Saving the “best for last” is a hit and miss experience. Ending is always what sticks in our minds the most, and gives us the strongest impression that we take away from the experience. It’s not that we ignore or notice the rest of it. On the other hand, a strong beginning is sometimes necessary to grab our attention and pull us into the experience in the first place. However, it’s the last thing in our memory, that we really make our judgment call of how the experience rated with us overall.
My Galapagos expedition was the last leg of my South American adventure. It was an experience that was worth celebrating and one that I can truly say that I did save the best for last. Every great and unique destination brought a remarkable and fascinating experience – a true epiphany for me.
Galapagos is the monumental sanctuary of the sea, a masterpiece of landscapes that profoundly exhibit life and the right destination for all nature’s enthusiasts. Metropolitan Touring can even surpass this dream-come-true reality experience.
In this article, I’m delighted to feature Metropolitan Touring, the leading destination management corporation operating since 1953, focusing on Galapagos, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, who sponsored my visit. For more details about their products and services, visit www.metropolitan-touring.com and for Galapagos specific travel, go to www.metropolitan-touring.com/GalapagosIslandsTours
On Tuesday, 19th of April, at exactly 8 am, Sebastian, from Metropolitan Touring, picked me up at my hotel, the JW Marriott for a 20-minute transfer to the National Airport of Quito. Sebastian was kind enough to brief us on the handling process and procedure of the trip. All I had to do was hand in my passport with the U$10 Immigration fee. It was a well organized and a stress-free check in process. I did not even have to worry about my luggage. Sebastian handed me the boarding pass, arrival/departure record form, and the Galapagos Cruise ticket – all nicely placed in a ticket wallet. Then he directed me to the boarding gate and reminded me about the boarding time as well as the U$100 fee for the Galapagos Park upon arrival in Galapagos.
Day 1, heavy rains welcomed me when I arrived in Galapagos Island but the situation did not prevent me to look forward to get to the island and explore.
The captain warmly welcomed us, as we aboard on the Yacht Isabella II. Yacht Isabella II is one of the 3 fully owned vessels by Metropolitan Touring. This vessel accommodates 40 guests; has 21 comfortable and spacious cabins, fully equipped with facilities akin to a luxury 3-decker boat. The facilities truly meet the needs of guests to have a good and relaxing time and also to indulge in style.
At around noon everyone was gathered at the ship’s spacious lounge bar for an informative orientation provided by Paolo Rosania, Hotel Manager. He underscored the rules and regulations of the Galapagos National Park. The most noticeable reminder was the appropriate clothing to wear and what to bring during the island visits.
At 1pm, a sumptuous cold and hot buffet lunch was served at the dining room, big enough to satisfy all guests on board.
After a well-deserved ‘siesta’ time, everyone disembarked at the small island of North Seymour. My eyes began to open and had my camera ready to take advantage in capturing images of the ostentatious and awe-inspiring Island wildlife. As we started traveling inland, Galapagos sea lions and land iguanas cheerfully welcomed us. We continued trekking through the rocky tracks towards the nesting colony of the Magnificent and Great Frigate birds. It was interesting to witness the rest of the residents slowly becoming alive. Amongst them were the Lava and Swallow Tailed gulls as well as the Blue-footed Boobies. However, our visit was shortened due to the persisted rain so it is important to pack a poncho during this time of the year.
A welcome cocktail was held at the lounge bar, prior to dinner, to formally introduce the officers, the Chef, doctor and the 3 naturalists on board.
Day 2, 20th of April, the automatic radio music, which served as the boat’s alarm clock, woke up the whole ship. After breakfast, Cathy Iturralde, expedition leader with 10 years of experience in the field, briefed us precisely and clearly, combined with a touch of a great sense of humor, of the do’s and don’ts while in the island, including the sort of footwear to wear for a wet landing. She also went through the emergency signs: very important for the morning snorkeling, swimming and glass bottom boat activities in the island of Espanola.
Click here to view a video
Upon arrival on the shore, we were met by a colony of sea lions lazily aggregated, mostly were sleeping except for the playful sea lion pups. The morning encounters at the Espanola beach included the red-black colored Marine iguanas, the American oystercatcher, and the amazing colorful Sally Lightfoot red crabs. The beach added highlight to the visit. The water was absolutely beautiful and was shining with green, black and turquoise blue color.
It was a glorious day to go for a swim, snorkel and sea lion gazing, which I took advantage of capturing every little moves they make. At 12pm, we were all back on board to the boat for a buffet lunch of a wide selection of ceviches.
One of the daily reminders from our naturalist was to ‘flip the chip.’ Flipping your own chip prior to disembarking and upon embarking back to the boat is a normal routine that all guests must do. There was a dryer on the boat available to all guests to use, which was ideal. But drying your soaking wet shoes naturally was a much-required choice and thank goodness to the staff who took in charge this task for the guests ready for the next day’s activity.
By 3.30pm we were readily equipped for the afternoon activity. Wildlife was ready to be admired as we walked through a stoned track in Punta Suarez – another unique place in Galapagos. We saw more sea lions, iguanas, mockingbirds, finches, and Sally Lightfoot red crabs and Galapagos hawks. But the most noticeable were the colonies of proudly mating albatrosses. The afternoon ended whilst the sun was setting as we board our ‘panga’ boats to return to Yacht Isabella II. This time of the year it is highly recommended to pack an insect repellant.
After a delicious a la carte dinner, the night was culminated with a documentary movie about Galapagos.
Day 3, 21st of April, more exciting island visits were scheduled. First, at the Floreana Island, where Charles Darwin landed back in 1835, and apparently his only encounter with the human population. The morning expedition was a nice and easy walk and along the way, our resident encounters included the Galapagos penguins, the Greater flamingo, the Brown noddy, mockingbirds, sea turtles, and the Galapagos flycatchers. And if you were able to get a kayaking spot, this is one of the activities offered aside from snorkeling.
At 3 in the afternoon, was another day in the water for a deep water snorkeling at the Champion Island. As a non-swimmer it took courage and a life jacket to snorkel with the playful sea lions and the chance to see swimming sea turtles and hundreds of fish.
In the afternoon, we visited the famous Post Office Bay. This is the sole post office in the world where you can send post cards with no stamp required. Though sending post cards via snail mail is no longer popular nowadays, at the Post Office Bay, you maybe encouraged doing so. Everyone was anxious to see the post office. The 3 naturalists pulled out one by one from the stack of post cards taken from the post office barrel and read out loud their addressees. Following the ‘whalers’ tradition, the postcards are brought back by the travelers present who then mail them to the addressee. I took 2 postcards, which I will be mailing out when I finally return back to Australia. The visitors can also leave their postcards and hoping one-day a visitor in the island will mail them.
On board I had a chance to interact with some of the other guests hailing from different parts of the world, including a couple from Malvern, Australia. It was a brief interaction as I was in a great haste to prepare for my last night on the cruise and had an early departure the following day, whilst the rest of the guests stayed on to complete a 7-night cruise.
Day 4, 22nd of April, marked my last day on the Yacht Isabela II cruise. I realized that a 3-night cruise is certainly not long enough to fully enjoy a place like Galapagos. My expedition ended with the presence of the famous giant Tortoises on the highlands prior to boarding my onward flight bound for Guayaquil.
Passing security at any airport in the world can be a challenge and who would have thought that Ecuador departure customs check at Guayaquil would be more challenging than US. As I was comfortably seated at the lounge, I was asked to proceed to the service desk immediately after which I was instructed to go to the luggage section. The Ecuadorian Police asked me to open my luggage. Thankfully, due to my very limited knowledge in Spanish, the interrogation was shortened. However, as I headed back to the gate, I was again asked to go back to the security points where I had to go through the screening machine in a separate room before I was allowed to return to the passenger security check area once again. I really pondered why I was a singled out – was it because of the multiple travels shown on my passport or simply some random check? Regardless of what it was, I felt so despised of having to go through this ordeal when I knew it was unnecessary and a waste of time. It was a great relief when I went through the gate and boarded on the plane.
Metropolitan Touring did it once again in surpassing the expectation of high level of service. With their winning formula, of providing traveler a fascinating and enchanting experience of a lifetime, combined with the world’s ultimate level of endemism and a veteran staff on board who have the commitment in offering the best customer service surpassed the expected high level of service.
The snorkeling experience in the midst of playful sea lions, swimming sea turtles and hundreds of tropical fish are some of the highlights and fascinating moments I had during this Galapagos expedition. My South American travels will remain a treasured experience: from my volunteering experience in the mysterious and magical Machu Picchu which I left great memories and joyful smiles and contented faces to the Pumamarcan kids; the love at first sight relationship I had with the astonishing Salar de Uyuni; the Argentinean gastronomical experience and wellness in the picturesque town of Valparaiso; the recognition of the best water falls in the world, Iguazu Falls; and to the glorified experience of the color, glamour, music and culture event of the year at the Rio Carnaval but what matters the most is the continued moral and inspiring support I receive from family and friends I come to slowly complete my journey.
Now, it’s time to continue my next dream journey. Europe…here I come!
© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.