What does luxury mean to you? A glass of the finest chilled champagne? The scent of napa leather or the feel of the softest angora? In some locations, luxury is the privilege of visiting extraordinary places and barely seeing another human.
The Galapagos Islands are a bucket list travel destination for many. Famed for the unique flora and fauna, the archipelago lies 500 miles West of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Whilst many choose to cruise round the islands, stopping here and there for an hour’s tour, it is also possible to experience the wonder of the islands whilst staying in a hotel and taking day trips by boat. This way, when you make landfall, you are part of a small, exclusive group. To test this out, we recently stayed on the main island of Santa Cruz for 6 nights, enjoying the tranquil Semilla Verde in the cool highlands and then excellent self-catering Galapagos Cottages in the charming ‘capital’ of Puerto Ayora. Even on the main island, we watched brown pelicans fishing in the harbour, laughed at the sea-lions hoping to grab a treat from the fish market and conversed with the giant tortoises that roam freely in the coffee plantation at Semilla Verde. However, each island in the Galapagos provides a home for different natural wonders and we were keen to see more.
The Adriana is a 42-ft catamaran offering day trips to a variety of sites within an hour or two sailing of Santa Cruz. With a crew of 4 and maximum capacity of just 16 passengers, you are guaranteed great personal service and a more exclusive experience of the wildlife. During our Galapagos trip, we were fortunate enough to enjoy 3 different cruises on Adriana with friendly and knowledgeable owner and registered tour guide, Fausto Rodriguez. Fausto spent five years living and studying in London, so his English is fluent.
Each trip started with an early morning transfer by comfortable executive bus to the Itabaca Channel, where Adriana is moored (tip – if you stay at Semilla Verde, you get an extra half hour in bed). After a short transfer by tender to the catamaran, we were soon motoring into the open sea, keeping our eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, sharks and sting rays. The Adriana offers plenty of room to relax, either inside, where you can watch the cook prepare lunch, under the canopy at the back of the boat or sun-bathing on the padded front section. Our favourite spot was sitting at the front with legs dangling over the hull, ocean spray cooling our skin and the perfect viewpoint for turtles, sharks, manta rays and other marine wildlife. Each day, a simple but delicious lunch was provided with the freshest fish, vegetables and fruit available.
Numerous sites are visitable on Adriana’s day trips and it is difficult to choose between them. From the volcanic Bartolemé, with unique lava forms and stunning views over the archipelago, to the other-worldly cactus forests on Plazas Sur and the experience of snorkelling with penguins in Sullivan Bay, we were wowed on an hourly basis! The highlight for us was the trip to Bachas beach, with its nesting sea turtles, followed by a stroll over North Seymour Island, where we wondered at the male frigate birds, showing off their inflated red throat patches, and were amazed by the blue-footed booby birds displaying their colourful feet in a deliberate courtship dance show (literally three feet from where we stood – the wildlife here knows no fear). The days were completed with a leisurely snorkel, surrounded by parrot fish, white-tip sharks and stingrays, before motoring back to shore in time for a sunset cocktail in town.
Whilst there are numerous cruises offering air-conditioning, champagne and jacuzzis, for us, Galapagos luxury is visiting the islands in a small group or on a private basis. MC Adriana is a high quality boat and Fausto has excellent attention to detail (such as the iced tea always ready and waiting on return to the boat) providing an up-close and personal experience of the Galapagos.
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