Galápagos with Lindblad Expeditions

By Wanda Bahde
This item appears on page 12 of the April 2021 issue.
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Giant Alcedo tortoises fighting for dominance. The one who raises his head the highest wins. Photos by Wanda Bahde

Friends urged, “If you loved Africa and Antarctica, you’ll love the Galápagos!” So, after much research, I found a cruise that fit my criteria. The 10-day “Galápagos Aboard National Geographic Endeavour II,” with Lindblad Expeditions (New York, NY; 800/397-3348, www.expeditions.com), was an expedition of a lifetime.

I departed Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2019, and met my cruise companions at the comfortable Hilton Colon Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The next morning, our group flew to the Galápagos island of Baltra and boarded our ship. Our route took us to Rábida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands. From San Cristóbal, we flew back to Guayaquil for a city tour and overnight, again at the Hilton, returning home Nov. 2.

A pelican and a sea lion watching for scraps at Puerto Ayora’s fish market.

The 96-passenger ship featured 52 outside cabins, including doubles, triples with Murphy beds, adjoining cabins for families and nine solo cabins, each with large windows. Thanks to an online special, my single supplement was waived, but I paid an additional $1,100 for a solo cabin on a higher deck instead of the main deck to avoid anchor and engine noise.

Our sailing had four children aboard. During summer months, the number could increase to 40. The children’s Global Explorers Program offered guided observation, art, storytelling, onboard activities and even Zodiac pilot training. Unfortunately, as an adult, I was too old to participate!

I had hoped that, among 96 passengers, someone would be willing to talk with me. Not a problem! Expedition Leader Carlos Romero Franco said his goal was to transform us into one big “family,” and he succeeded. Through hiking, snorkeling, photography and drawing classes, expedition presentations, cocktail hours and meals, we all mingled, happily sharing our observations and experiences.

Deep-water snorkeling from a Zodiac terrified me, since I don’t swim, so while roughly 80% of the passengers were snorkeling, kayaking or paddleboarding, I enjoyed quiet time browsing the extensive library, reviewing my photographs and checking on my home life via the ship’s limited free Wi-Fi.

Sally Lightfoot crabs grow more colorful with age.

For those who opted to snorkel, the ship provided snorkel gear, wetsuits and lessons.

I didn’t totally miss the underwater world. Once, from the ship’s glass-bottomed boat, I saw dense schools of colorful reef fish, and during evening briefings I was able to watch underwater videos from the day.

For hikes, passengers divided into groups of 12 to 14, each group accompanied by one of seven naturalists/photo instructors. We rode Zodiacs to shore, usually with a wet landing, requiring us to wade through knee-deep water to the beach. The rule was to observe and not interfere with wildlife and the ecosystem.

The multiple hikes each day were magical! I climbed through lazy marine iguanas piled up for warmth and walked among curious sea lions and fur seals. The agile Sally Lightfoot crabs, which kept the beaches clean, mesmerized me. I watched giant tortoises quietly grazing and even fighting over territory and marveled at blue-footed boobies crashing, like arrows, into the ocean while fishing.

A few helpful tips —

For the domestic flight between mainland Ecuador and Galápagos, checked baggage may not exceed 50 pounds.

Marine iguanas regaining body warmth on lava rocks after foraging for vegetation in the ocean.

The ship provides towels and life jackets, but you’ll need a windbreaker, hat, fleece jacket, sneakers or hiking boots, and sunscreen.

Take closed-toe water sandals for wet landings and shore hikes over lava rock.

Ensure that your camera gear and essentials are in a waterproof bag that can be carried or tucked into a daypack during landings.

Take ample camera cards. You’ll take more photos than anticipated.

US currency may be used on the ship and in the islands.

Although all itineraries are regulated by Galápagos National Park, nearly every route includes the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. If possible, while in Puerto Ayora, visit the Santa Cruz fish market, where marine iguanas, pelicans, sea lions and people all compete for the catch of the day.

In addition, visit Santa Marianita Parish Church (Avenue Charles Darwin) to see stained-glass windows celebrating God’s gift of the Galápagos.

The video “Galápagos with David Attenborough (Part 1 – Origin)” and the children’s book “Island: A Story of the Galápagos,” by Jason Chin, are excellent introductions to the islands. I used “Galápagos Wildlife: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Animals” for identifying wildlife. Lindblad provided the valuable (and waterproof) “Ecuador and Galápagos Islands: Adventure Travel Map.”

Most shore trips were wet landings off Zodiacs, such as in Isabela island's Urbina Bay.

My total cost was $11,857, including $9,590 for the cruise fare and my cabin upgrade as well as internal air, park permit and open bar, $805 in international air from Orlando, $1,273 for trip insurance and $189 for recommended tips.

Each island and each landing had its own “personality,” reflected through its unique terrain, wildlife and ecosystem. The varied sights and sounds were unforgettable, even without snorkeling. The Galápagos is now among my top five travel experiences!

WANDA BAHDE
Summerfield, FL

 

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Giant Alcedo tortoises fighting for dominance. The one who raises his head the highest wins. Photos by Wanda Bahde

Friends urged, “If you loved Africa and Antarctica, you’ll love the Galápagos!” So, after much research, I found a cruise that fit my criteria. The 10-day “Galápagos Aboard National Geographic Endeavour II,” with Lindblad Expeditions (New York, NY; 800/397-3348, www.expeditions.com), was an expedition of a lifetime.

I departed Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2019, and met my cruise companions at the comfortable Hilton Colon Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The next morning, our group flew to the Galápagos island of Baltra and boarded our ship. Our route took us to Rábida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands. From San Cristóbal, we flew back to Guayaquil for a city tour and overnight, again at the Hilton, returning home Nov. 2.

A pelican and a sea lion watching for scraps at Puerto Ayora’s fish market.

The 96-passenger ship featured 52 outside cabins, including doubles, triples with Murphy beds, adjoining cabins for families and nine solo cabins, each with large windows. Thanks to an online special, my single supplement was waived, but I paid an additional $1,100 for a solo cabin on a higher deck instead of the main deck to avoid anchor and engine noise.

Our sailing had four children aboard. During summer months, the number could increase to 40. The children’s Global Explorers Program offered guided observation, art, storytelling, onboard activities and even Zodiac pilot training. Unfortunately, as an adult, I was too old to participate!

I had hoped that, among 96 passengers, someone would be willing to talk with me. Not a problem! Expedition Leader Carlos Romero Franco said his goal was to transform us into one big “family,” and he succeeded. Through hiking, snorkeling, photography and drawing classes, expedition presentations, cocktail hours and meals, we all mingled, happily sharing our observations and experiences.

Deep-water snorkeling from a Zodiac terrified me, since I don’t swim, so while roughly 80% of the passengers were snorkeling, kayaking or paddleboarding, I enjoyed quiet time browsing the extensive library, reviewing my photographs and checking on my home life via the ship’s limited free Wi-Fi.

Sally Lightfoot crabs grow more colorful with age.

For those who opted to snorkel, the ship provided snorkel gear, wetsuits and lessons.

I didn’t totally miss the underwater world. Once, from the ship’s glass-bottomed boat, I saw dense schools of colorful reef fish, and during evening briefings I was able to watch underwater videos from the day.

For hikes, passengers divided into groups of 12 to 14, each group accompanied by one of seven naturalists/photo instructors. We rode Zodiacs to shore, usually with a wet landing, requiring us to wade through knee-deep water to the beach. The rule was to observe and not interfere with wildlife and the ecosystem.

The multiple hikes each day were magical! I climbed through lazy marine iguanas piled up for warmth and walked among curious sea lions and fur seals. The agile Sally Lightfoot crabs, which kept the beaches clean, mesmerized me. I watched giant tortoises quietly grazing and even fighting over territory and marveled at blue-footed boobies crashing, like arrows, into the ocean while fishing.

A few helpful tips —

For the domestic flight between mainland Ecuador and Galápagos, checked baggage may not exceed 50 pounds.

Marine iguanas regaining body warmth on lava rocks after foraging for vegetation in the ocean.

The ship provides towels and life jackets, but you’ll need a windbreaker, hat, fleece jacket, sneakers or hiking boots, and sunscreen.

Take closed-toe water sandals for wet landings and shore hikes over lava rock.

Ensure that your camera gear and essentials are in a waterproof bag that can be carried or tucked into a daypack during landings.

Take ample camera cards. You’ll take more photos than anticipated.

US currency may be used on the ship and in the islands.

Although all itineraries are regulated by Galápagos National Park, nearly every route includes the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. If possible, while in Puerto Ayora, visit the Santa Cruz fish market, where marine iguanas, pelicans, sea lions and people all compete for the catch of the day.

In addition, visit Santa Marianita Parish Church (Avenue Charles Darwin) to see stained-glass windows celebrating God’s gift of the Galápagos.

The video “Galápagos with David Attenborough (Part 1 – Origin)” and the children’s book “Island: A Story of the Galápagos,” by Jason Chin, are excellent introductions to the islands. I used “Galápagos Wildlife: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Animals” for identifying wildlife. Lindblad provided the valuable (and waterproof) “Ecuador and Galápagos Islands: Adventure Travel Map.”

Most shore trips were wet landings off Zodiacs, such as in Isabela island's Urbina Bay.

My total cost was $11,857, including $9,590 for the cruise fare and my cabin upgrade as well as internal air, park permit and open bar, $805 in international air from Orlando, $1,273 for trip insurance and $189 for recommended tips.

Each island and each landing had its own “personality,” reflected through its unique terrain, wildlife and ecosystem. The varied sights and sounds were unforgettable, even without snorkeling. The Galápagos is now among my top five travel experiences!

WANDA BAHDE
Summerfield, FL