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The Galapagos Islands have been on my wish list since high school, when I learnt of the famous Botanist, Charles Darwin. So when we decided to visit South America the Galapagos Islands where the first thing I locked into our itinerary. The Galapagos Islands welcome tourists but the numbers are restricted so even when I booked nearly 10 months in advance berths on the boats where already filling fast. After explaining what type of experience I was seeking to Valentina from Remote Island Expeditions she knew immediately that the beautiful S/S Mary Anne was the boat for us. Valentina was born and bred in the Galapagos and has worked as a guide on many of the boats so there is nothing she doesn't know about the islands and the tours on offer. We researched all the itineraries and found a perfect 10 day Eastern Galapagos tour.
When you visit the Galapagos you can stay in town on an island and do day trips from there. However the distances are long and you just can't get the same experience as being on a boat and exploring morning and afternoon. As this was our once in a life time trip I knew I just had to experience the very best of the Galapagos, hiking, snorkelling, kayaking and being amongst the wildlife day and night. So we bit the bullet, stretched the budget and it was worth every cent.
The Mary Anne is a beautiful sailing vessel that just looks so striking at sea. For the sailors out there that know their fleet, the Mary Anne is a 65m 3 mast barquentine. Every time we were on land or on our zodiac boats I'd look out to our ship and pinch myself that we were so lucky to be onboard. The Mary Anne holds 16 passengers, with a combination of double, twin and single cabins. Families can be catered for in multiple cabins. There are 10 crew members, too. The price of the trip includes your guide, informative talks and presentations, accommodation, food, local permits and all activities. Our cabin was really comfortable, simple but spotless and very spacious for a boat. We had air-conditioning, a super comfy bed, wardrobe and a large bathroom with full size hot shower, vanity, toilet and superb amenities.
The ship has a large dining, bar and lounge area where you could relax, read, chat and off course, everyones favourite share amazing meals! We'd eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together at two tables and we all really enjoyed this time. Meeting our fellow guests, enjoying superb, healthy food whilst recapping our day and sharing travel stories. The food was excellent, it really exceeded my expectations, very healthy and fresh. Full marks to our lovely chef! Help yourself snacks, coffee, tea and water where available in the dining area all day too. The vessel has fantastic outdoor decks and the large seating area at the back was our favourite spot to have a drink and a chat and watch the sun go down. Every time we came back from an activity like a hike or snorkel, we'd be starving from all the exercise and our lovely chef would have freshly cooked nibbles and fresh juice awaiting us on the back deck too!
When it comes to activities we did two each morning then another two after lunch. Two zodiac boats could hold all passengers and our guide and boat drivers. I just loved it every time they said "come on lets go to the boats" I just knew another adventure was ahead. The activities varied depending on where we were, which island, bay or port. Each day there would usually be a hike, kayak, wildlife spotting from the boat or a snorkel (with penguins, seals, turtles, thousands of fish or all of the above) Activities or course are yours to enjoy free but if sitting on the deck drink in hand watching the birds is more your thing thats totally fine too! Most activities lasted at least an hour some up to two hours. I just loved the fact that we did so many activities, we were always busy exploring, learning and experiencing so much of the Galapagos.
Our guide, Fernando, was fantastic. Not only a super nice guy but his knowledge of the region, wildlife, marine life and birds was amazing. He's super passionate and has spent his life learning and conserving the beautiful Galapagos. Fernando joined us on every activity in and out of the water, always on hand to answer questions and show us all the things that make this place so special. He also organised some talks and information sessions in the lounge after dinner for those wanting more. Fernando was always on hand to help us on and off boats, over rocks and to ensure we were safe near wildlife.
We had two-person kayaks, nice and safe and easy to paddle. The kayaks enabled us to get up close to wildlife basking on the rocks or waters edge. Everyone loved our kayak trips, always a great way to spend an hour or so. The hikes where great and we'd see hundreds of birds (Galapagos is a bird lovers dream), iguanas, sea lions and amazing landscapes. We'd walk beautiful beaches and see stunning flora. Every hike was unique and I loved them all.
But if I had to pick a favourite, snorkelling with sea lions and penguins is pretty hard to beat. Our snorkelling equipment was excellent and the water temperature perfect! Our guide and skipper would always find sheltered safe snorkel locations. The visibility every day was amazing and we'd be spoilt with brightly coloured fish, sharks, sea lions, octopus, stingrays, turtles and the super cute penguins. Fernando would always be snorkelling with us and be madly pointing out highlights and he even taught us how to safely interact with the sea lions (the first encounter in the water is quite scary when you are face to face with a massive sea lion) so they'd swim with us and play sometimes for an hour or more. A safety boat and driver were always in the water with us and you could jump back onboard anytime you wished.
We all slept so well each night. After a day full of activities we'd sit and watch the sun go down over a couple of cold drinks, enjoy a superb dinner and then head out to see the amazing stars as we made our way to the next destination. We had some reasonably big seas a couple of the nights but I must say the Mary Anne is a very comfortable boat in the waves. She sits beautifully and we felt very little movement onboard. We didn't sail every day but when we hoisted those sails it was just magical.
Our Galapagos cruise was just sensational. I wouldn't have changed a thing. I loved our ship, our itinerary, the wildlife, marine life, the birds, food, crew, activities, guide and fellow travellers. What a blast and what an amazing experience. Once massive bucket list tick for me... only problem is I can't wait to go back and explore the Western Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands is an expensive destination but it is so unique and so pristine, its worth saving those pennies for! If you'd like to visit the Galapagos Islands we can arrange everything for your family contact us today 1300 296 543 or message us via Facebook
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