All of the Luxury Charter Group team have been fortunate enough to visit the Galapagos Islands. Radek Gendek most recently experienced the magic and majesty of the area on a charter with MY STELLA MARIS. At 124ft (38m) STELLA MARIS accommodates up to 14 guests in comfort, with luxurious amenities, acclaimed onboard Chef and a Captain with 30 years’ experience cruising this fascinating region.
Here, Radek shares some insight into and indelible impressions of this “living laboratory” and showcase of Evolution.
GALAPAGOS – “ENCHANTED ISLANDS”
Located around 600 miles (1,050kms) off the coast of Ecuador in South America, the Galapagos Islands are a pristine sanctuary for native and unique species.
Comprising a group of 19 islands, 13 large and six small, and dozens of islets and rocks that cover an area of over 17,000 square miles, the Galapagos Islands are truly the last frontier in terms of natural wonders, making your charter a journey of a lifetime.
Biologist and naturalist, Sir Charles Darwin first introduced the world to the Galapagos Islands in 1859, through his book “The Origin of the Species”, and presentations of his theory of evolution which he gleaned from five weeks studying the flora and fauna on the Galapagos Islands.
Since that time, the Galapagos have intrigued scientists from many fields, as well as intrepid travellers and seafarers mesmerised by the myriad natural wonders found only there.
Yacht charter is the ideal way to explore the Archipelago for the ability to immerse yourself in the astounding diversity of each island group, under the expert guidance of your charter yacht Captain and crew who have official National Park clearance to conduct charters to approved itineraries.
There are two different cruising itineraries (A and B), designed to limit the number of people on a given island at the same time. This well-thought-out schedule also allows guests to enjoy private time savouring their own ‘piece of paradise’.
Declared a National Park in 1959, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and its waters declared the Galapagos Marine Reserve in 1994, the islands are visited by around 200,000 people each year.
Blessed with mild weather all year round, the natural splendours of the Galapagos can be enjoyed at any time of year, although January to June is known as the warm/wet season and July to December as the “garúa” or cool/dry season. During a normal year, temperatures range between 15°C (59F) and 29°C (84F).
Sir David Attenborough, naturalist and the father of the nature documentary, which he has been perfecting since 1954, describes the Galapagos Islands as “a place populated by extraordinary and beautiful creatures, some of which are found nowhere else on the planet”.
“I have now returned three times to the Galápagos Islands since my first visit in 1978 and each time the excitement has been undiminished,” he says in the introduction to his latest documentary (“Galapagos, 3D, Origin”).
The allure of these volcanic and isolated islands is as strong today as it ever was, and luxury charter guests are enthralled by this pristine wonderland which offer nature lovers a unique dose of creatures only found in this ecosystem: marine iguanas and land iguanas, both of which are unique to the Galápagos; waved albatrosses, penguins, sea lions, giant cacti, finches, flightless cormorants, and the famed giant tortoise, whose average lifespan of 100 years makes it the longest living vertebrate on earth.
For bird enthusiasts, surely the Galapagos is heaven on earth, for although there are just 29 resident species of land birds on the islands, 22 are endemic (found nowhere else). Surrounded by miles and miles of open ocean, the islands provide seabirds with an important place to roost. There are 19 resident species (five are endemic).
Thirty percent of the world’s blue-footed boobies are known to inhabit the Galapagos, plus it hosts the world’s largest red-footed booby colony, and perhaps the largest concentration of Nazca boobies in the world.
There are many activities charter guests can enjoy on and around the islands, suited to all ages, levels of fitness and interests.
Trekking offers charter guests the best opportunity to observe the native wildlife in its habitats. The Galapagos National Park provides local guides with the expertise to lead you on trails that span all kinds of flora and fauna that will bring out the naturalist in everybody!
The best way to experience the aquatic life of the Galapagos is on or under the water. From your yacht’s tender, you will be able to observe oceans brimming with life, including inquisitive sea lions and seals, and penguins unafraid of their human visitors.
Galapagos is a world-class snorkelling and diving destination, with a variety of sites that vary from close to the beach to deep among the currents of the Devil's Crown – all teaming with species of reef fish like the King Angel Fish and Parrot Fish, as well as sea turtles, sharks, rays, moray eels, octopi and crustaceans.
In the lagoons and tranquil mangrove forests, kayaking is another great means of observing nesting birds and schools of baby rays and sharks.
CHARTER WITH A CONSCIENCE
Perennially popular, the Galapagos is often deemed in danger of being “loved to death” by visitors undertaking “island safaris”. But eco-tourism sustains the people who live there and the actual identity that makes this place so precious.
“Without tourism, there would be no more Galapagos,” states David Attenborough. “However, Galapagos also needs the right kind of tourism: visitors who are genuinely interested in the Islands, who are respectful of the Islands when they visit, and, ideally, who stay involved with the cause long after they have left.”
There are numerous direct flights from the US to Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Atlanta and Houston while the easiest direct flights from Europe are out of Amsterdam and Madrid.
Most European flights land in Quito or Guayaquil in the late afternoon, while the flights for the Galapagos mostly leave in the morning so if you're not flying privately, a stopover when coming from Europe is required. The Wyndham airport hotel is a convenient accommodation option and will save you 2 to 3 hours in transit, compared to a hotel in the City. It's safe, clean, fairly new and adjacent to the airport.
Let the charter experts at Luxury Charter Group manage every aspect of your Galapagos Islands charter adventure, including travel arrangements, charter yacht, preferred itinerary and activities, onboard menus and any other special requests and requirements to make your charter unforgettable. Contact us today.