I’m on a yacht cruising through the Pacific waters to our next island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The yacht sleeps 16 passengers, plus a crew of about seven. The boat has ultra shiny wood floors, a lounge with white leather couches, a dining room. The rooms are small, comfortable beds. After each excursion, Herman, manager of the boat, greets us with snacks such as pizza, chicken wings. It's great.
There is a stew of folks on our sea vessel – Irish, Canadian, French from France, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian, English from Britain, Swiss and me, the sole Americano. I feel a reality show coming on – Survivor: Galapagos Islands. Who will be voted off and forced to swim ashore?
Halfway through the tour, I finally get used to the rocking sensation of the ocean. I didn't particularly enjoy getting to know each group as they disembarked and embarked – same small chit chat each time. The crew, though, is constant – a group of friendly Ecuadorian guys.
Chef Pancho is the oldest, somewhat of a musician, an all around bon vivant. His meals are gourmet fare, speaks no English, the clown of the crew. Herman is Jack of all Trades, responded to our questions of What's for dinner with filet of penguino or turtle soup. Efran, the captain, is friendly, maybe too friendly, but helpful, knowledgeable and accommodating. Javier is the naturalist, a naturalist III, meaning he has a biology degree (one reason I chose this boat). His over-pronunciation of English makes me chuckle. It reminds me of Ed Sullivan, how he sounded as though he had a mouthful of marbles.
This barren, volcanic group of islands lies directly on the equator, about 1,000 kilometers west of Ecuador. It was discovered by Peruvian Spaniards around the 1500s, but really hit the spotlight, thanks to Charles Darwin. He visited the islands for three weeks in 1853. What he discovered eventually led him to write his theory of evolution. There are 13 major islands, many small ones. The lot of them is a national park, you pay $100.00 dinero (cash) to get in. A little trivia – the national currency of Ecuador is the U.S dollar.
Every day on this eight-day cruise is an adventure. Javier leads us to different rocky volcanic islands; most are off limits to visitors unless escorted by a guide. Many of the islands are dry, like a moonscape, but life abounds. We see hundreds of marine iguanas and lava lizards lying next to crabs and barking sea lions. We snorkel nearly each day, swim around rocky outcroppings, the waters teem with beautiful colored schools of fish – star fish, blowfish, stingrays, even a white-tipped sharks.
Once back in Quito, I missed my life of sun and leisure in the Galapagos Islands. I went from gourmet three-course meals to Ritz crackers and Oreos. Nothing is open, a holiday, I'm stuck raiding the snacks in the hotel lobby. Back to the reality of a budget traveler.
Read more about Lisa Lubins's travels at www.llworldtour.com