Top Places to Travel in 2019 Series

The Galapagos Islands is well-known for its animals that brought us to the world we live in today. Charles Darwin’s study of its animals led to his theory of natural selection, but did he ever imagine that people would travel from all over the globe just to see the land he walked on to make these discoveries?

Today, there are several ships and boats that take travelers for a glimpse of the Galapagos islands, whether it’s for the tortoises, the sea lions or the blue-footed boobies. For this trip, we took the National Geographic Endeavor II.

National Geographic has partnered with Lindblad Expeditions, and together, they give curious adventurers the chance to explore wonderful locations such as the Galapagos. They not only give travelers these amazing opportunities, but they also create itineraries for different levels of activities while educating their passengers and helping the environment all at the same time.

 

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)

The Cabins

The ship contains 52 rooms all in all and can hold up to 96 passengers. The cabins are roomy, making great use of space and providing passengers with all the necessities of a regular hotel room: nightstand, a chair for sitting, a desk for working, a telephone, shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom, and enough towels for each inhabitant of the room. There are even curtains to block out the lights coming from the ship at night.

The beds are cozy, and they provide you with plenty of pillows as well as extra blankets if needed. Each cabin has its own temperature control which can be quite useful when you return from a day in the ocean and need to warm up.

 


The Other Rooms on the Ship

The ship has 4 different levels and the upper deck. Its layout was a bit confusing at first, but after a while, it was easy to navigate. There are signs throughout the ship to help you if you ever get lost. The 1st floor or the very bottom level is mostly for crew, but it also houses the dining area where we had every meal except one (which was eaten at a restaurant on land). It has open seating as well as an open layout for everyone to see everyone. The food is also set up like a buffet as in the many buffet style meals we ate during our stay.

The 2nd floor or the 200 level contains mostly cabins, but on the outside in the back of the boat, is where all the wetsuits and snorkeling gear can be found. It’s also where the clothes spinner is located. Guests can throw their wet clothes in here, and the machine wrings out the clothes for them. It helped me dry out my clothes faster than if I wrung them myself. Just hang them dry after.

The 3rd floor or the 300 level contains the lounge area where we had all our meetings. It’s where we received all our updates and safety drills, watched documentaries and had breakout sessions where we learned about photography or the history of the Galapagos.

The 4th floor, 400 level, is the topmost level where the cabins are located. It’s also where the bridge can be found. The bridge is where the ship is commanded, but guests are allowed to hang out here. I really enjoyed watching the captain and his crew as they commanded the ship and showed their welcoming personas.

On the back side of the 400 level lies a library for all you readers (including myself) out there. The library is filled not just with books on the Galapagos but also a few fiction books available for trade and some board games as well. This is also where the public computers are located. Next to the library is the Global Gallery where you can buy souvenirs and toiletries you may have forgotten!

On this same level lies the gym, which has minimal equipment but enough to give you a good work out. Next door is the spa or wellness room where the masseuse treats guests with a nice private massage.

 


Experiences for Everyone

There is a lot to see in the Galapagos, but some things are more difficult than others to get to and some people are more inclined to a more relaxed setting. The itineraries by Nat Geo are packed full of things to do, and you have the choice to do them all or take a break as you please. As long as you know your own level of fitness or preference, the cruise gives you the option to choose.

Each island has something new to offer, with different levels of activities for each and everyone to experience. There’s deep water snorkeling for the braver or more experienced swimmers, or there’s a glass bottom boat operated by experienced drivers so that each guest can get a fascinating glimpse of what’s beneath the surface. Sometimes there are options for long 3-hour hikes which involve photo intensive missions, but there is also an option for a leisurely walk to gaze at and admire the wildlife. I always chose the photo expeditions so that I could practice my photography skills.

You can go kayaking in the sea, or lounge on the beach and enjoy the views as the sun hits your skin and a sea lion lazily passes you by. Whatever your preference, you always have a choice.

There are educational sessions for those eager to learn, but it’s not required.

Those who prefer to lounge on the top deck with a glass of wine can do so with the beautiful views of the surrounding islands. Whether it’s luxurious lounging on the top deck with your name memorized by all the staff or an adventure out in the ocean with the reef sharks, everyone will have a grand time because they will be doing as they please. After all, the itineraries are designed with everyone in mind.

 


The Food

There was quite a variety of food during the cruise. For most of the nights, dinner was buffet style. There was always something to choose from for vegetarians, carnivores and pescetarians alike. I chose the fish almost every night because we were right on the ocean, so why not eat the local catch?

Next to all the meat choices were some vegetable options like caesar salad, or sauteed bell peppers and carb options such as yellow rice, cheesy hominy or even some diced potatoes.

Some nights there was a selected menu with vegetarian, meat or fish options. As always, I went for the fish.  

With the number of activities that we did on the cruise, it was always exciting when it was time to dig into our meals!

 


Educational and Photo Opportunities

This particular Nat Geo cruise through the Galapagos is also a photo expedition which means that on the expedition is a National Geographic photographer. In our case, we had Jay Dickman joining us.

The Nat Geo photographer is there to assist in improving your wildlife photography, whether it’s capturing a moment in time or taking a look at the bigger picture by incorporating the place into your photos. Not only do they have a Nat Geo photographer onboard, but also several other professional photo instructors who guide you on the expeditions.

In between land and sea expeditions, the photographers hold sessions to teach the guests how to properly use their cameras, how to judge a good photograph. They also teach the best practices for workflow.

The cruise gives guests many opportunities for excellent photography as well as optimal sightings of wildlife. The itineraries are full of early mornings for photographers to get the morning light in their photos or for nature enthusiasts to see the animals as they feed. Plenty of people onboard were able to take amazing shots of animals because of the early morning itineraries and the guidance from the instructors.

Next to the photographers are the naturalists who sometimes doubled as photographers.

Naturalists are required for anyone to travel to the islands, but Nat Geo and Lindblad provide the top naturalists for their cruises. Not only do they know the answers to all the questions you ask about the animals and the environment, but they also show a great passion for what they do.

They want everyone to love their homeland as much as they do. All naturalists are required to be residents of the Galapagos as well, so you get a real understanding of the islands from a local.

 


Environmentally Friendly

Nat Geo is an excellent source to see the Galapagos due to their environmentally conscious practices. While some cruises may focus simply on making you spend more and more money, Nat Geo wants to make sure that you care about the environment just as much as they do. It starts with being on the ship. When getting in and out of the zodiacs, they guide you and instruct you to make sure that you do not lose any of your items in the ocean. Sure, because it would be tragic if you lost an item to the ocean (i.e., sunglasses, flip-flops, a camera), but as your item floats to the bottom of the ocean, many fish or other marine life will come in contact with it. Some may think it’s food, some may try to make a house of it, whatever the case is, it doesn’t belong in the ocean among the wildlife, so the naturalists and the crew members ensure that you safely get in and out of the zodiacs, that you properly secure your valuables. They even take the time to attempt to retrieve whatever was lost at sea (i.e., hat, flipper, snorkel).

Single-use plastic has been banned from the Galapagos, therefore buying plastic water bottles is off limits. In every room, they provide a reusable tin water bottle for all travelers to fill as they please as well as water stations on every floor.

They also try to save water by reducing the number of items that need to be washed. Towels in every room are only washed if they are placed on the floor, linens are only changed once during the trip, and guests can opt out of having their linens changed to conserve water.

 


Final Thoughts

National Geographic is working hard at saving the planet, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to experience one of their cruises. I really got a sense of what it is they are trying to preserve and I highly recommend their hospitality and the exploration opportunities they provide!

Galapagos National Geographic Endeavor II

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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,

Tuli Escalante

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

P.S. Here’s what to prepare for the trip:

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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:

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)
  • 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.