September 2 - To the Galapagos!
Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island
Galapagos! I can say with absolute certainty that this is one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had in my life. We transferred to the ship from the open-air Baltra airport. Upon boarding we discovered that we were two of only 6 passengers, creating a crew:traveler ratio of nearly 2:1. We me our guide, Gustavo, and had a quick briefing on the ship's rules and the plan for the week. We then discovered that we were the only couple assigned to the upper deck. We ran up the two stairways to our cabin, #1, and found that we were upgraded to the Odyssey Suite! The cabin has a writing desk, a plush couch and a huge flat screen TV (not that we'll ever use it). The king size bed sits at the end of the cabin, with chocolate brown and tan accents matching the hardwood floors. We have 7 2.5'x 3.5' windows looking out onto the ocean and the basaltic Galapagos Islands, many of which appear out of the ocean like floating rocks. The rest of the yacht is just as impressive, although our small number does make the myriad lounges and enormous, polished wood tables seem eerily empty. The lower deck houses the engine room, the crew's quarters, the kitchen, and the spa. The main deck is an open-concept lounge and seating area, combined with the bar and 5 tables for meals. There is also a game area, with a flatscreen, Wii, and numerous board games.
A flight of steep stairs on the port side leads you to the upper deck, where you turn right to find a patio table and queen size sun lounge. Our cabin is starboard, just next to the bridge. Another narrow flight of stairs gets you to the 'planta alta' or 'solaria', or 'sun deck' if you choose to speak English. The planta alta provides half shade and half sun, with a jacuzzi at either end, a bar, and a dozen plush lounge chairs.
The food has been beautiful in presentation, and just as delicious as it looks. The flavors are different every day, from filet mignon to ginger marinated ahi tuna to crisp plantains in a wreath of spicy green peppers. The crew is incredible, and as most speak only Spanish, I am getting to practice quite a bit. Chavi is the bartender, and despite the dubious correlation he is also our closest friend on board.
After boarding the yacht in Baltra, on Santa Cruz Island, we motored around the island for 2 hours to Dragon Hill. The hill is a volcanic cone poking through the rusty basalt landscape, surrounded by deciduous Palo Santo bushes, which are grey and free of leaves at this time of year. Once anchored, we donned wetsuits and went out in the panga for snorkeling along the volcanic shoreline. Before we had even dropped out of the boat, our guide pointed toward the turquoise shallows and yelled, ''Look! A turtle!'' Upon hopping in, the second my mask dipped below the surface I knew it was going to be incredible. Parrot Fish, Needle Fish, brightly colored blues, greens, oranges and violets flashed all around me. As I was following a large Sergeant Major, a huge green and brown mass appeared from the silty shadows. I swam toward it and just as I thought it was lost, a Green Sea Turtle sailed right beneath me! The turtle continued to swim around me so closely that I could see the specs in it's irises, I was that close.