Several have asked…exactly what does one do on a trip like the one we are on to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands?
Although no two days are exactly alike in terms of where we are exploring and what we see, the routine is pretty much the same whether we are in the jungle or the Galapagos. We are up early – 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. We aim to have a briefing at the conclusion of the day to inform our Explorers of what to expect the day after, and what time the wake-up call will be. We try to see animals early in the morning before we get into the heat of the day – they stop moving and it’s too hot for us on some of the islands (upwards of 40 degrees). Breakfast in both the rainforest and on board the Eclipse in the Galapagos includes lots of tropical fruits, granola and cereals, omelettes, eggs, toast – we have not gone hungry at all on this trip (that is an understatement!). Then it’s off for a morning exploration.
In the Galapagos, because there are no docks, we are on and off the ship by way of zodiac boats – called “pangas” in Spanish. A zodiac holds 10 to a maximum of 12 people – so that determines the size of each of our groups. One reason we chose this particular trip and ship were the small exploration groups. Walking and trying to hear our guides while looking at the animals and taking photos in a larger group is just too frustrating. We are ferried ashore, or taken to a snorkelling site by the panga. After shedding our life-jackets into a bag, we begin walking a pre-determined trail (determined by the National Park Authority) looking for whatever there is to see on whichever island we are on at the moment. Because most people have cameras, each journey is often a start-and-stop affair. Our guides keep up a running commentary on the geology, plants, birds, other animals, and history. We often ask about current affairs, politics, and what life is like actually living there.
It’s back to the ship for lunch, a siesta (for most), and then back out at 3 p.m., give-or-take a bit. Most days we get in a swim in the ocean (tropical warm) or a snorkelling trip – both helped cool us off and were welcome at the end of the day.
We are out until sunset – which on the equator during the equinox (March 21) was at about 6:30 p.m. Because the sun is directly overhead at noon, and drops straight west, dusk is very short in the tropics – about 15 minutes. We have time to clean-up, take a shower, and get ready for dinner, usually at 7:30 or 8 p.m. We had our briefing before dinner aboard the Eclipse accounting for the later dinner hour.
So far, we have walked trails that were smooth while others were so rocky some of our Explorers used walking-sticks. We’ve walked on trails, on lava, on the beach – both in shoes and barefoot. We all took a lot of photos – one person in our group said his total for the Galapagos portion of the trip was 3,600 images. Personally, I delete a lot right in the camera so I don’t have to download and look at quite so many. The opportunity is there to take as many as you want, however, that’s why people come here – the animals are not afraid and often “just lay there” seemingly posing for us.
There wasn’t a single evening we didn’t go to bed tired, and often by 9:30 or 10. But, knowing the excitement of tomorrow’s exploration, we all were up bright and early the next morning to do it all again.