As you’d expect from a reptile weighing up to 250 kg, giant tortoises are slow movers. Were it not for two dark beady eyes glaring at me from beneath an oversized shell, I might just as well be watching a boulder. Bringing up the rear during a shore excursion, I plonk myself down a few metres from this extraordinary creature the size of a washing machine, mesmerised.
Seriously endangered, less than 20,000 giant tortoises remain in the Galapagos Islands. Centenarian Lonesome George became the environmental poster child for the archipelago before passing away in 2012.
Far enough away from civilisation, anticipation accumulates during the two hour flight from Quito like lip-smacking layers upon a newly iced chocolate cake. Straddling the Equator about 1000 km west of Ecuador, flying low on approach to Baltra Island, islands eventually emerge from the Pacific Ocean.
Disembarking at Seymour Airport on the flat featureless island, beyond the airstrip prickly pear cactus and a few random trees poke above scrawny saltbush. The sky is leaden grey while a cool wind whips tendrils of hair about my face. Devoid of the usual suspects you’d find on an island in the tropics, the archipelago’s charm is not immediately obvious.
Boarding National Geographic Endeavour swiftly after arrival formalities are completed we leave the man-made infrastructure behind, weighing anchor for our first overnight anchorage.
Donning wetsuit, mask and snorkel it takes no more than 20 seconds for me to be totally captivated as sea lions, penguins and turtles flit past my face…
This article appears in Edition #24 of Luxury Holidays & Corporate Travel – Click on the link to read the full article