Ecoventura’s Origin and Theory
Journey to the Galápagos Islands
Much has been written and said about the Galápagos Islands but until you experience their magnificence, words simply fall short. The marvel of the pristine natural environment and uninhibited wildlife is simply breathtaking, but making the most of the expedition depends a great deal on the tour provider, how each island is introduced and the manner by which it is explored. The trip is more than a simple hop, skip and a jump – so for those who commit to traveling to the Galápagos, there’s simply no better way to go than on the luxurious Ecoventura yacht escape.
Ecoventura’s two 20-passenger mega-yachts, Origin & Theory, feature year-round tours through the tightly guarded archipelago. Both yachts travel in tandem, yet each maintains autonomy in terms of the itinerary and guest experience. On each ship, guests have access to a full-time concierge, a polite and friendly crew, skillful captains and the most knowledgeable and experienced guides in the industry.
Guests are assisted each time they disembark for a tour or activity and greeted each time they return by the captain and crew. The process is organized and efficient and regardless of each traveler’s physical fitness, they are safely supported on and off the boat.
Each evening there is a briefing in the lounge or on the upper deck and guests are given the next day’s itinerary and special instructions. Special announcements are made during the day over a ship-wide speaker system.
The cabins are on the lowest deck, immediately below the main dining room and living room. Staterooms are spotless and disinfected numerous times daily. The neutral décor is contemporary and offers enough storage for a week’s work of clothing. Floor to ceiling windows ensure that guests always have a view. Each room features a Nespresso espresso maker, deluxe robes and slippers, and a portable metal water bottle to take on excursions, since plastics are strictly prohibited on the islands.
The bathrooms are roomy by yacht standards and feature luxurious toiletries, walk-in showers, ample counter space and a large sink.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style in the main dining room, and a four-course plated dinner is offered with menu options from which to choose. Snacks are always available in the lounge and the coffee carafe is always full of fresh brew and ready to pour. Tea and hot chocolate are also available, and if something a bit stronger is desired, there is always an attendant nearby to mix a special drink.
The upper deck is vast and offers guests a 360-degree view of the ocean, dramatic sunsets and surrounding islands. There are lounge chairs, tables, a jacuzzi and an outdoor shower. There is a bar with an attendant who is always ready and willing to pour a drink. Mid-meal snacks and cocktails are often served on the upper deck as guests mingle and share photos from each day’s events.
A fitness center is available in the basement for those who believe they need more exercise after the island exertions, but you may opt for a nap as the ocean waves lull you to the best rest you’ve likely ever had.
San Cristobal/ Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
A short bus ride from the airport in San Cristobal brings you to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno where you’ll be met by cruise staff to take you on a Zodiac boat (panga to the natives…and to you by the end of Day 1) complete with its own safety protocol. You are provided with a lifejacket and shown the way you are expected to embark and disembark the pangas. Think a warm familial forearm grasp of your right arm to the crew on shore and left hand given to the panga driver waiting to assist you onto the gently rocking boat. The thing that strikes you the most here is how unconcerned the Galapagos sea lions are about humans. They are completely undisturbed by our presence. It is required to maintain a 6ft distance between any wildlife and yourself at any given time, but you’ll soon realize that you could get a lot closer and they wouldn’t blink an eyelid.
After lunch and an opportunity to refresh, fill up your water bottle, grab a sun hat and slather on the sunblock before heading out to the back of the ship on Deck 1 (cabin level) to board the panga to go back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here you’ll take a bus for your first land excursion of the week; a trip to El Junco. Once you arrive at the parking lot of El Junco, you will make your way about 700m to the top along a well laid path. El Junco is a volcanic crater lake, and is the only freshwater lake in the Galapagos Islands. It gets its name from the endemic plants that grow around the lake. The most extraordinary thing about this lake is not that it is 700 meters above sea level, but that it is more than 35,000 years old surviving the last ice age; although that’s pretty incredible, to think that you are viewing something that ancient.
You’ll find great Frigate birds diving down to take sips of water and skimming the water’s surface with their bellies as if they are washing their feathers on that part of their body.
The Galapagos National Park requires all tourists to always be in the presence of a guide; meaning you can never go off by yourself once you’re on an expedition to the island of the day. Ecoventura’s small yacht sizes mean they always maintain a maximum of a 10 to 1 ratio of guests to guides. You’ll find that these guides are passionate about the islands and have not just a wealth of knowledge but often an excellent sense of humor. Usually the guides live in the neighboring cities; however occasionally you might be lucky to get a guide who is actually from the Galapagos Islands.
Cerro Brujo and Punta Pitt
Cerro Brujo (Wizard Hill) is located on the north side of the island of San Cristobal. The lagoon is home to many a heron and egret and you can expect to see a sea lion or two sunbathing in the shallow waters. Sally lightfoot crabs (bright orange) can be seen scuttling in and out of the sand. Likely here is where you’ll get your first glimpse of the fabled marine iguanas endemic to the islands of the Galapagos and the only reptile known to feed underwater. Although they feed underwater on seaweed and algae, they are mainly terrestrial.
It is really important to stay on the path identified by your naturalists because at any point you might be upsetting the natural habitat or inadvertently disrupting a nest of the endemic creatures of the islands.
Snorkeling at Pitt Rock
If you’re lucky you might get to snorkel with a pod of sea lions. The wildlife in the Galapagos have not been exposed to danger by humans due to the extraordinary efforts of Parque Nacional Galápagos. As a result, it is not uncommon for sea lions to get really up close to snorkelers and divers.
Punta Pitt is located on the northeastern corner of San Cristobal Island. The mile-long hike takes you through some natural vista points that are ideal for photography. It’s the only place you’ll get to see all three species of boobies; red footed, blue footed and nazca boobies along with frigate birds.
Punta Suarez is on the western point of the island of Española. Upon disembarkation from the panga, you might need to navigate your way through a welcome party of sea lions. A two-mile trail over fairly arid and often unstable terrain takes you past hosts of marine iguanas sunbathing like they own the island (they do!). Along the way you can see colonies of blue-footed and Nazca boobies and ultimately, you’ll end up at a plateau with extraordinary views of a blowhole known as ‘El Soplador’ that sprays water 75 feet into the air.
Snorkel at Tortuga Rock to see the gentle sea turtles swaying in the currents, or even see a pod of hammerhead sharks swim by completely undisturbed by your presence.
If you’re jonesing to just lie around on the sand, then Gardner Bay; a powder-soft white sand beach is just the place for you. Take a leisurely stroll along the beach or pose for pictures with the very accommodating sea lions.
Punta Cormorant is where you’ll make your way to a viewing deck before a large lagoon which is home to Bahama ducks, Galapagos flycatchers and bright pink flamingos. If you’re lucky you might see a flamboyance of flamingos majestically walking just past the deck within what feels like touching distance. The trail will take you to a beach where you’ll find sea turtle nests dotted all across the dunes with trails leading to the ocean. Here right at the edge of the sand, you’ll find stingrays swimming in what is barely ankle-deep water.
Don’t miss out the opportunity to snorkel at Champion Islet where you’ll see schools of colorful fish and coral, white-tipped sharks, sea stars and spotted eagle rays and of course sea turtles.
A visit to Post Office Bay is a must because it offers a unique Galapagos Islands tradition dating back to the 18th century. This is the site where English whaling vessels created a little post barrel. The night before, you’ll be given a blank postcard that you are requested to write to either yourself or your loved ones. You’ll then deposit this postcard in the barrel at Post Office Bay, while perusing the hundreds of postcards left by other travelers. If you find one within a personal delivery distance of your home, you might opt to deliver it once you return. Your postcard will be similarly delivered to you one day. It could be weeks, or even years.
Santa Cruz Island
Puerto Ayora is the bustling port on the island of Santa Cruz. A bus will transport you into the highlands to a private ranch where you can see giant tortoises roaming free; grazing, ambling, swimming or even mating. Once you’re back on the bus, you’ll be taken to the lava tunnels ‘Los Gemelos’ or ‘The Twins.’ These tunnels are really massive craters that were formed as a result of volcanic eruptions dating back thousands of years.
Another highlight of Santa Cruz Island is the Charles Darwin Research Station where you can visit the exhibit of Lonesome George pays homage to a tortoise that was the last of his species from Pinta Island.
Be sure to make some time to walk down art alley for some exquisite street art.
Playa las Bachas (Spanish for barges) is on the northern side of Santa Cruz island. It gets its name from the remnants of two American army barges which were discarded on the beach during World War II.
Bartolomé Island offers a strenuous hike up about 400 wooden steps among very arid terrain. Stay the course and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Pinnacle Rock and the rest of Bartolomé Island. Snorkeling off this island will afford you the opportunity to swim with Galapagos Penguins, white tipped reef sharks and schools of tropical fish.
South Plaza is home to land iguanas, prickly pear cactus, swallow-tailed gulls, ground finches and bachelor sea lions. The dominant sea lion bulls retreat to the cliffs of South Plaza to recover from battles for beach territory.
North Seymour Island
North Seymour Island is home to two types of Galapagos Frigate birds; Great and Magnificent. It is quite a spectacular site during mating season to see dozens of them in trees with their valentine-red heart shaped sacs inflated as they seek mates. Sea lions, blue footed boobies and land iguanas dot the landscape on this island.
The Galapagos Islands are among one of the first dozen sites to be inducted into UNESCO’s exclusive list of world heritage sites. Guests soon learn that while visiting the Galapagos they are responsible for respecting each island’s unique ecosystem and are expected to be good stewards of its natural environment.
Ecoventura travelers gain a significant appreciation for the delicate surroundings and when it’s time to say goodbye, they’ll likely walk off with a wealth of new knowledge about sustainability.
Departure day is always bittersweet; having spent a week together, travelers on each of Ecoventura’s yachts form a bond and new friendships, not just with each other, but with the crew as well. Prior to departure, it’s common to find guests exchanging phone numbers and social media information to stay connected.
Ecoventura has been awarded the prestigious, Relais & Châteaux status, an endorsement of the yachts’ level of quality and service. In 2021, Ecoventura will introduce the company’s third luxury expedition vessel, Evolve, offering travelers the most sustainable and entirely upgraded yacht.
Photo Credit: Origin & Theory by Ecoventura
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