WHEN cruise passengers tread amid the extraordinary wildlife on the remote Galapagos Islands the animals go about their business as if there are no intruders in sight.
It is a rare time to photograph the islands’ abundant wildlife and have up close encounters with creatures rarely seen elsewhere. Blue and red footed booby (birds), giant iguana, giant tortoise, colonies of penguins, and basking fur seals are all part of the mix that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution after his voyage there on the HMS Beagle in 1831.
Cruising the Galapagos is a year-round activity as the 18 main islands are located on the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 900km off the coast of Ecuador.
Expedition ships usually spend a week cruising the islands with guests flying into Baltra Island from Quito (Ecuador). australiancruisingnews.com notes that these ships are not free to cruise at will as the Galapagos National Park issues licences for the vessels to operate set itineraries. Only small groups (up to 16 people) can visit any one site on a particular day to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the islands.
Australia’s luxury Orion Expeditions, now part of the Lindblad-National Geographic fleet, has two ships in the Galapagos year-round offering land and sea adventures (snorkelling and kayaking are favourites), www.expeditions.com
MV Grace, another comfortable expedition ship based there, has only 8 cabins, and was originally a wedding gift from Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis to screen star Grace Kelly on her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, www.southamericatravelcentre.com.au/galapagos
There are 84 ships with licences to cruise the Galapagos, including the larger Celebrity Xpedition, www.celebrity.com and Silver Galapagos which makes her debut in the islands this month, www.silversea.com/expeditions