Where the Wild Things Are
Espanola, Galapagos; Sunday, March 11, 2018
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’ve never heard of the island of Espanola, Galapagos before. I’ll also assume you’ve never heard of its previous name, Hood Island, either. That’s okay: in some ways, the less you know about the Galapagos Islands, the more wowed you will be by them.
Lindblad Expeditons-National Geographic’s National Geographic Endeavour II sailed through the night at a comfortable speed, buffeted by the occasional swells that seem to be omnipresent here in the Galapagos. On my first outing, I wondered if it was my ship. Now I know that the Galapagos is just a giant swell machine, and that the constant port-to-starboard-to-port motion of your ship is to be expected here. It’s nothing major, but if you’re prone to seasickness, you may wish to take precautions.
The benefit of this swell? I was literally rocked to sleep last night. The beds aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II are super-comfy and rival the mattresses on the likes of Silversea and Seabourn. I had one of the best sleeps I’ve had in the past week, which has been punctuated by three different hotels in three different cities. They say nothing is quite like sleeping in your own bed; the beds aboard this ship sure do come close.
Our Expedition Leader Carlos made the call at 6:30 am over the pubic address system, as he said he would: it was time to get up for an action-packed day that began promptly at 7:00am with a full buffet breakfast served in the ship’s elegant Restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, while dinners are usually plated affairs.
This was followed by a briefing in the main lounge at 9:00am on snorkeling, followed by the distribution of the snorkelling gear. And then, it was off to the beach at Gardner Bay for two hours of snorkeling or strolling on the pristine beach, with its powdery-soft sand.
If Charles Darwin could be transported to 2018, the only thing that would have discernibly changed since 1835 is the ship and our form of dress. “Untouched” is the best word I can use to describe Gardner Bay; not a single item of man-made waste could be found. Even the footprints from the past ships that surely visited have been washed away by the ever-rolling surf.
Of course, evidence of other creatures is more plentiful. A sine-like path carved in the sand points to the snakes that slither along here at some point, while teeny tiny footprints speak to small birds or lizards running across the open sand to seek shelter in the more shaded areas of the shoreline.
I don’t snorkel. I know – it’s unbelievable. But I need glasses, and can’t see much without them, so I really should have invested in a prescription mask before coming here. I hear the snorkelling was tremendous. However, I really enjoyed my 90-minute stroll along the beach before heading back to the ship. Just being here in the Galapagos is such a treat. In many ways, the Galapagos is like the Arctic or Antarctica: nothing else on Earth can quite compare.
After coming back onboard, lunch was served in the main Restaurant on Deck 1. The food onboard is absolutely delicious. A different soup kicks things off each day, and a full service salad bar gives way to a selection of hot dishes and an action station that can serve up fresh pastas or fresh carvings, depending on the day.
Today, a number of local specialties were featured from the Galapagos and Ecuador, along with neighbouring countries like Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. My favorite: a sandwich-like appetizer made with potato, avocado and tomato – absolutely delicious.
Lindblad also does an excellent job of looking after dietary requirements. Gluten-free bread is provided, vegetarian options are easy to come by, and everyone has done a great job of looking out for my nut allergy.
On Lindblad ships, non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary, while alcoholic ones are available for a nominal charge. There is even a cooler with self-serve Ecuadorian beer in the main lounge that operates on the honours system; just sign the sheet above it, and the beer is yours. Mainland Ecuadorian beers are $4 each, while craft beers can be had for $7.
For dinner, a nightly red or white wine is offered either by the glass or by the bottle. Most glasses are between $8 and $9, which I find a bit expensive for what is essentially a very modest pour. But, if you buy a bottle, it will be labeled with your stateroom number and duly trotted out each evening.
But that’s for later! This afternoon, the ship repositioned to Punta Suarez, Espanola, where guests were given the choice of an eas
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