Sunday, June 01, 2008

Our Boat in the Galapagos: Life on Board (Trip Report)

While planning for our trip to the Galápagos Islands we had so much to think about. How would we get there? Would we go with a group/travel company? Would it be land based, or would we stay on a goes on and on. Eventually we decided to stay on a small boat (with about 16 people). We were on the Galaven I/Adventurer V boat which we booked through GAP Adventures.

As I was researching this company and this boat, I found it difficult to find any pictures/descriptions of it or of the trip. So, in trying to help others who may be planning to take this trip or sail on this boat, I am posting the following pictures. We ended up booking the suite cabin (there are only 2 on the boat) so the pictures of our room do not represent all the cabins on board. The other cabins had either 2 separate twin beads, or bunk beds (where the bottom bed may have been a double bed). (There were also 2 rooms on the top deck, both with twin beds). These regular rooms where also below deck and only had small "porthole" size windows. Our room, being the suite, had a double bed, large windows (that opened), a sitting area, and closet. It was located on the main deck of the boat.

Here are the pictures (for more on this trip, see this blog post):

The boat

The bar/breakfast bar

The dining area

The daily schedule board: we'd have nightly briefings on what we would be doing the next day, I took a picture of the board each morning, which really helped in sorting through all the pictures.

The lounge area/group briefing

Here is is empty. There was a TV/DVD player, one day when the water was rough and a lot of people where seasick, the crew put in a Galapagos DVD for some people to watch. Our room (a suite) was located "behind" this area.

A sea lion on board

The bar area, the metal railing in the middle of this picture leads downstairs to the main cabins.

Our room

Our bathroom, (I also think I should mention--as it came as a surprise to a lot of people on board--that you're not supposed to throw your toilet tissue in the toilet,
it goes in the trash bin. Yup).

Our room--bathroom, closet, door.

Our room, the "sitting area"

The view from the window in our cabin.

The pangas, (or dingys/zodiac) that took us ashore

The top deck or the boat, the other side had lounge chairs.

A few other things to note if you are planning to take this trip:
-Bring seasickness medication, because you never know. I do not have sea legs, so I went all out, bringing tons of stuff, just in case, as I would rather bring it and not need it than wish I had it. I didn't get too sea sick, but there were some rough waters (and other people got sick).
I brought and used:
~Trip Ease (homeopathic motion sickness tablets)
~Dramamine ("less drowsy formula")
~acupressure motion sickness wrist bands
~Ginger tablets
~Ginger tea (I drank this at almost every meal, because eatting on a moving boat was not easy for me).
~Ginger hard candies
~ear plugs
I brought but did not use:
~prescription seasickness patches
~Dramamine (regular formula)
~soothing/"sleepy time" music on my iPod--I figured if I was sick and couldn't sleep, I could listen to this and pass out, but never needed to.

There was plenty of water on the boat, and bottled water supplied in our room. I thought about bringing a Nalgene or something like it, but didn't. Instead we bought water bottles in Quito which we brought on the boat and just refilled them from the water cooler they have on board. The bar was also almost always open, so you could get a soda (Coke, Sprite, or Inca Kola), beer, or even a cocktail whenever you needed to.

I also brought a shorty wetsuit, but found I didn't really need it. (But I was still glad to have it). I found that just a "rash guard" (shirt) was fine over my bikini top, even in the cold water. It also helped keep the harsh sun off my back. My husband also wore one whenever we snorkeled. We both brought multiple bathing suits as well, since sometimes we snorkeled/swam 2-3 times a day, and nothing's worse than putting on a cold, wet bathing suit. (And, anything really wet we could hang on a line on the boat's top deck to dry, or on a hanger in our bathroom).

Speaking of snorkeling, we brought our own snorkel gear (minus fins, we didn't want to pack those) and I'm glad we did. The boat did not have enough gear for everyone, and some of it seemed broken or cheap. I was really happy to have my own. We also brought our (net) snorkel bag, which came in handy.

We also brought a few "waterproof" dry bag, which, though nothing went overboard, still gave me piece of mind when traveling by panga to the shore or on excursions. I knew my camera and things would stay dry. In addition to our digital camera we brought a few underwater disposable cameras (one actually allowed for you to change out the film, which was nice). But, someone on our boat had a waterproof bag to put his digital camera inside. This allowed him to take lovely underwater pictures and even video, which was pretty cool.

The boat had plenty of towels, so I was glad we didn't bring any-not even a small pack towel.

We also had no problem being vegetarians on board (being vegan is another story though, I'm sure). Some of the food prepared for us was different from what we are used to (like egg salad inside an avocado), but when traveling, you're supposed to eat new and different things, right?! There were also plenty of between meal snacks for after snorkeling or hiking. I'd actually brought a few Clif Bars (which I usually pack on trips, since traveling as a vegetarian can be difficult in some countries) and I hardly touched them.

We didn't have tons of time to spend in Puerto Ayora--the Galapagos' "big city" which I would have liked. As much as I wanted to see the islands and to see the animals, I also wanted to interact locally with people who live there. We had a night in town; we got some beer and food with some people we'd met and then had a little time our last day, but not much.

Overall, this trip far surpassed my expectations. It still doesn't seem real. It was amazing and awe-inspiring. I learned so much. I relaxed. I felt so close to the Earth and to Nature. I've never felt so safe swimming with string rays or sharks. People used to fear the desolation and strangeness of the Galapagos, and all I could do was stand in awe and embrace it.