Coral Galapagos Cruise: A Traveller’s Review

by on 9th September, 2022

Andean Trails’ traveller Jana Meerman has just returned from the diversity and magic — her words — of the Galapagos Islands.

Jana and her folks chose the Galapagos to celebrate her dad’s 60th birthday. They weren’t disappointed. Jana, a travel blogger and photographer, describes their August trip, what to expect, and the wildlife she encountered.

She writes:

The Galapagos is one of the most surreal places in the world, getting to experience the richness, diversity and magic of the islands was an honour.

The have always been near the top of our family’s wish list, and it was my dad’s 60th birthday surprise trip, and he loves boats. Although I’ve been traveling the world pretty much my entire life, getting to spend a week on a yacht exploring the Galapagos might just be one of the most surreal trips I’ve ever had the chance to be on.


Getting Aboard the Coral Galapagos Yacht

It’s my first time in South America and we’ve really set the bar high; this country is incredible. It’s small enough to see the highlights in a short timeframe but bursting with variety and exquisite landscapes, vibrant culture, delicious food and kind people.

From the moment we landed, the trip felt like a dream. These islands are visited by so few people and in such a regulated manner so as to preserve the nature of one of the world’s greatest natural preserves that getting to actually be here in person is a privilege.

We spent a week cruising through ten of the nineteen islands in the Galápagos aboard Coral I – the sister ship, Coral II, sailed alongside us following the same itinerary.

Coral I has space for thirty passengers, whereas Coral II fits twenty, so the groupings while on the various islands undertaking all the different activities is intimate.


Galapagos Guides

There is a guide per every ten people and these guides are exceptional.

They are predominantly locals, most of them born and raised in the Galápagos and using their wealth of experiences from a lifetime spent exploring and understanding these islands, are sharing them with those of lucky enough to spend time with them.

We chose the option of a cruise as we were able to reach many more of the islands and more remote parts of the archipelago, given that the boat is sailed overnight to each new destination.


What Is It Like To Cruise in the Galapagos Islands?

A cruise in the Galapagos is most certainly not a relaxing holiday. These holidays are designed for active people to get out in nature, exploring the diverse landscapes and environment of the archipelago.

I cannot speak for other boats, but on Coral I and II, we really only used the boats for sleeping, eating and traveling between islands.

Most days had four activities: two in the morning between breakfast and lunch, and two in the afternoon before dinner, looking something like this:

  •     7:30am – breakfast
  •     8:30am – activity 1
  •     10:00am – activity 2
  •     11:30am – back on board
  •     12:30pm – lunch
  •     3:00pm – activity 3
  •     4:30pm – activity 4
  •     6:00pm – back on board
  •     7:00pm – dinner
  •     8:30pm – briefing for next day



Activities ranged from small walks, longer hikes, panga (dinghy) rides exploring the coast, snorkelling either off the beach or off the panga and visiting animal reserves (e.g., tortoises, Charles Darwin Research Station).

Each day was jam-packed, with early rises and long days. I went to bed completely exhausted most before 10pm and we would then spend the nights being cruised to our next destination – sometimes this meant a smooth gentle rocking to sleep, other nights it was a bit rough.


Wildlife Highlights in the Galapagos Islands

We prepared for our first snorkelling expedition at Vicente Roca Point, which was a deep water snorkel. Most people opt to wear wetsuits as the currents can be cool out here, however I found the water pleasant and chose not wear a wetsuit during my trip!

Deep water snorkelling means you jump off the sides of the panga instead of wading in from the beach and we found ourselves immediately surrounded by plenty of fish varieties, as well as got to spot all the animals we’d seen from the panga now under water and in their natural habitat.

We swam with sea lions, turtles, fish, marine iguanas and even spotted a rare ray!

At Espinosa Point we swam with marine iguanas, flightless cormorants hunting for their lunch, Galápagos penguins and of course, plenty of turtles. The quality of snorkelling out here is unsurpassed, offering such a rich density and variety of marine life, completely unbothered by human presence, allowing us to witness them in their stunning natural environments with their normal behaviours.


Lava Fields at Fernandina Island — Plus Dolphins

The chance to go for a walk across the exquisite Fernandina Island got us up close and personal with recent lava fields and the lava cactus, which are the first to grow on a recent lava flow, as well as an abundance of wildlife including hundreds of marine iguanas, sea lions, yellow finches, pelicans and even a Galápagos hawk, the top predator of the islands.

As we rode the pangas back to the boat, we were the luckiest people ever to be escorted back by a whole pod of dolphins who jumped and played in the waves with us as the sun began to set over Fernandina.


Swimming With Penguins at Tagus Cove, Isabela

At Tagus Cove on Isabela Island we jumped back into the pangas for an afternoon of deep-water snorkelling where we swam with loads of turtles and best of all, the Galápagos penguins that call western Isabela Island home.

The penguins were so curious and have no fear, darting in and out of our legs as we swam along the coast.

The water Mosquera Islet is exceptionally clear, and we finished our day with a snorkel along the coastline spotting colourful shoals of fish and, best of all, two majestic spotted manta rays – an extremely rare sight.

Unfortunately, my GoPro died just as we reached them in the deeper waters. I’ll remember that moment in my memory forever, though.


Santa Fe: The Best Place to Snorkel With Sea Lions

The stunningly clear waters off Santa Fe Island that offer the best snorkelling with sea lions.

We swam for an hour with these playful creatures off the coast, twirling in and around us, before venturing into deeper waters where gentle turtles could be spotted. This was one of the clearest snorkels we’ve had so far — and sadly the last one of the trip.

Our final dinner on board was a formal affair, with candles on the tables and everyone dressed to the nines. The accompanying sunset did not disappoint, and I was already feeling nostalgic for the incredible adventure we’d undertaken and the knowledge that we had to disembark the next morning, leaving this haven on the ocean behind.


A Final Highlight on Lobos Island

A very early morning – to give us time for a final activity before leaving for the airport – saw us walking along Lobos Island, the best island in the entire archipelago to spot mating and nesting blue-footed boobies and frigates.

This was a special way to finish the trip, in peace and quiet watching these brilliantly coloured baby birds and their parents.


Remembering the Galapagos Islands: A Lifetime of Memories

Getting to have been so entrenched in the diversity and richness of life in the Galápagos, one of the world’s greatest places for wildlife viewing, has been one of the most surreal and privileged experiences of my life. I cannot thank the crew of Coral I enough for making this trip one of the most special memories I will carry forever.

Also, I’d emailed a number of companies when researching our trip and Andean Trails offered the best options, prices and ease of planning and booking.

Returning to the mainland felt strange and the entire week felt almost like a dream – thankfully I’ve got thousands of photos to remind me that I really did undertake this incredible adventure.

I can’t believe I have the honour of writing my experiences down for this epic journey we’ve undertaken.


Read Jana’s Full Coral Galapagos Cruise Review

This is an abridged version of Jana’s wonderful adventure. Read more on her website which is packed with useful worldwide travel tips, blogs, book reviews, and a lot more.

Been inspired? Contact us about the Coral, land-based Galapagos trips, or other boats. We’ll help you explore the Galapagos Islands your way.



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