ESPANOLA ISLAND — January 8, 2020 — Cruises of the Galápagos Islands range from four to fifteen days in duration. There are 64 small yachts cruising the islands carrying 16 passengers. These have the advantage over a dozen larger ships by providing intimate encounters with wildlife while efficiently reaching remote areas of the archipelago. Yachts also maintain a smaller ecological footprint, but are less stable in the some times choppy waters of the Galápagos (16-passenger catamarans being an exception).
Seven large ships carry 38-40 passengers and another five carry the maximum permitted 100 passengers. Some of these larger ships are luxuriously appointed and employ top-rated naturalist guides, the finest cuisine, spacious cabins, and may have a full-time doctor onboard. (The first designed specifically for Galápagos cruises being the 100-passenger all-suite yacht Celebrity Flora.) On the other hand, large vessels may be budget operations with low prices that sacrifice onboard comforts and service, although still providing the opportunity to view an assortment of birds and animals on the islands, albeit for a minimum number of days.
The second day of our six-day cruise aboard Sea Star Journey / Dominica was filled with activities on and around Espanola Island. An 8AM departure took us to Suarez Point where we went ashore in Zodiacs for a planned 2.5-hour walk on a trail to view sea lions, Sally light-foot crabs, Nazca boobies, and an odd blue footed booby and albatross as well.
A highlight of the walk was viewing a blow hole spurting water more than 10-meters high. While it was lightly overcast, the morning temperature was fairly comfortable, but the trail was not-so-much. The island is completely covered with boulders, making the walking hazardous, and in my case, very slow-going despite having two walking sticks to help keep my balance. The teenagers in our group skipped over the boulders without a care, but I clearly stood out as the “old guy” on this one, lagging behind and becoming totally exhausted from the ordeal. Fortunately, James, our naturalist guide, assured me that this was the worst trail in the park and there would be easier days ahead.
Following a delicious lunch, including main courses of calamari with sauce and beef lasagna, we were on our way again to Gardner Bay for snorkeling.
The Galápagos Islands are located at the convergence of the Equatorial, Humboldt, Cromwell and Panama ocean currents. At this time of year the mix of water is pleasantly warm. Its high salinity also keeps swimmers quite buoyant. Most of the snorkelers chose to swim without wetsuits and only Jialin chose to wear a life vest, making her easy to spot in the water.
As a ‘melting pot’ of marine species, the Galápagos Islands are home to an amazing variety of colorful tropical fish — over 400 species have been recognized in the Galapagos, with 41 species unique to the islands. High cliffs along Gardner Bay attract large numbers of them, which attracts snorkelers — the passengers from two other yachts were also swimming nearby. Schools of different species were often close enough for the snorkelers to touch. A highlight of the afternoon for several came when a sea lion and her playful pup joined them for a few minutes of frolicking.
Cover photo: Snorkelers in Gardner Bay
Photos by Dennis Cox / WorldViews, All Rights Reserved
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer
Editor’s Note: Latin Trails offers cruises of the Galapagos Islands with two 16-passenger yachts for six-day cruises, plus a small catamaran for day trips. Certified naturalist guides onboard each cruise will share their local knowledge of the area.
To learn more about Latin Trails and to book a Latin Trails yacht cruise, go to https://allthingscruise.com/browse-cruise-lines/latin-trails/