Snorkel with penguins, sea turtles and sharks? Check!
Laugh at baby sea lions playing in the sand just 10 feet away? You bet!
Snap pics of goliath-sized land tortoises? Absolutely!
Witness the blue-footed booby dancing for his lady? Love it!
Encounter prehistoric reptiles? Yikes! Cross the equator… four times? Wow!
There’s no place in the world more exclamation-point worthy than the Galápagos Islands. Located 600 miles west of Ecuador’s coast, these islands are populated by magnificent wildlife that has no fear of humans. My trip there was nature up close and amazing.
The stakes for conserving and protecting the Galápagos are high: a plant, bird or animal species that disappears here exits the planet forever. Major threats to these unique islands include introduction of alien species (including goats, rats, feral dogs and cats), illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism.
All the more reason I wanted to take a Galápagos journey in the most nature-respecting, ecologically-sound way: with Ecoventura, a family-owned company that’s led sustainability efforts on the islands since 2000.
High Seas Adventure
I traveled on a seven-night adventure with Ecoventura several years ago—when it began carbon-offsetting its yachts, offices and operations (including business travel) through Native Energy Travel Offsets. Ecoventura is even greener now. (See below for a full list of its green initiatives.)
My husband and I were aboard The Flamingo, one of Ecoventura’s three 20-passenger motor yachts that transport small groups to the archipelago’s most spectacular islands.
This is no crowded booze cruise—although the ship’s bartender does mix up fabulous tropical cocktails. Nor is it a luxurious “Love Boat”: cabins are small, but quite comfortable. The only time we were in our cabin was when we were sleeping! Otherwise, we were outside hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, lolling in the sun or dining on fresh Ecuadoran cuisine.
Our fellow travelers aboard The Flamingo were outdoor adventurers who respected ocean and land—and we became fast friends.
Likewise, our knowledgeable guides, Harry and Orlando, were gems. They escorted us in small panga boats on island excursions, telling us about the diet and habits of every bird and animal — which we were able to carefully approach and stand quite close to.
Part naturalist, part cheerleader, Harry greeted us passengers over the intercom each morning by announcing, “Welcome to another day in The Paradise!”
(For more about what it’s like to visit the Galápagos, see my related post: “Close Encounters of the Galápagos Kind.”)
Ecoventura’s A+ Eco-Report
- Runs a carbon neutral operation.
- Is certified by SmartVoyager and complies with The Rainforest Alliance environmental regulations.
- The Eric yacht is equipped with 40 solar panels and two wind generators.
- Partners with the World Wildlife Fund to create the Galápagos Marine Biodiversity Fund, which supports marine conservation.
- Practices Leave No Trace guidelines. Teaches visitors never to feed, touch or harass wildlife.
- Manages water and solid waste responsibly.
- Reduces fuel consumption with high-performance oil filters.
- Hires local naturalist guides and ship’s crew, engaging them with careers in sustainable tourism.
- Supports locally managed conservation projects.
- Provides scholarships to local children to study conservation education.
- Connects clients with local conservation projects and the Galápagos Conservancy.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Originally published November 2012.