THE ENCHANTED ISLES

 


A cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean that straddle the equator, the Galápagos are renowned as the world’s most dazzling wildlife-watching destination. Serene, extreme and remote, this is the antithesis to Mediterranean cruising. The archipelago’s isolation, however, is part of its charm; here is a place to truly switch off and reconnect with friends and family – and nature itself.


The wildlife is as weird and varied as the landscape – and delightfully tame. Giant tortoises, tropical penguins, swimming iguanas and blue-footed boobies are the ‘superstar’ species for which the islands are famous. In his diaries of 1835, Darwin was baffled by “little birds, within three or four feet…not frightened by stones thrown at them.” With no natural predators to fear, the animals of the Galápagos are unperturbed by the presence of man. 

Many species are island-specific, and their subtle differences – the shape of a tortoise’s shell or a finch’s beak – inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. He was astonished to encounter such “creative force” in nature, and this is still the essence of the Galápagos experience. Early settlers developed a taste for tortoise and did much damage, but now the archipelago is fiercely protected. 

The work of the Galápagos Conservancyis fascinating: only last October a new species of giant tortoise was discovered. 

With 13 islands and over 100 islets, the only way to explore is by yacht. However, due to recent laws introduced to protect the islands, visiting yachts can no longer charter here. A Galápagos-based fleet has since cornered the market and the best boats are booked back-to-back up to a year in advance. 

The word ‘luxury’ is used freely to describe the Galápagos fleet, but the majority are not luxurious by Mediterranean standards. Our tip: pick a good owner. In the Galápagos there are limiting factors – isolation, no dockage, and consumables must be imported from Ecuador. The best owners have adapted to these constraints and have everything down to a tee. 

A charter in the Galápagos is less about the boat and more about the most spectacular wildlife show on Earth.


ITINERARIES

These are strictly controlled by the authorities, but include all the National Park’s best pockets. You need at least seven days to really see and learn what the islands are all about. Tortuga Bay is a beach lover’s paradise to rival any in the Caribbean – except here you will find marine iguanas soaking up the sun and taking a dip. During the 19th century the islands were used as a penal colony, and the Wall of Tears – the construction of which claimed thousands of convicts’ lives – has become a historical landmark. The trail to this site passes Poza de Los Diablos, the largest lagoon in the Galápagos and a breeding ground for flamingos. Las Loberias is one of the best places to swim with sea lions and to see pups snuggling up to their parents.

SCUBA DIVING & SNORKELLING
The Galápagos is a vast and well-guarded National Park absent of commercial fishing. A melting pot of marine life, pristine coral and dramatic lava flows, the Galápagos are a huge draw for serious divers. The snorkelling is stunning thanks to inquisitive sea lions, manta rays, turtles and tropical penguins which appear right in front of your mask. It’s worth a visit for this experience alone.

NATURISTS & GUIDES
The best guides in the Galápagos have grown up here. They are both wildlife experts and great storytellers and will make your trip educational and fun. 

FOOD
As with the wildlife, the Galápagos’ distinctive cuisine has evolved out of sheer isolation. Chefs provision with the freshest local fish, lobster, crab and sea cucumber (a local delicacy). Locally grown fruit and vegetables such as naranjilla, tree tomato, blackberry, guanabana, passion fruit and papaya are plentiful. Everything else is imported from Ecuador, including excellent Argentinian beef and South American wines. 

WHEN TO GO
The Galápagos are a year-round, tropical destination. The warm season (December to May) brings light winds and sunshine interspersed with rain showers – this is the most popular time for visitors and when the sea birds are most active. The dry season (June to November) sees the bluest skies, and the shift in sea currents brings cooler waters. This is when the sea mammals and land birds are most active. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT THE CHARTER TEAM ON CHARTER@CECILWRIGHT.COM 
OR CALL +44 20 7408 1001
+377 97 98 76 60

Recommended Yachts

STELLA MARIS
38m, 12-14 guests,
USD 150,000 per week
+ expenses

PASSION
48.5m, 12 guests,
from USD 100,000 per week,
all inclusive

GRACE
44m, 18 guests,
from USD 108,200 per week,
all inclusive. Onassis’s wedding gift to Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly.

BELUGA
33.5m Feadship, 16 guests,
USD 72,990 per week, all inclusive


Contact the team