The classic and elegant lines of the Evolution reflect a bygone maritime era.
After a day of snorkeling and hiking, guests head to the Evolution’s bow for hot tub parties and views of Galapagos icons like Pinnacle Rock.
Vibrant Sally Lightfoot crabs scurry to safety.
Daily lunch on the Evolution comes right from the sea.
Marina iguanas huddle for warmth on Santiago Island’s rocky shore.
Early morning grooming for a pair of Galapagos penguins—the world’s second smallest species.
The Galapagos Islands are studded with sea cliffs, caves, and coves.
Lava gulls dropping by the Evolution for a hot tub drink.
Puffing up his red pouch, a male Magnificent Frigatebird hopes to get lucky during mating season.
A blue-footed booby shows off his two-step-and-flap mating dance.
The Evolution framed by a tall prickly pear cactus, or opuntia, on Santa Fe island.
Sea lions living the life on Mosquera islet.
The Evolution anchored just off a cove at Santa Fe Island.
A sea lion pup’s snack time on the sands of Santa Fe Island.
The Evolution at dusk as seen from a panga (or dingy).
Wildlife teems around the Evolution at anchor.
Stingrays cruise through the mangrove waters of Black Sea Turtle Cove at sunrise.
Three spacious suites on the Evolution are among the sixteen cabin choices.
Guests can enjoy drinks in the lounge while perusing the Evolution’s library of Darwin-related resources.
Dec 22, 2013
GOING, GOING, GALAPAGOS
A Guide to Darwin’s Old Stomping Grounds
Spectacular pageantry and performance are the daily norm in the fabled Galapagos Islands, from a playful sea lion pup peering right into to your snorkel mask to the blue-footed Booby bird’s goofy two-step mating dance. But how you witness the natural world of Charles Darwin’s one-time stomping grounds makes all the difference. Yanking up your wetsuit on the stern of the MV Evolution, you half expect to find Jacques Cousteau next to you, ready to plunge into the Pacific waters.
The aptly named Evolution of Quasar Expeditions may resemble an oceanographic research voyage. But the recently refurbished late-50s vessel with only sixteen cabins makes for a charmingly modest yacht next to the behemoth ships that hog harbors.
At the start of a recent eight-day cruise our group sailed at sunset to Mosquera islet where dozens of sea lions basked on the white sands. Like paparazzi on a sidewalk, we jostled to photograph cuddly pups that waddled up to sniff our feet, while beefy alpha males plied the surf on the lookout for sharks at feeding time.
With a 6:30 a.m. wakeup on day-two, it was off in pangas—or dingies—to observe a pair of tiny endemic penguins perched in volcanic sea rocks. As we landed on the small island of Sombrero Chino bright-red Sally Lightfoot crabs hustled to safety. A beached sea lion skeleton splayed in the sand gave our naturalist guide Samuel Quiroz a chance to explain the features that make the species a “diving machine.”
Over a week of sailing, we reveled in a sunset framing the massive volcanic cones of Isabel Island, as well as a big yellow moon hanging low in the sky as stingrays jumped starboard in the ship’s glow. Every evening we gathered before dinner in the lounge, furnished in a teak-like Ecuadoran wood called seike, for Quiroz’s engaging lectures on plate tectonics, lava flow dynamics, or esoteric facts like how frigate birds steal food from Boobies by hitting their stomachs.
A tightly-rationed, $100 national park entry fee allows visitors to commune closely with glorious creatures throughout the archipelago. Landing on Darwin’s favorite island of Santiago we stumbled thankfully not over other human invadors like us but colonies of pitch-black marine iguanas sunning themselves on the seacliffs—perfectly-still except for their uncouth habit of blowing salt water out of their noses. As we snorkeled one morning in Genovesa Island’s Darwin’s Bay, a world of dazzling creatures—bright cartoon-colored parrotfish, green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and a meandering hammerhead—cruised in the caldera waters below us.
Sitting on the breezy deck at lunch, which punctuated each day’s excursions, we devoured freshly caught fish and various ceviches. At day’s end, some guests enjoyed apertif-fueled hot tub parties on the fore deck, while a nap on the stern’s upper Albatross deck became my daily habit. As the Evolution approached Baltra Island at voyage’s end, you could almost reach out and pet a pair of sea lions lounging on buoys—final confirmation that we’d selected our intimate little vessel well.
And while it may seem like quite the exotic escape, getting to Galapagos is not as difficult as many imagine. LAN Airlines flies directly from New York City, Miami, San Francisco, and L.A. to Guayaquil on Ecuador’s coast for ninety-minute connecting flights. So hop on a plane—this is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime trip you won’t ever regret taking.