I had always wanted to visit the Galapagos for one specific reason –  the only place in the world where Waved Albatross breed is on the island of Espanola in the Galapagos archipelago.

OK –  guilty as charged  –  I have tunnel vision on albatross.  I obviously  acknowledge the importance of the islands because of the impact they had on Charles Darwin in the formulation of his theory of evolution and, consequently, on all the rest of us.

The unique wildlife of these islands is fascinating. I went mainly for the birds – in particular the albatross – but found a destination with stunning scenery and amazing marine life – dolphins, sharks, turtles, rays, iguanas.

There’s just something special about being around birds that are not scared of humans and allow a close approach.  The Galapagos has that in spades.  The low-flying frigate birds zoom past almost at head height at times and being able to sit  a few metres from a pair of Waved Albatross is, well, indescribable.

Birding the Galapagos is every bit as good as birding Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands with one huge difference…….it’s warm!!   The sea conditions are also a lot smoother which makes the process of getting on and off the ship into the Zodiac craft for landings a much less harrowing experience.

What finally made me do the trip was finding out about the brigantine Mary Anne – a “tall ship” which operates around the Galapagos. After birds my next passion is ships and sailing ships in particular.

The combination of Waved Albatross and doing a cruise around the Galapagos on a tall ship proved irresistible and so I made the trip in June this year (2019). 

The Mary Anne cost more than the standard motor yachts and catamarans that cruise the Galapagos but it was worth every rand.

What did I not expect?  Just how rugged these volcanic islands are. Obviously I had not done my homework properly because I was thinking “tropical paradise” but instead found harsh volcanic terrain frequently covered in grass, scrub and cacti growing straight out of the lava.

Pack your hiking boots along with your sandals should you go.