According to Carlos Romero, our expedition leader, Lindblad Expeditions is the only cruise company to offer kayaking, That isn’t surprising since, according to the National Park, most other boats carry only 16 passengers. The kayaks serve two purposes: to provide a different activity and to allow passengers to seek out on their own the birds, iguanas and sea lions that reside on steep island cliffs. All kayaks are two-person sit-on-top models, which are quite stable; you’d have to work extremely hard to tip one over. But with two people paddling, it’s vital both paddlers be in synch, each alternating to the same side with every stroke.
Paddlers are out of synch when, seen from the front or rear, their paddle blades resemble a windmill in motion, which is not good; the purpose of windmill blades is to spin in a circle.
The only tricky part is getting in and out of the kayak, which is achieved from a Zodiac, not the Endeavour. A kayak is held alongside the inflatable as two paddlers, one at a time, slide onto the center of the kayak. It’s a more delicate exercise to slide back into the Zodiac since the kayak is lower. If anyone is likely to fall into the drink, it’s during the loading and unloading exercises.
The Endeavour has no scheduled kayak quick-course since it doesn’t require much instruction to propel the craft. However you may find these tips helpful. Guides accompany kayakers, able to shout directions to anyone needing help. As with snorkeling, a Zodiac stays close to pick up anyone needing assistance or provide a tow.
Talks by Naturalists
These are one of the high-points of the trip. Frequently the briefings are just after lunch or part of the evening recap.
Naturalists change regularly to rotate to other Lindblad ships or take a week or two off, meaning topics may change from week to week Almost all of the naturalists are Ecuadorians, either born in the Galapagos or long time island residents. All have been trained and certified by the National Park Service.
Sample talk topics may include a history of early 20th century settlers in the Galapagos(if Galapagos native Aura Cruz gives this talk, you must attend not only for the information but the strange and wonderful video of people dancing with their “adopted child:” a donkey!). Expect an explanation of how Charles Darwin’s visit to the islands helped form his theory of natural selection, perhaps even a separate session or the evolution of fish species. Regardless, all sessions are informative and usually accompanied by films or slides shown on large flat screen TVs scattered around the lounge so everyone has a good view.
Personally, until one of the talks I never knew that Charles Darwin’s family was so wealthy and that it was due to the Darwin family tradition of marrying one of the Wedgwood daughters, as his father and Charles both did. These are the same Wedgwoodas in fine china and whose name has become almost a generic synonym for elegant table ware.
The ship’s library offers a small but interesting selection of books about the Galapagos and other expedition regions. Tim was one of the first people in the library after we sail from Baltra and he happened to find a worn copy of the Pulitzer-prize winning The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. He found it a fascinating read, describing a 20-year study recording how the beaks of finches on Daphne Major Island changed over the span of 20 generations. The research proved for the first time the process of evolution not only occurs, it can also be observed. The study is still ongoing.
The library is worth visiting even if you don’t intend to read (there isn’t much free time except at night). The small room is a quiet, out-of-the-way place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or snack on a wafer anytime, around the clock, since everything is provided on a self-serve basis. This is one of the ship’s less frequented areas.
The Computer Lab
A small computer lab located next to the reception area offers three computers. All are linked to a printer, which can be used to make a hard copy of any important documents, such as airline online check-in. Satellite internet time is sold in various units, with the system working best when the Endeavour is stationary.
The Main Lounge
The social hub of the Endeavour is located on the deck just above the 100 cabins. The lounge is open around the clock for tea and free soda fountain (Diet Coke, Coke, Spite). A small glass-fronted cooler offers Ecuadorian beers with an honor system signup sheet for a person’s room number and the number of items taken. In early evening, just before the daily recaps, appetizers are served with treats like chicken lettuce wraps, chips, salsa, and veggies with dip. And the full bar here also is open at that time.
The lounge provides the only the nightly entertainment, which normally consists of TV specials by (surprise!) National Geographic about different aspects of the Galapagos. Toward the end of the cruise, a group of local musicians and dancers from Santa Cruz Island entertained us with music and dance not only from Ecuador butBolivia and Peru. Called Eco Arte, they were so impressive we bought all four of their CD’s, a perfect memory of the Galapagos. If you like their playing, buy the CD’s from them when they are on the ship. It’s the only opportunity you’ll have.
The Outside Decks
The stern has have a mix of tables and chairs and loungers, usually occupied by people reading or dozing between shore landings. A tiny swimming pool located near the stern is more like the size of a plunge pool and it seems universally ignored by everyone. It might appeal to young children, but none were on our trip.
Tip: Wet bathing suits can really start smelling after a couple of days. Use the complimentary clothes dryer in the spa wellness area for anything that gets wet. Or take advantage of the Endeavour’s one-day laundry service.
Next: Although we have more posts about our Endeavour Galapagos trip, this is the last daily posting. Others will appear over the coming weeks as our travel time allows. Our landing on Santiago Island at Puerto Egas is next up; it’s my favorite landing of the entire cruise.