We just spent all of last week with our kids on a small ship touring the Galapagos Islands, bookended by nights in the Ecuadorian cities of Guayaquil and Quito. Quite a trip! There is literally nothing quite like the Galapagos anywhere else in the world. The opportunity to see so many species (many of which can only be found in those islands) of animals that close up simply can’t be replicated elsewhere.
On the rare occasion that I have been fortunate enough to see a sea turtle in the wild elsewhere in the world they have always been shy and elusive. By contrast, in the Galapagos I had several surface for a breath of air less than a foot from my face while snorkeling! Same goes for the birds (boobies, albatrosses, cormorants, gulls, penguins and of course the many species of finches made famous by Charles Darwin), giant tortoises, sea lions, land iguanas, and the almost ubiquitous marine iguanas. It’s not that the animals are “tame,” rather just that they are not afraid. In addition to the frolicking sea lions we also got to swim with sharks, a giant manta ray, and ocean sunfish to say nothing of the myriad of other fish species. The Galapagos are known as the Enchanted Isles for a reason.
There were 44 guests to go along with 30+ crew on the ship, Eclipse, and it goes without saying that while onboard we were all spoiled rotten. I’ve never been a big fan of cruise ship vacations as a concept but I have to say that in this instance it really worked fantastically. The naturalist guides were all incredibly knowledgeable and patient and brought an infectious enthusiasm to what they do. I on the other hand, while an enthusiastic participant in all of the activities that came our way, will never be confused with a naturalist or wildlife biologist so rather that prattle on here and embarrass myself I will just let the photos above and below (95% of which were shot by Jennifer) speak for themselves. I can’t say enough about the place and the experience as a whole. Big, big kudos to the government of Ecuador for the steps they have taken over the past decades (the islands became a national park in the 1950s) to safeguard the natural treasure that is the Galapagos Islands so that ensuing generations can continue to experience their wonder.
On another note entirely, it does also need to be pointed out that this was a trip back in history for Jen and I in more ways than one. The whole reason that Cas-Cad-Nac Farm even came into existence and that we have been breeding alpacas for the past 14 years is because of Ecuador. Yeah, I know, they’re not really known for their alpacas but bear with me. Back in 1993 Jennifer did her senior thesis in environmental engineering from WPI while living in Guayaquil for 3 months. The last couple of weeks that she and our friends Kevin and Kirstin Worden were in the country I joined them and we went happily galavanting about the Ecuadorian countryside the way that only care-free 20 somethings can. It was on those travels that we saw our first live llamas and the joke started that we would one day “get a couple for the backyard” when we moved back home to VT. As you know by now we switched species and things really took on a life of their own. The rest, as they say…