The entire office was seething with jealousy when Skylark’s jack-of-all-trades Jess Bauer returned from a bucket-list trip to the Galápagos Islands. Fortunately, while he was deciding whether to add “marine biologist” to his About Me section, he also took notes and photos to share with Skylark members. Here’s his report:

By Staff
Turtle Walking
Photo by Jess Bauer

WHY GO

I learned about Darwin’s finches in grade school, but I never even imagined visiting the Galápagos, where the great evolutionist tested his theories, in person. And I certainly never thought I’d swim with sea turtles, stare in wonder at giant albatrosses and watch killer whales breaching—all in the same day.

Aboard the M/V Evolution
Photo by Jess Bauer

HOW TO GET THERE

Straddling the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos feel remote and untouched, but they’re not terribly difficult to get to. My brother and I flew from New York to Ecuador’s capital, Quito (Miami, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta have non-stops as well), then hopped on a flight to the port city of Guayaquil, where we spent the night. Early the next morning, we took off for Baltra, a small, flat island in the center of the Galápagos. There, we climbed into pangas (dinghies) with our fellow passengers and made our way out to where Quasar Expeditions’ 32-passenger M/V Evolution, our home for the next week, was moored.

Sea Lion
Photo by Jess Bauer

THE ITINERARY

We hopscotched the islands for seven days, but the trip passed in a blur, thanks to a never-ending roster of activities. We snorkeled off Punta Espinoza with sea turtles so old and beautiful they seemed immortal. We oohed and ahhed as marine iguanas—like miniature Godzillas—scampered over rocks and dove under the surf to munch on algae. We crept up on sea lions and penguins to see which of us newly minted explorers could capture the best photo.  

One day, we cruised close by Daphne Minor, an island accessible only to scientists, so our guide could point out awesomely strange blue-footed boobies, short-eared owls, red-billed tropicbirds and a few (pompously named) magnificent frigatebirds.

My favorite moment took place another afternoon: As our incredibly friendly and absurdly knowledgeable guides were explaining the evolution of the marine iguanas, a Galápagos hawk swooped in and attacked an adult iguana. It was like being in the middle of a National Geographic special.


Aboard the M/V Evolution
Photo by Jess Bauer

LIFE ONBOARD

With twin masts and a bowsprit jutting from its prow, the 200-foot Evolution looked like an old-world vessel, but inside, the cabins are light and bright and public spaces are all polished wood and deep cushioned seating. As an expedition yacht with just four decks, it lacks the amenities of your typical cruise ship, but it more than met our onboard needs, with a sundeck, buffet breakfasts and a hot tub that came in handy after snorkeling trips. 

Photo by Jess Bauer

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Remember to bring motion sickness medication...even if you swear that you’re not the type of person who gets sick.  
  • Pack a hat and a whole lot of sunscreen. The Galápagos are right on the Equator and the sun is super strong.
  • I highly recommend factoring in at least two buffer days before your scheduled departure for the islands—especially for cruises. Flight delays and cancellations aren’t uncommon.
  • Bring a serious camera and consider renting a powerful telephoto lens. It’s not every day you see flocks of spotted eagle rays swimming past you or little penguins waddling across a black sand beach—and then shooting like torpedoes through the water.
  • Depending on cabin class and season, rates for a seven-night cruise range from $4,600 to $7,600 per person. That includes accommodations, meals and non-alcoholic drink, tours, and gear.
  • The daily itineraries range in effort from easy walks and snorkeling to hikes and kayak trips that could leave you winded. So it’s fine for kids and those with limited mobility, but the activities may need to be adjusted.

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