Caroline Maber journeys around the world’s most famous wildlife-centric archipelago aboard a very stylish yacht

In January this year, I was fortunate enough to cruise the Galápagos aboard the MV Evolve, a beautiful 20 passenger yacht, and one of three near identical sister ships. On arrival into the archipelago, our mandatory Galápagos National Park entry ticket and Ingala tickets were checked before a rendezvous with our Evolve guides and drivers for the short journey to the ship. Amazing wildlife sightings started right away. At the dock, we were greeted by enthusiastic, baying sea lions – a group of mothers were watching their teeny pups swim and flap around, whilst some lazed around and refused to move out of the way, meaning we almost had to step over them. The wildlife in the Galápagos is remarkably confident and curious around humans.

It was a short Zodiac ride out to Evolve, which was anchored just outside of port amongst several other small yachts and its sister ships. We were greeted by Captain David and the crew, and quickly settled into our beautiful cabins, all of which are identical, meaning no squabbling over who has the better room and making it a perfect choice for groups of family or friends looking to charter. The cabins have huge windows, so you can take in the beauty of the islands and spot wildlife from your cabin – and there’s even a large window in the bathroom, which meant I could watch the world go by whilst singing my favourite tunes in the shower!

Evolve is part of the luxurious Relais & Château group, which, along with a host of luxurious touches, means you’re guaranteed delicious food throughout your trip – trust me, you’ll never go hungry. Breakfast is a delicious buffet with an Ecuadorian twist, and eggs can always be made to order. Lunch is also served buffet-style, but you can expect an à la carte dinner, complete with meat, fish and vegetarian options (dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice). The divine feasts the chefs can conjure up in a small kitchen on a yacht never cease to amaze me! In between meals, you’ll find tea, coffee and a nibbles station 24/7 – not forgetting the cocktails and canapés on top deck every evening, the perfect accompaniment as you take in the beautiful scenery and wait for the sun set. There are several tables for dinner, so you can rotate between guests and exchange stories with different people; there’s also the opportunity to enjoy an evening meal with the captain a few times during your trip.

When moving from location to location, guests are free to chill out on the sun loungers on the top deck, but there’s also a small gym on the lower deck and a library if you want to entertain yourself. Every evening before dinner, there is a re-cap of the day from your guide, highlighting all the marvellous things you saw and did, and then an overview of the plan for the next day.

A small boat is personal but Evolve is a lovely size as there will always be enough passengers for two guides and two groups for excursions. Plus, there’s enough space onboard to escape alone and absorb the almost lunar, barren, volcanic landscapes as you sail past.

Galápagos cruises are what we call ‘expedition cruises’, and every day, weather permitting, there’s a plan. The Galápagos Islands are highly protected so the companies that operate there must seek permits for all landings, but each day will bring activities, from snorkelling, hiking and swimming from pristine beaches, to kayaking or paddle boarding.

One of my favourite landings was on the island of Espanola, where we were greeted by sea lions and pelicans – one of each refused to move from the path, so once again we just hopped over them. As we walked across the rocky terrain, red and green ‘Christmas‘ iguanas lay in mounds on top of one another, soaking up the Equatorial heat. You really must be careful where you step, it’s easy to mistake these lizards for a volcanic rock. We had incredible guides to bring the scene to life and as we were listening to their explanations of animal evolution, a baby sea lion hopped up the rocks, waddled over to check us out and then continued on his way. We also saw red footed boobies, frigates aplenty, a few wavering albatrosses and bright-red Sally Lightfoot Galápagos crabs.

If you enjoy snorkelling, the Galápagos is a must. The underwater world is brimming with wildlife – schools of fish, golden eagles rays, sting rays, white-tipped sharks, Galápagos sharks, and more. We happened to be there in turtle-mating season and saw hundreds of turtles, along with a few tracks on the beaches where they had gone to lay their eggs. In the water, sea lion pups will swim up to you out of curiosity and even have a nibble of your flippers.

A magical moment for all onboard took place one night after dinner. We’d heard reports of sharks congregating off the aft and headed to the back, whereupon we came across nine white shadows of sharks, swimming behind the vessel and trying to catch flying fish. We gathered on the loading dock, just metres from the creatures, to watch the show for a few hours. The sharks were in a frenzy, frantically trying to catch flying fish as they flitted across the water; a couple of times, when a fish had stunned itself, a sea lion would sneak in and steal a meal from the sharks. What an incredible sight to witness.

There are so many reasons to visit the Galápagos and Evolve was the perfect sailing base from which to explore the islands. We all know that the wildlife here delivers, but the setting is also extremely beautiful and rich in both history and fascinating tales of the early inhabitants.

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Caroline Maber
Auriole Potter
Aisha Gross

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