On­shore Dis­cov­ery

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - Features -

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

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