The hardest part of planning our weddings was deciding where to go. The initial two contenders (Tahiti and an African Safari) had drawbacks that we didn’t want to deal with right after a wedding. Finally I stumbled across Celebrity Cruise’s XPedition cruise in the Galapagos. Although dubious at first, and never having been on a cruise before, Carrie grew to love the idea as she read other people’s reviews.
Part of the reason I really liked the Galapagos is that it’s a fantastic opportunity to put your photography skills to the test. The one messy situation was determining which laptop to take, as I needed a way to download the copious pictures from my camera. A new Dell 700m that I’d ordered earlier magically had its ship date bumped up, so I thought “Great, it’ll get here a day before we leave. Plenty of time.” Unfortunately a UPS mixup caused it to not arrive till 8:30 PM the night before getting up at 4 AM to depart. Luckily everything worked the way it was supposed to.
Getting to the Galapagos is quite the haul. From Seattle we flew to Houston, and from Houston we flew to Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador. At least half our flight to Quito was filled with Christian college kids heading down for some sort of missionary work.
From Quito, you take another plane to the Galapagos on Ecuador’s national airline. It would be just over a two hour flight, but the plane makes a refueling stop in Guayaquil, so it takes more like 3.5 hours.
Celebrity has a nice option that let’s you stay extra days on the front and back ends of your cruise. We took advantage of this and very much enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of Quito. Fun fact: Quito’s elevation is 9200 feet, and it has roughly the same air pressure as an airplane cabin at altitude. I found myself taking in involuntary deep breaths as I acclimated to the high altitude, and all sorts of liquid filled bottle that we brought "exploded" at the high altitude.
Quito is also very close to the equator, so part of our pre-day tour was assorted touristy things on the equator, including “The Middle Of The World” One nice thing we noticed is that the Ecuadorian currency is the US Dollar, and prices are typically about ½ to 2/3rd of in the U.S.
Finally on Sunday the 10th, we boarded our plane and flew to the Galapagos. From the air the islands look either barren or filled with scrub brush and such. On the ground you’ll get the same impression. Many of the islands are still mostly lava fields, and are still being formed. However, it doesn’t matter. You’re here to see the animals.
Everything you’ve heard about animals in the Galapagos is true. They really appear oblivious to your existence, as if you were just another non-predatory creature.
Although I didn’t, at any point I could have reached out and touched many creatures, including but not limited to:
The two coolest animal behaviors I saw were bird related. The amazing thing about the Blue Footed Boobie isn’t its feet. Rather, it’s that they fly around and suddenly like a bullet into the water to grab a fish. They can go as far as 30 feet deep, so they’re moving FAST. I was able to capture some of the dives with my camera and it’s fascinating to see them morph from a “normal” looking bird into a bizarre rocket, finally ending up in the shape of a javelin as the hit the water.
The other amazing thing was the frigate birds. You may have seen pictures of them with a puffed up “red balloon” on their throat. While we saw lots of this, the coolest thing was how they hunt. In a nutshell, frigate birds let other birds catch a fish, and then the frigate bird grabs the other bird in mid-air and shakes it till the first bird releases the fish. The frigate bird then swoops down and grabs its meal. I also have photos of some of these mid-air battles.
You walk around a lot of rugged landscape to see all this wildlife. Not exactly honeymoon material for most people. However, life on the boat covered that angle. The Xpedition is essentially a large private yacht, converted into a very small cruise ship, and the service & food is top notch. It’s only 300 feet long, and holds a max of 98 passengers. On this cruise there were only 75 passengers, and we got to know lots of people, both trekking on land and while on-board.
A typical day on the Xpedition:
If this sounds like your idea of fun, then the Galapagos is the trip of a life time for you. Do it now!