Notwithstanding the ship’s menu of amenities, the apex of the 7-day voyage is the complimentary exploration program. It’s not unusual to visit two port calls in a day and the cruise itinerary of captivating islands is chockablock with close encounters of the animal kind, reinforcing the biological diversity. Hiking verdant highlands in search of giant land tortoises or traversing volcanic lava fields paints a surreal backdrop for the Galapagos Islands’ inhabitants’ ever-evolving DNA. Whether it’s a day of spotting blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, or a surprise viewing of flamingoes or whales, this is impromptu and authentic nature at its best. To ensure these memories of a lifetime are captured in trophy-quality photos, the ship’s certified photography instructors conduct complimentary seminars and instruction throughout the cruise.
In the spirit of engagement, complimentary snorkeling gear, paddleboards, kayaks, and glass-bottom boats further the up-close exploration for active passengers. Robust snorkeling in turquoise waters with playful sea lions, turtles, or penguins adds to the thrills, and the lure of red, green, black, and pristine white beaches provides respite for the more sedentary inclined.
Ninety-six percent of the reptiles, 47 percent of the plants, and 37 percent of the fish are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, species only found on these frontier outposts. Human-viewing movements into their home territory go virtually unnoticed and are merely a sideshow for the indigenous inhabitants. As Charles Darwin noted, the Galapagos Islands are a world within itself. Navigation through this isolated archipelago reveals that world in an extreme and elevated realm. Despite their sometimes-stark landscapes, the islands pulse with life forms that have adapted to their surroundings in spite of obvious adversity.
This consummate exploration blurs the line between typical cruise pampering and a true expedition experience, exposing a divergent evolution proceeding alongside responsible tourism. There is no lack of comfort and no cutting of corners. The keen eye for detail and professional leadership of the guides prove to be a game changer, underscoring the brand’s esteemed status. Delivering on the promise of thrilling exploration, the confluence of National Geographic Expeditions’ global destinations and an indulgent cruise experience makes for a rare find.
Galapagos land iguana