Huge rock formations are a regular sight in the waters of Galapagos.

I’m writing from the sun deck of the floating Flamingo in the Galapagos Islands – 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador on the equator in the Pacific. The only hint of civilization in this national “parkipeligo” are the 15 other passengers on board what is essentially a cozy ferryboat with 10 cabins. We’re on a seven-day eco-tour of these dramatic, protected islands and waters offered by Ecoventura.

A colorful land iguana. Marine iguanas are black and can swim.

“The Galapagos are a living laboratory of evolution. A wonderful paradise,” says our naturalist guide Ivan Lopez as sea birds dive bomb the ocean surface around us with the explosive splash of frigate missiles targeting fish. Lopez and his sister Karina, who wears a hammerhead shark earring, lead us twice daily from the Flamingo into rocky coves and reefs and onto beaches aboard zodiac boats to snorkel, hike and observe settings so natural and unspoiled they seem primordial (which they are.)

Ecoventura naturalist guide Ivan Lopez and his sister Karina.

The Galapagos are remote – like a warm weather Arctic. Sharing the beach and snorkeling with sea lions, penguins, sea rays, baby sharks and giant turtles is like being inside a 23,000 square-mile zoo exhibit or aquarium.

Zodiac boats, called "Pangas" get Ecoventura guests close to nature.








The week aboard the yacht is intriguing, too. Captain Marlon Perez, 44, described to me, as I stood beside him at the wheel on the bridge, how, as a crew member early in his career, he’d survived the 4 a.m. sinking of a freighter off the coast of Columbia by spending two nights in a lifeboat. “December through May is the calmest, warmest period in the Galapagos with very little wind,” he said, though the seas in the islands are mainly placid all year. You should expect, though, to feel the rolling sea just enough to sense the adventure.

An Ecoventura Galapagos guest snorkels on shore next to sunbathing sea lions.

You'll love the Galapagos.











If you love sunsets and the stirring effect of the ocean and its scent, expect the constant calming effect of being in, on and surrounded by water all week…with no television, cell service, or Internet to disturb your equanimity.

“The small number of passengers and therefore intimate, peaceful experience is what really sets us apart in the Galapagos,” says Ecoventura’s president Santiago Dunn. “The guest-to-naturalist ratio is eight-to-one.”

Those spirited, on-board naturalists provide nightly briefings and outline, in detail, the next day’s shore activities and exploration events. Snorkel equipment and wet suits are provided and no experience is necessary thanks to the gentle guides I met. The Lopez’s had serious landlubbers snorkeling with sharks in 10 minutes (though you may sit out any activity you wish.) Each time the zodiac boats brought guests back to the Flamingo, Hugo the bartender presented us with fruit drinks and hors d’oeuvres as we peeled off our wetsuits.

The view from the top of a volcano to the snorkel site below.

Like any cruise, the cabins are small, but your time is best spent on the deck cruising past 800-foot rock formations named “Sleeping Lion” or “Devil’s Crown” while Albatross and Blue Footed Booby birds soar overhead.

A close encounter with the Blue Footed Booby.

Ecovenutra’s pre-trip operators arrange transfers, a night at the snazzy, close to the airport Hotel Oro Verde upon arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador (5 hours from Miami via American Airlines), and your short flight to San Cristobal Island to catch one of their three boats. The entire trip is casual dress and, though laid back, very exciting and satisfying for families, couples and groups of friends.

“We love to breathe the fresh air, but remember, wherever you live is your paradise. You need to take care of it, because it affects the rest of us,” Lopez reminded me while smiling and strumming his guitar under the stars on deck. Visit www.Ecoventura.com or call 800-633-7972.

Michigan-based travel writer Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at InviteYourself@aol.com or via www.TravelTattler.com

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