In the Steps of Darwin
Encounters with the friendly sea lions, colourful boobies and curious seals of the Galápagos Islands
By Liz Fleming
Nothing gets me out of bed at 5 a.m. – nothing other than a sunrise cruise expedition in the Galápagos Islands. The archipelago of tiny islands, 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador and draped directly across the equator, has a climate so hot that explorations can happen only in the early morning and late afternoon.
Though technically an expedition vessel, the 100-guest Silversea ship offered every luxurious touch you’d expect from an ultra-luxe cruise – and more. In addition to elegantly appointed staterooms, gourmet dining and top-flight tour leaders, the ship featured the most attentive butler service we’d ever experienced. At the end of each blazing day, when we returned to our suite looking as if we’d just left a sauna, a silver tray of dainty hors d’oeuvres and icy cold drinks awaited. Our steward was also waiting – eager to collect our sweaty gear. While we listened to a briefing from our guides and enjoyed dinner, the laundry wizards went to work, magically making fresh clothing appear in our closet before we returned. In a destination where you sweat through a T-shirt in minutes, it was the ultimate luxury.
We were following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin whose work in the Galápagos led to On the Origin of Species, the 1859 publication that challenged the long-held belief that all living things were created in a finished form by a divine being. Darwin rocked the scientific and religious establishments by arguing that members of the same species, living on islands with different geographical features, adapted to their surroundings and developed specific, distinct characteristics.
That discovery changed the world. Today, more than 97 per cent of the Galápagos Islands are parklands – a UNESCO World Heritage Site where access is tightly controlled. The number of visitors is limited and wildlife is protected. Though the rules require a strict two-metre gap between viewers and the viewed, Galápagos creatures have no fear of humans. Brazenly ignoring all restrictions, they land beside you, wriggle over or wander up to have a sniff of your shoes. It’s heart-stopping and mind-boggling every time it happens.
On one rocky island, a flock of male frigate birds performed for us, puffing out their huge red chests in a mating frenzy until a single, unimpressed female flitted away, leaving them to deflate like punctured balloons. On another jagged shoreline, a shimmering rock we were passing suddenly opened its eyes and revealed itself to be an enormous marine lizard. Blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies preened and called to us from the trees, flaunting their bright feet.
We swam in clear, warm water, surrounded by schools of technicolour fish, playful seals and sea lions who made us members of their team, gliding and swooping around us. When we pulled ourselves out onto the sand, so did they, lying beside us like a bunch of teenagers at the beach. Other days, centenarian tortoises lumbered across a volcanic landscape while nesting albatrosses wandered casually across our feet to climb into their nests.
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OUR EXPERTS SUGGEST...
The new Silver Origin
One of the most elegant ships to sail in the Galápagos, the 100-passenger Silver Origin has been purposefully built with these islands in mind. It allows guests to experience a luxury expedition to this nature lover’s dream destination.
Onboard, guests can expect to enjoy the destination through Ecuadorian cuisine and incredible views from the Explorer Lounge and Observation Platform before heading to the interactive Basecamp, a “knowledge lounge” also serving as the meeting point for excursions. From the adjacent marina, you can hop on a Zodiac with expert guides certified by the National Park of the Galápagos to get acquainted with the local fauna and flora. After a busy day of discovery, head back to the unparalleled luxury of your suite with butler service and relax on your glass-horizon balcony or private ocean-view shower. Mindful travellers will also be happy to know that the ship uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure the lowest possible carbon footprint and protect the delicate ecosystem.
The Origins of Discovery with Sliversea Origin - Galapagos 2021-2022 Itineraries
If you’re already dreaming of this bucket-list-worthy vacation, reach out and set up a consultation today. We will be with you every step of the way.
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