I just returned from a week long sailboat cruise around The Galapagos islands. I am going to start this post by stating something which will probably strike up some controversy. But I’ve never shied away from speaking the truth and I can’t write about my experience there without being supremely honest. Most people (as in 100% of all the people I’ve ever talked to who have been to the Galapagos, including everyone who was on my boat) wax superlatives upon their return from the islands; they found it to be incredible, the scenery was breathtaking, the beaches stunning, the wildlife unbelievable etc. etc. In all, it was a pretty difficult destination to not at least be intrigued by, given the statistical consensus in the affirmative of it’s merits. However, I hadn’t planned to go on this trip for several reasons, the main one being that it simply didn’t appeal to me that much in the first place. I am not that keen on birds, I’ve been so spoiled when it comes to beaches and I was heading to the Caribbean coast of Colombia anyways, I love sailing but I get very sea sick, and it was very expensive compared to the rest of my travel options in South America. Nevertheless, it was the consistency with which people expressed that I simply HAD TO GO combined with the doctor’s suggestion that I walk a very minimal amount while I heal my torn hip tendon that pushed me into making a decision that initially ran contrary to my gut. I assumed the islands would be themselves achieve the same status as Machu Picchu in my travels – a place that could simply not be over stated or over hyped because it always surpassed expectations.
That was not the case for me. I, for one, was completely underwhelmed, and didn’t really enjoy my overall experience there.
Ok, I’ve said it. There you have it – just my opinion, and in no way an indication as to whether you, dear reader, would be likely or unlikely to feel the same way if you’ve been or are planning to go. We all need to judge a place for ourselves, however, in this case I feel burdened with the need to justify my opinion, so I will attempt to do so while at the same time, letting you in on what some of the highlights (which I did thoroughly enjoy) were as they appeared scattered in my days on the islands.
Let me paint a picture of what a typical day was like. I was traveling on a 100 ft. sailboat, aptly named The Beagle, with a total of 13 passengers, 5 crew, and one very awkward girlfriend of our naturalist/guide. Each day we would navigate to a new island or landing point. We’d typically have breakfast at 7am and leave the boat at 8am for a “walk” which I place in quotation marks as they could far more accurately be described as “ambles” or “meanders” with LOTS of waiting, standing, being castigated for moving ahead of the guide, listening to the guide while standing, and waiting for the group to finish taking photos, or cease their ooohhhing and ahhhing at the 10th animal of the same species that we’d seen in the past hour and perhaps the 50th that we’d seen so far on the islands. After a typical two hour walk where we would have covered a maximum distance of about a mile (yes, if we’d been walking any slower it would be backwards) we would come back to the boat for a snack and perhaps more navigation while we searched for a snorkel location. We’d then get back in the dinghy to a snorkel spot and be in the water anywhere from ½ hour to just over an hour. The water temperature varied from bearable to very cold (at least for me) and though I LOVE to snorkel, the boat did not, unfortunately, have a wetsuit that fit me. They only carried large wetsuits that basically allowed all the cold water in at the neck which continually circulated fresh cold water around my body so the wetsuit was rendered useless. This meant that I often just had to get out of the water even if I was really enjoying the snorkel.
After our water time, it was lunch then usually a nap or, if it was sunny (which it wasn’t most days – lots of complete cloud cover and quite chilly temperature-wise,) a lie out on the top deck with a book. In the afternoon we would take another 2 hour “walk” after which it was time for a glass of wine and then dinner at 7. For me, the fact that it was difficult to sleep at night (often the boat would be rocking so hard you felt as if you were going to be launched from your bunk like an aquatic rocket) and the general lethargic pace all our activities took meant I was ready to fall fast asleep around 9 each night.
And so passed our six full days at sea.
I will grant one concession for the islands to my general malaise during the whole trip. My boyfriend ended our relationship a few weeks ago and I’ve been heartbroken ever since. If anything, I hadn’t been as eager to include The Galapagos on this particular South American itinerary as I thought it would be a great destination to share with him, especially since he is also a diver and I would have definitely added several days of diving at the end of the cruise if he’d been there. In general, I think that a boat-based tropical island paradise full of wildlife is best experienced when you can share it with a partner that you love. Every sunset, glass of wine on the deck, snorkeling crystal waters – all of these activities scream romance and I found myself literally and physically aching to share those moments with him. This, in turn, worsened the pain
in my heart and left me crying into my pillow most nights as I returned alone to my single cabin – incidentally, I was the only person traveling solo on the ship, the rest either being on their honeymoon (difficult to be around when you’re fresh from a break up) or married since their early twenties. This, and our guide constantly waxing on about his “beautiful future wife” left me feeling very much the odd duck, and painfully lonely. There was little to distract me from my grief, and LOTS of quiet time to contemplate and obsess over it when I wanted anything but. Not having anyone to share these feelings with as I had them was also quite difficult, and combined with the fact that I was in a lot of pain recovering from my torn hip tendon, didn’t set the best tone for appreciating my surroundings.
Having said all that, this is my third day in Colombia, and my heartache hasn’t prevented me from absolutely loving the scenery and ambiance of the coffee region of this country.
I guess I just really didn’t like the Galapagos.