It was to be a two-week family charter spanning three generations, each member of the trip with their own hopes and expectations. The patriarch was a high-powered business leader and even before we set off we openly discussed his fears of being ‘captive’ for two weeks aboard our luxury vessel. The matriarch was like a sponge ready to soak up as much high powered natural history information as possible – both are ardent conservationists. The four kids, from 6 to 10 years old, were the best prepared youngsters we have ever had the pleasure of leading on a trip. Their preparation already included a deep understanding of Galapagos species, ecosystems and threats, they had arrived fully kitted out with wetsuits and had undergone intensive pool training picking up weights off the bottom of their local swimming pools, honing their water skills to maximize on all the snorkeling the trip had to offer. They spent downtime writing journals, plotting our course on their individual maps, drawing pictures of the wildlife and writing postcards to friends to be posted from the famous Post Office Barrel. The whole thing was a delight from start to finish.
For Addie, the cutest six-year old you could ever meet her target was to commune with turtles for the first time in her short life. We found turtles by the dozen and the beaming smiles as she lay for ages at a time, spread-eagle on the surface rocking in the gentle swells of the shallows with up to five of the large, indifferent reptiles (as if she were simply another turtle) said it all.
Cassidy, 9, the go-getter of the quartet was on a mission of proving herself. She swam with the last of us in the water, beat us all to the top of the daunting Bartolomé boardwalk and exceeded her personal best in a hot 10 mile hike along the crater rim of the world’s second largest caldera of Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island. Her other, rather inspired, first was to commit one of her ‘baby’ teeth to the tooth fairy in the depths as the ship’s GPS hit 00 00 degrees latitude on the equator.
Willa, 10, wanted nothing more than to interact with sealions. Her dream was realized at nearly every landing and, with patience and an uncanny sense of which sealion might be the most inquisitive, spent hours during the trip sitting quietly until the curiosity of a young pup got the better of it and Willa was accepted and even became the object of a sense of playfulness from the kindred mammalian spirit.
Finn, 8, the only boy, of course wanted to see sharks. By the third day he had already broken free of the invisible reins of his parents in the water and was diving down to meet the docile white-tipped reef sharks on their own terms. Good street cred for next term in school!
The parents were enthralled by the wonder expressed by their kids and likewise for the grandparents for both generations of offspring.
The matriarch relived the magic of the islands that we had shared with her 23 years previously while the patriarch, after the first week and going in to the second had shed all sense of stress and previous reservations, it was almost as if he wondered why he had to get off the boat after 14 days as if he had found his new home!
For us, every trip brings something new and in this case it was two things, first a young humpback whale in the shallow waters of Floreana Island that swam alongside and even under our zodiac, secondly to bring our vessel alongside a stunning broad-billed swordfish (our first) sunning itself at the surface of the glassy waters of the rich Bolivar Channel.
All images ©PeteOxford.