Top Places to Travel in 2019 Series

P1255325.jpg

The Galapagos is a magical place where those wishing to visit must educate themselves in all things Galapagos. We explored the Galapagos with National Geographic aboard one of their cruises on the Endeavor II.

On this cruise, there were many educated people who knew a lot about the Galapagos as well as trained photographers who were available to teach us their ways.

The ship moves quickly throughout the Galapagos, moving passengers from one island to the next with minimal difficulty.

Here is our travel guide to the 10-day National Geographic Galapagos Tours Lindblad Expedition:

First Things First

How to get there

Getting There

In order to get to the Galapagos, travelers have to head to mainland Ecuador and depart from either Quito or Guayaquil. The islands were claimed by Ecuador long ago, so there is no other country that one can enter the Galapagos from.

Flights leave early in the morning to San Cristobal Island or Baltra Island depending on your choice. For us, we landed on San Cristobal Island the first day and left from Baltra Island.

 

The Experience

Experience

NatGeo kept everyone busy and at a fast pace if you wanted to do every activity. Wake up times were as early as 5:45 am because photographers had to catch the sunrise and get the best lighting. The ship would always provide the early risers with snacks and coffee.

As soon as we woke up, the activities had begun and they were always back to back. Some days, we would start with a hike up a mountain; other days, it would be a short walk to search for rare species of animals. Legally, visitors can NOT get closer than 6 feet to the animals, but 6 feet was pretty close to be able to admire these wonderful animals.

Every day we landed on a different island, and every day had something new to offer.

map.adapt.1900.1

Cruise Details

Ship — National Geographic Endeavor II
Day 1 — US/Guayaquil, Ecuador
Day 2 — Guayaquil, Ecuador/ Embark to Galapagos
Day 3-8 — Galapagos Islands
Day 9 — Galápagos/ Disembark/ Guayaquil
Day 10 — Guayaquil/ Home

Cruise fees
Range from $7,290-$14,790 (Depending on the cabin level)
Recommended gratuities for staff minimum of $180

 

National Geographic Expeditions
1145 17th St NW
Washington DC 20036
1-888-966-8687

To book and for more info, visit National Geographic Galapagos Cruise.

National Geographic Galapagos Cruise Series:
• Galapagos Islands National Geographic 10 Days Expedition (Photo Essay)
• National Geographic Endeavor II | Aboard the Galapagos Cruise (Boat Tour)
Stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador Before the Galapagos Islands (Pre-Trip)

 


Day 1

P1244241.jpg

We landed in Guayaquil from the United States where we were picked up by a driver from the Hilton Colon Guayaquil. They put us up in a nice room where breakfast was included, and we could get 2 free drinks from any of the bars.

 


Day 2 | San Cristobal

P1244272.jpg

San Cristobal is the third largest and easternmost island of the Galapagos. It’s the island that contains the airport called San Cristobal Airport (SCY) where we landed that first day. The town where the airport is located is called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and it has over 8,000 inhabitants.

P1244286.jpg

It’s right on the coast, introducing us to our first sea lions and marine iguanas that lay along the waterfront of Wreck Bay where our ship was anchored.

IMG_5286 2.jpg

After getting everyone’s belongings aboard the Endeavor II, we were taken around the bay to get more glimpses of the sea lions and blue-footed boobies. Wreck Bay is home to the largest colony of sea lions in the Galapagos, so it was fascinating to see them all occupying man-made rafts, fast asleep.

Screen Shot 2019-01-10 at 1.59.25 PM.jpg

On this first day aboard the Endeavor II, dinner was set up buffet style. The main course was roasted pork tenderloin, but you could also order seabass. I added some hot salsa to it, and it added a nice little kick to it!

 


Day 3 | Espanola

P1244434.jpg

The next day found us at Espanola island. It’s one of the oldest islands, and it’s home to some interesting birds, but first, we headed to an offshore islet called Gardner to snorkel.

P1244419.jpg

We saw colorful fish, but our main entertainment in the water were the sea lions. A few swam under us and among us, circling and playing with us, seeming to laugh at the funny way we swam.

P1244413.jpg

After snorkeling, we made our way to shore. The water was vibrant aqua-blue that day and looked tempting for swimming, but we enjoyed the warm sand onshore beside the lazy sea lions.

P1244439.jpg

Quite opposite from the ones we saw in the water, these guys were relaxed and didn’t care to move far, even when we got as close as we legally could.

P1244454.jpg

Mockingbirds picked at our belongings as well, trying to find whatever they could take.

P1244759.jpg

At Punta Suarez, a dry landing point of the island, begins a trail for visitors to walk along…

P1255161.jpg

…and spot some unique sea birds.

P1244623.jpg

There were several marine iguanas and sea lions as usual…

P1244805.jpg

…but as we walked along the rocky trail, we spotted several albatross, my favorite bird on the trip due to their size…

P1255053.jpg

…doing their courtship dance.

 


Day 4 | Floreana

P1255325.jpg

Floreana Island seems peaceful and magical at first glance, but it hides some secrets. In the 1930s, several people came to Floreana from Berlin at different times to settle down, but their interactions amongst each other led to disappearances and death (possibly murder). To this day, only those involved and the island itself know exactly what happened.

P1255227.jpg

Punta Cormorant was where we made our first landing. Just a few feet from our landing point we saw blue footed boobies in their nesting sites with their babies nestled beneath them. We then walked up a short trail off-shore.

At the end of the trail was a large salt pond where we found a family of feeding flamingos and spent a long time taking photos of them.  

P1255220.jpg

Champion Islet is just offshore of Floreana and is home to the endangered Floreana mockingbird, but unfortunately, we were not able to see one. It’s always disheartening to know that an animal is becoming extinct, and the lack of opportunity to spot one only proves it’s near non-existence.

champion islet

Champion Islet is also an excellent location for snorkeling, albeit intimidating. The waters were rougher around the islet, pushing swimmers into the walls. The waters were so rough that there was no point in fighting them, and the only recourse was to drift along with the current. This was my favorite snorkeling spot as we saw so many more colorful fish that surrounded us without a care. It was also the first time I saw a white-tip reef shark beneath me.

For those who prefer to stay out of the water, there was a glass boat option which provided a great view of what lay in the deep blue.

IMG_5745.jpg

Floreana Island is also an excellent island to spot sea turtles, but not to swim with them due to the shallow waters and the presence of sharks and stingrays. We had a couple of options for exploring its curious waters though.

First, we went kayaking. We were meant to have a nice, calm ride, but we rode further out as we saw a lone penguin perched on a rock.

IMG_5889.jpg

Unfortunately, the waves near the rock were rougher than we were prepared for and a few of us got hit, while others were thrown into the ocean. At least their life vests proved their worth.

Paddleboarding was another choice to experience the waters of Floreana. The sea turtles swim right under you, and you could stop paddling and watch as they glide by.

IMG_5777.jpg

Another perk of Floreana is Post Office Bay, named so for its old mail swap tradition. The first accounts of Post Office Bay were in 1793 during the whaling days. The tradition involves hand delivering postcards which were dropped off at the barrel by other travelers.

In turn, you may also drop your own postcard in hopes that another traveler will choose yours and show up on your doorstep one day. I dropped off a postcard, and lucky for me, I was able to pick one up as well.

Day 4 Seabass almost too beautiful to eat

For dinner that night, we were served a predetermined menu of sea bass, but it was almost too beautiful to eat. It fell apart as soon as my fork touched it, and it melted away in my mouth. 

 


Day 5 | Santa Cruz Island

P1255651.jpg

Santa Cruz Island is another island where we see the human aspect of the Galapagos. We explored a bit of Puerto Ayora, the main economic hub of the Galapagos and home to 18,000 inhabitants.

CDRS

Our first visit of the day was at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) where scientists do research to best conserve the Galapagos. It’s just a short distance from the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS)—or Parque Nacional Galapagos in Spanish—which is mainly responsible for managing the region.

P1255455.jpg

At the CDRS lives the near-extinct Espanola tortoise which have been revived thanks to the sexual exploits of Diego the Tortoise. Besides Diego and his many offsprings, they have other types of giant tortoises in the business of breeding to increase their population.

P1255537.jpg

Also on the island is a local elementary school that focuses on bilingualism and education for the preservation of the Galapagos.

P1255565.jpg

We were given a tour of the school, taking a peek into the classrooms of the students and the lives of children on the island.

Another option for the island is to visit a sugar cane mill where people can get a glimpse into the lifestyles of the Galapagueños.

P1255596.jpg

We visited a local restaurant called Aquellare where we had lunch while on Santa Cruz Island. It was a simple chicken leg with some mashed potatoes and veggies, but it still hit the spot! The chicken skin had a nice crunch to it, and it was juicy on the inside while the steamed veggies added balance to the meal. 

P1255623.jpg

After lunch, we headed to a farm that tortoises cross on their route to search for food.

P1255670.jpg

They were huge, and though they seemed harmless, they would threaten anyone that came close with a loud hiss.

Screen Shot 2019-01-10 at 2.29.57 PM.jpg

For dinner, we had a local fish called “Pez Brujo” or scorpion fish. It was roasted which made it flakey and not too dry, and the chimichurri sauce added a vinegary flavor on top.

 


Day 6 | Cerro Dragon

P1266016.jpg

On the other side of Santa Cruz Island lies Cerro Dragon which literally translates to “Dragon Hill” as it is known for being the home of the land iguanas. They are yellow iguanas which makes them a bit difficult to find since they blend in with the brownish desert land.  

They were almost wiped out, but luckily for the breeding program run by the CDF and the GNPS, the population has recovered.

P1266039.jpg

After our long walk in search of land iguanas, we then headed out to Guy Fawkes Islet, which was the deepest water that we experienced yet. We swam with a sea turtle and some sea lions, but the experience came from seeing deep darkness beneath us.

I wondered what could be down there and if they could see me looking down on them as they looked up at me.

P1266073.jpg

Dinner was a special treat that night because the ship provided us with a classic Ecuadorian meal.

P1266082.jpg

We had ceviche, which is a typical coastal latin dish and some juicy pork.

 


Day 7 | Bartolome and Sombrero Chino

IMG_6737.jpg

Off the coast of Santiago Island lies Bartolome Islet, a gem for anyone wishing to visit the Galapagos. We woke up early to take a hike 376 steps up Bartolome Islet to the most iconic view of the Galapagos. It was an easy hike and worth the climb.

Bartolome Islet

In the distance, you could see Sombrero Chino, where we would go snorkeling later, and in front of us, we could see the makeup of Santiago Island. The dried up lava that made the land surrounding Santiago Island was littered with small cones raised from the earth. It was a spectacular sight.

heron

After we descended Bartolome Islet, we went to the beach to possibly spot some penguins, relax and snorkel in the shallow waters.

bartoleme swim

More snorkeling can be done in the bay between Santiago Island and Bartolome Islet. We were lucky to see one penguin, but we also saw a huge reef shark swimming beneath us as well as a very large stingray. What lies beneath the surface of the water was also fascinating because you can see old formations of the lava that had leaked into the water years ago.

Later, we navigated to another side of Santiago Island to Sombrero Chino, which translates to Chinese Hat because the island looks like a Chinese hat. It was there that we jumped out of a zodiac into rough waters for the last time. The light from the sun shone down, lighting up beneath the surface, reflecting off the scales of the colorful fish below.

Sombrero Chino

Right as we were ending our snorkel, we saw several penguins hanging out on the rocks, and then finally, one jumped into the water. We were all so excited to see a penguin swimming in the water with us, but it didn’t have a care in the world that we were there.

P1266170.jpg

That night, we were served a lovely BBQ dinner which was supposed to be served on the top deck, but unfortunately, the wind had become too much of an issue for the staff to be able to give us an enjoyable meal.

P1266178.jpg

The chicken wings and the ribs were flavored perfectly and were satisfying after a long day of snorkeling and hiking. Todd even got a burger, which was a typical burger you would see at a home BBQ: simple, yet juicy. 

 


Day 8 | Genovesa

Our final island of the trip landed us on Genovesa, which originally was whole, but a portion of it collapsed creating a large sinkhole now known as Darwin Bay.

P1266241.jpg

It’s home to the largest bird colony in the Galapagos consisting of frigate birds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and the red-billed tropicbird among others.

P1266216.jpg

There are two sites to visit on this island—Darwin Bay beach, where several juvenile red-footed boobies play and learn about sticks and how to use them…

P1266335.jpg

…and Prince Philip’s Steps which lead to a hike through the nesting sites of Nazca Boobies.

P1266362.jpg

If you’re lucky, there is also a rare hunting owl that is difficult to spot, but fun to search for. We were able to spot one, but it was so far away it was difficult to see even on the binoculars.

P1266402.jpg

Darwin Bay also allows for some paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkeling.

P1266279.jpg

Along the walls of the Bay are crevices perfect for sea lions to sleep in. Not only do sea lions rest there, but also the unique fur seals whose necks are shaped differently in comparison to the sea lion.

IMG_7039.jpg

Instead of buffet style, we were served our final meal with another predetermined menu.

P1266426.jpg

I had the lobster and Todd had the steak. The lobster had a lot of flavor to it, and didn’t even need to be dipped in butter and was actually very filling.

 


Day 9 | Baltra Island

Day 9 Baltra Island

Baltra Island is the island with the second airport called Seymour Airport (GPS), and this was where our voyage ended. We stayed docked enjoying some National Geographic movies until we were informed that our plane was on the way, and we were able to go ashore. We all woke up early and emptied our cabins because the cleaning crew had only 2 hours to clean from the time we disembarked to the time the next group of travelers arrived.

Day 9 Airport

Once back in Guayaquil, a tour was offered for anyone interested in the downtown area of Guayaquil.

 


Day 10 | Guayaquil

Day 10

In the early morning, the Hilton Colon staff drove everyone back to the Guayaquil airport, and everyone headed home.

 


Final Thoughts

P1000703.jpg

The Galapagos is a mysterious place full of unique and interesting animals. Each island has wonderful opportunities for visitors to discover, whether it’s through hiking, snorkeling or gliding through the water on a boat. It’s a beautiful location with so much to offer everyone.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I wish I could have spent more time swimming with the penguins. I highly recommend taking a trip out to the Galapagos!

 

What to Prepare

Screen Shot 2019-01-11 at 4.34.29 PM.jpg

Plan to travel light as the carry-on luggage must not exceed 22 pounds. Checked luggage cannot exceed 50 pounds. Aside from the basics, here’s a list of recommended things to bring on your trip: (You will see a pattern with the items since the Galapagos is close to the Equator, which means the sun is very, very strong down there.)

Clothing:

wetsuit clothing

  • Lycra rash guard to protect from sun and jellyfish while in the water
  • Comfortable waterproof walking/hiking shoes (for wet landings to hikes and walks)

Clothing

  • Long pants to protect from sun, quick dry if possible (hiking shorts are fine as well, as long as you remember the sunscreen)
  • Long sleeve shirt to protect from sun
  • Light jacket for cold nights
  • Long socks for the rubber boots they will provide when viewing the tortoises 

moreclothing

*TIP: try to pack neutral, earthy colors. Bright colors can attract wasps, so keep away from yellow, pink, neon green, etc.

Items:

  • Sunglasses
  • Strong sunscreen
  • Bandana to protect mouth and chin from the sun that reflects off the water and sand

drybag

  • Waterproof bags to protect any personal items when going ashore
  • Sunhat
  • Binoculars
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Bug spray

Wetsuits, reusable water bottles, snorkeling gear are provided for you, but you may bring your own if you please.

There is a gift shop on board if you forget any toiletries.

Equipment

The expedition is a photo expedition, but luckily, the itineraries are structured for both photo and non-photo enthusiasts alike. 

photo expedition

With that said, I do highly recommend you bring some form of camera whether it be your DSLR or your camera phone. There are so many things to take pictures of!

If you need access to email, there is unlimited WiFi available for purchase on board at $200. Limited WiFi costs $50, but if you do not log out, it will continue to charge you and your bill will go up. The WiFi is not the greatest (even the unlimited one), so try to handle any important business before boarding the ship.

 

Galapagos National Geographic Endeavor II

P1255681.jpg

10 Day Galapagos cruise aboard the National Geographic Endeavor II stopping at various islands of the archipelago

Cruise Details

Ship — National Geographic Endeavor II
Day 1 — US/Guayaquil, Ecuador
Day 2 — Guayaquil, Ecuador/ Embark to Galapagos
Day 3-8 — Galapagos Islands
Day 9 — Galápagos/ Disembark/ Guayaquil
Day 10 — Guayaquil/ Home

Cruise fees
Range from $7,290-$14,790 (Depending on the cabin level)
Recommended gratuities for staff minimum of $180

National Geographic Expeditions
1145 17th St NW
Washington DC 20036
1-888-966-8687

To book and for more info, visit National Geographic Galapagos Cruise.

National Geographic Galapagos Cruise Series:
• Galapagos Islands National Geographic 10 Days Expedition (Photo Essay)
• National Geographic Endeavor II | Aboard the Galapagos Cruise (Boat Tour)
Stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador Before the Galapagos Islands (Pre-Trip)

 

Live an Awesome Life,

Tuliyani Escalante

Disclosure: We were media guests of National Geographic. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.

Pin it! If you have a Pinterest around, please share this or pin it for later.