (no matter how tempting!) and wash our shoes after each trip ashore to avoid contaminating the next place visited. The Cachalote is also certified to high standards of environmental protection in terms of waste disposal and minimum impact.
These rules do slightly restrict your freedom, but it's a necessary price to pay to ensure the islands are protected for the future.
If you think you want to go, then go. You won't regret it!