Down the Isle: A Voyage of Discovery Through the Galapagos Islands
More than 500 nautical miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands remain one of the earth’s final untouched frontiers. The archipelago of 13 larger volcanic islands and 17 islets comprises a living museum of evolutionary biology—a foreign land where plants and animals have evolved for centuries without human interference. Whether inspired by Darwin, intrigued by the pages of National Geographic or captivated by the cinematography on Discovery Channel, travelers have flocked to the Galapagos Islands since the advent of leisure travel. Nowadays, as travel-savvy honeymooners search for the next great thing, the Galapagos have captured the spotlight as the perfect union of exotic romance and travel aspiration.
With human populations contained to a few pockets of select islands and strict rules governing visitation of National Park lands, the only true way to visit and explore the Galapagos is by cruise ship. A carefully controlled inventory of small ships and yachts is permitted to island-hop the Galapagos on preselected routes. Notably, the luxury yacht La Pinta, a premium ship from Ecuador’s superlative tour operator, Metropolitan Touring, travels the eastern, northern and western circuits in three-, four- and seven-night programs, respectively, all of which may be combined for longer cruise experiences.
Cruising through Darwin’s diverse island funhouse is at once adventurous and romantic. With two stops daily in completely disparate locales, each hour is an ambush of the senses. A single morning commingles a hike to the iconic Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island with sensational snorkeling among penguins, sea lions, fluorescent tropical fish and giant stingrays. An afternoon consists of traversing lava fields on Sullivan Bay with frigate birds overhead and marine iguanas below. Another day yields encounters with giant land tortoises and extended ambles along picturesque white-sand beaches where the red- and blue-footed boobies rule. Professional naturalists guide you step by step through your immersion in this natural selection. The “choose your own adventure” experience grows even more bespoke, as many days you’ll select among panga (dingy) rides, hikes, underwater adventures, photographic safaris and even beach lounging flush the Galapagos’ larger-than-life backdrops.
By no means is La Pinta the ultimate in rest, relaxation or glamour, but nobody comes to the Galapagos with haute couture in tow or late mornings in mind. The yacht buffers the twice-daily rite of passage with excellent meals, libations and cozy spaces—like a library, a rooftop hot tub and a lounge as well as a ship bar—idyllic for soaking in your surroundings and swapping stories with fellow jet setters. Twenty-four spacious and brightly decorated cabins provide a welcomed respite from the action, each with an elongated, panoramic window maintaining an endless island or ocean view.
While your honeymoon is bound to be memorable just about anywhere, cruising the Galapagos with La Pinta kick-starts a life together with a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. (lapintagalapagoscruise.com)