Animal magic moments

The Galapagos are a 'Mecca' for wildlife enthusiasts and should be visited at least once in a lifetime. The variety of marine, land and avian species here is staggering. Visiting this natural wonderland will easily rank as one of the best trips I am ever lucky enough to go on. As I am passionate about marine life, I decided that the rainy season would be the most suitable time for me to go. Even though the risk of downpours is higher, the sea at this time of year is warm, so you can go snorkelling without the need of a wetsuit. The first snorkelling site at Plaza Island set the standard for the rest of the week. Here I was lucky enough to get the chance to swim with marine turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, sting rays and white tip sharks, something that became the 'norm' as the week went on.

The waters lapping the Galapagos Islands are full of delightful wildlife surprises. One of the most memorable highlights for me was a brief but close encounter with a Hammerhead shark, which was one of the animals I had been hoping to come across. To be so close to this large predator was absolutely thrilling. But the most unexpected moment occurred while I was admiring an eagle ray; I turned around and found myself in front of a school of these beautiful creatures gracefully swimming past me like a flock of birds in slow motion. Absolutely magical.

But the life on land is just as exciting. Here I had the chance to admire giant tortoises, land iguanas, playful sea lions and many species of birds, including some that are endemic. Galapagos penguins, Darwin’s finches, blue and red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Waved albatross, Magnificent and Great Frigate birds all frequent the islands and are easy to spot.

Everywhere you look, thriving wildlife abounds. The rainy season had triggered the plants to burst into a flourish of verdant greenery on most of the islands. However, each island of the Galapagos has its own identity and Punta Espinoza was steadfastly refusing to go green, preferring instead to persist with a lunar landscape punctuated by a few cacti. This island has a surreal feeling; it’s almost like being somewhere near Mordor in Lord of the Rings.

This amazing trip would not have been possible without the experienced crew, an enthusiastic leader and the Cachalote – our wonderful two-mast motor/sailing vessel. The crew has been crossing the archipelago on the Cachalote for the last 9 years and their experience was clear to see. The captain has an excellent knowledge of routes, the marine geology of the area and the local weather patterns. Miguel and Angel the second and third in command are both extremely skillful with the Pangas (rafts with motor) and in spotting marine wildlife. Nestor the engineer spends up to two hours at a time in the engine room - the noisiest and hottest (but also most important) room on the boat.

We were very well looked after on the boat. Pedro - the proficient chef  - managed to whip together tasty three-course meals for 16 clients and seven staff three times a day, in a kitchen which is 7 x 4ft. Quite impressive!!!! Richard - our steward - looked after the cabins, the bar and the table service all in an impeccable and efficient manner. He is famous for his bar tending skills, particularly for producing refreshing Capirinas (alcoholic drink with cachaza and fresh limes) just in time for sitting on the deck to watch the sunset over the sea.

And of course - the hero of the holiday - our aptly named leader, Darwin Alvarez. He is a young, passionate naturalist guide who shared his knowledge of the Islands’ geology, flora and fauna and human history and expertly explained the delicate equilibrium which allows this unique habitat to survive. He helped to make our trip to this magical place absolutely outstanding. I had reached my wildlife ‘Mecca’; it will be hard to beat.

Matteo Carri  Exodus Web Sales Consultant

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