Here's what a week on a live aboard in The Galapagos is like
We got lucky with our crew.
We shared the boat with a fellow antipodean backpacking yogi, a young Israeli backpacker fresh out of the army, his solely Hebrew speaking parents, two French woman who would unleash their youthful friendship on one Tequila riddled night out, their two kids, who were tucked up safe in bed when said unleashing occurred, an intelligent American couple, both scientists whose conversations left me in a constant flux of attempted understanding, and last but by no means least, the coolest older Dutch couple we've ever met.
We had our own private cabin, a never ending supply of soft white towels shaped into penguins, and stingrays and a buffet that boasted food three times a day.
Every evening, we’d convene in the lounge and drape ourselves onto the couch while Galo wrote out the next days schedule.
Every day was a different discovery.
The sandy shore of Espanola was filled with hundreds of sunbathing iguanas. Iguanas are quite agile creatures. They crawl over the rocks, and each other and make pockets of iguana towers.
They also sneeze salt water constantly, so in order to explore the rest of the island we had to walk through a boogery reptilian minefield.
The high, rocky hills of Punta Pitt are home to blue footed booby birds that dance from side to side.
One foot up, one foot down, repeat.
Step, one two, like learning salsa in Cuba.
The terrain on each island morphs from hard, deep black pock-marked volcanic rock, to fine white sand to red dusty clay.
It's like stepping onto a different planet every time.
Nature moves through of its own accord.
It was windy, rainy or sunny or a combination of all three in half an hour.
Everywhere we looked, there was something.
Giant turtles here, sharks over there, slippery octopi crawling the ocean floor, fat seals lying on their sides.
All happening under the black silhouettes of frigate birds that seem to be everywhere at once, circling the sky when your walking the islands, snorkelling in the water or hanging on board the deck of the ship.
The only creatures who appeared remotely interested in us were the sea lion pups.
Everything else is nonchalant with your presence.
So we contented ourselves by playing with the sea lion pups underwater, blowing bubbles to entice them to hurtle straight for us, zip past at the very last second, then turn around and return for more.
We had to keep an eye out for the alpha male when we were doing that.
I’d seen a quick lesson in hierarchy earlier that day, when a gargantuan alpha male had hauled his blubbery mass across the sand with surprising speed while roaring at anyone standing in his way.
I didn’t want that coming at me underwater.
The best snorkel we had was at Kicker Rock.
It was as if the entire ocean was a snow globe that had exploded right there at its base.
The water was full of hundreds of fish that moved in unison to form one large, grey underwater cloud.
Languid turtles cruised along beside them, their deep, slanted eyes peering sideways as if every one of them was carrying the weight of their collective old age in those hard, mollusc ridden shells.
Sharks cut through the water beneath us as only sharks can. At times they would move an almost imperceptible distance closer to the surface. The only evidence of their upwards levitation being a slight shudder of go pro footage.
The smooth, flat bodies of stingrays glided through the sea with long tails that flew through the water behind them with such grace, you half expected them to rise up, puncture the waters surface and keep going up, up and away.
On Santa Fe, giant, tall, prickly-needled cactus rise up from the hard dusty red ground.
On the day we visited, the sky was a pure blue and in the distance a humpback whale launched itself out of the water, hung suspended for a moment, then landed back with a splash.
We all turned around and piled back into the rubber ducky that motored out onto the water.
As we bumped over the waves to get closer, everyone oohed and aahed in perfect unison when the whale made another appearance.
There's a saying that goes 'Nothing is ever guaranteed in nature'.
That just doesn't seem to apply to The Galapagos.
It's unbelievable how much there is to see there.
It also makes hard to ignore the realities of over fishing and habitat destruction when you see such an abundant comparison.
On the flip side, it makes it easy to understand how Charles Darwin drew inspiration from his studies on the Galapagos to develop his theory of evolution.
A lot of the life is endemic to Galapagos, and the uniqueness of what there is to see makes the islands a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list kind of a place.
It's too good of an adventure to miss.
You have to go.