The evolution of luxury travel in the Galápagos Islands has finally taken a sustainable turn. Today, the most glamorous way to explore Ecuador’s volcanic archipelago is also the eco-friendliest. In the 20-island wildlife haven shared by giant tortoises, lava lizards, pink flamingos, and penguins, respecting nature is a privilege. Chalk it up to natural selection steered by travellers who want to follow the steps of Charles Darwin, without leaving a footprint.
Family-owned expedition company Ecoventura has made low-footprint travel more attainable with its new MV Origin yacht, a 20-passenger vessel custom designed to maximize fuel efficiency and comfort. With two seven-night itineraries to choose from, both leaving from the main port at San Cristobal, guests can traverse a handful of the 13 major islands with ease—all while hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking among the endemic species that contributed to Darwin’s theory of evolution. While both itineraries have their perks, Itinerary B gives travellers a rare chance to swim with the Galápagos penguins around Isabela Island, the only place in the world where penguins are naturally found in the northern hemisphere. On any given day, it’s not uncommon to be greeted by giant manta rays, curious sea lions, or blacktip reef sharks, yet each encounter feels like a rare gift.
Today, the most glamorous way to explore Ecuador’s volcanic archipelago is also the eco-friendliest.
As the first Galápagos cruise ship company to offset carbon emissions and to install alternative energy sources, Ecoventura is no stranger to sustainable luxury. On the surface, the 10 staterooms, interior lounges, and expansive sundecks drip with indulgence. It’s not every day you can watch a pod of dolphins swim by while sipping a handcrafted cocktail in a Jacuzzi. Among the 14-person Ecuadorian crew are two naturalist guides that lead small groups on daily excursions. Ecoventura only provides Level 3 guides (the highest rank in the Galápagos). Moreover, the Origin is one of the few ships with an executive chef, and it sources 60 per cent of its food products from the islands. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover the yacht’s state-of-the-art environmental features, including an on-board water treatment system that filters 10,000 litres per day instead of disposing grey water into the ocean. Constructed using lightweight steel, the ship’s innovative curved bow allows it to cut through waves with little drag, improving fuel efficiency by 30 per cent and reducing the navigation time between islands.
This makes all the difference on days when explorations begin with the sunrise, enabling Origin passengers to be among the first to catch a glimpse of sunbathing marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and Darwin’s famous finches. All of these extraordinary creatures roam freely, showing no fear of humans whatsoever. This phenomenon is a result of the magic that can happen when nature is protected. Modern explorers can come here to “play Darwin,” says naturalist guide Fabricio Carbo while circumventing a resting land iguana. With over 33 years of experience, Carbo has guided several notable visitors including Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, Michael Douglas, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
It’s been over 150 years since The Origin of the Species was published and yet, the islands are still changing—and attracting over 200,000 visitors per year. The current focus is to continue with the eradication of introduced species that threaten the ecosystem, such as rats, goats, and cats. The Galápagos retains an astounding 95 per cent of their endemic species, a feat achieved by no other archipelago on the planet, but there is a constant struggle to prevent illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism. Every year, more tortoises call the islands home, allowing humans to get one step closer to understanding their ways. Sometimes, all it takes is seven days to form a once-in-a lifetime connection to a place, and impact its future for the greater good.
Photos courtesy of Ecoventura.
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