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Big Fish sails in Darwin’s footsteps in the Galapagos Island

Big Fish sails in Darwin’s footsteps in the Galapagos Island

A close encounter

Besides the frivolity of King Neptune’s ceremony, the cruise provided other milestone experiences for Big Fish'’s guests. Rob Chapplehow, Beattie’s friend, says he would never forget his first scuba diving experience, which included a night dive with sharks.

‘I was both terrified and awestruck,’ he says. ‘It’s an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.’

Another guest was Greg Marshall, Big Fish'’s designer, who not only cherished the ecological and historical aspects of the cruise, but was also able to evaluate first hand the way the yacht achieved its design objectives.

‘It’s always theoretical until you actually see how people use and enjoy a yacht,’ he says. ‘People are in constant motion, diving, snorkelling, getting on and off the tender, moving from here to there to watch the scenery – it’s amazing how much you can learn just by watching how people use and enjoy a boat.’

Marshall says the Aquos team was deciding whether to include_ Big Fish’s_ ample main saloon windowsill seats on Star Fish, a new 50m yacht that he is also designing.

‘

That’s where everyone wanted to sit inside when the boat was under way. It was the perfect place to relax after a dive or excursion and still feel connected to these magical islands.’

The pace of a Galapagos cruise is dictated by the islands’ relationships to one another. They are mostly uninhabited and many require an overnight cruise to reach. Most days on this cruise begin in a new anchorage. Breakfast is followed by a snorkel or dive trip followed by some on-shore exploration. Lunch is eaten at anchor or on the way to the next moorage and to a new set of adventures.

Just as in Darwin’s day, each island and moorage still offers an entirely different set of wildlife, historical or geographic experiences

Ecuador’s National Park Service provides an itinerary for each vessel – private or commercial – to ensure no location is overrun by visitors, which benefits both the fragile ecology and the overall quality of each visitor’s experience. Every vessel is required to carry a certified naturalist and guide, whose job includes protecting the region and sharing their knowledge of this unique part of the world. Big Fish’'s guide, Sani Anibal, drew praise from all quarters for his insight and passion for the Galapagos Islands.

Not all the islands are noted for their wildlife. On Bartolomé Island, for example, visitors walk over vast recent lava flows from the island’s shield volcano, where the sea gurgles underfoot, forming saltwater lakes as much as a kilometre inland.

Another highlight was Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, which since the whaling days, more than 300 years ago, has been used as a letter exchange point. As in the past, mariners place their letters or postcards into an old barrel, now colourfully decorated. Incoming visitors sort through the accumulated mail and select pieces to carry home to their intended recipients.

Susie Sunshine, Big Fish’'s divemaster, dropped off a letter for her mother back in Wisconsin and was surprised by how well the system still works. Five days later, even before Big Fish had left the Galapagos, she called home to find her letter – without a stamp – had already been received, hand-carried by her postman who wanted to make sure this curious piece of mail was safely delivered.

Just as in Darwin'’s day, each island and moorage still offers an entirely different set of wildlife, historical or geographic experiences. It was, after all, Darwin’s keen observation that the finches on the Galapagos were entirely different from island to island that formed the initial basis for his theory of evolution. This extraordinary diversity is the archipelago’s enduring legacy and the simply unequalled range of sights and experiences keeps visitors returning to the islands.

Everyone on Big Fish, as with all who visit the Galapagos, departed with a rich treasure trove of memories and a deeper appreciation of the beauty and complexity of life on earth.

Originally published: August 2011.

Photography courtesy of Aquos Yachts

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