by Jeff Gundvaldson
Are you a nature enthusiast? Love animals? Curious about evolution? Like soft adventure? Those of us in the gay community who are into this sort of thing, or at least admit we’re into this sort of thing, are somewhat a rare breed.
Mention the idea of going to a place like the Galapagos to see wildlife among polite gay company and the reaction is often one of outright revulsion at the thought of being that close to nature and that far from civilization. I won’t lie and tell you that it was as clean and tidy like a visit to Sea World, but after visiting the Galapagos I can honestly tell you it was far from roughing it.
My husband Troy and I led a group of nearly 30 adventurous gay men on an 8-day adventure with Brand g Vacations this January. We eased into things by settling into the 4.5 star Swissotel in Quito. This fascinating city is home to one of the largest and best preserved colonial centers in South America. Its “Old Town”, a Unesco World Heritage Site is packed with colonial monuments and architectural treasures.
A tour of Quito on day two took us through three eras in Ecuador’s history, Pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary. Among the many sites we visited were the newly opened Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, the highly decorated Jesuit church of la Compañía and the Chapel of Man, famed Ecuadorian artist Guayasamin’s homage to humanity.
Day three saw an early morning wakeup call and then off to the airport for our flight to Baltra and the start of our adventure in The Galapagos Islands. Upon arrival we ferried to Santa Cruz Island where we were welcomed with a hearty lunch and cold beverages. Then we were given the choice of visiting the famed Galapagos Giant Tortoises in captivity at the Charles Darwin research center, or in their natural habitat in the highlands of Santa Cruz. It was a tough decision for some, but after minor debate we all agreed it would be far preferable to see these gentle giants in the wild vs. a pen. We were rewarded with a multitude of tortoises and as it happened to be breeding season we even saw a bit of action albeit very slow action.
Many people think that The Galapagos are devoid of human civilization completely, but our visit to Puerto Ayora, the embarkation point for our cruise, proved otherwise. Unbeknownst to many there are more than 26,000 humans living within the Galapagos in three main population centers. Our stop in Puerto Ayora was the perfect opportunity to pick up any last minute needs before embarking the Isabella II, our cozy home on the seas for the next 4 nights.
Metropolitan Touring’s Isabella II has all the comforts of big ship life, but in a compact package. Cozy well-equipped staterooms with nice sized bathrooms, a comfy lounge with a well-stocked bar, a covered sun deck with second bar and a hot tub. The food was abundant and tasty with full American buffet breakfasts, tasty buffet lunches and 5-course sit down dinners. The Isabella is also equipped with a fleet of zodiacs, snorkel gear, wet suits, kayaks and a glass bottom boat.
Days start early in the Galapagos, so if you’re a night owl you might want to adjust your sleep schedule before visiting. Each day we had a wakeup call around 6:15am with breakfast served around 7am. Trust me it’s well worth it to get up early as there is much to see and do and nature does not wait for anyone!
We witnessed an enormous amount of diversity in land and sea life as well as flora and fauna during our four-day adventure. There was an abundance of sea lions, iguanas, sea and land birds, sharks, rays…the list goes on and on. Among the crowd favorites were the somewhat gawky Blue Footed Boobies and the rare Galapagos Penguins. Best of all the animals have no fear of humans so you can walk right up to them and they just go about their business like you one of the gang.
We hiked, snorkeled, kayaked, and best of all shared the company of like-minded people while exploring. And that is the true beauty of traveling on an all-LGBT cruise or tour. Imagine never having to come out at dinner even once during the cruise.
Here’s a small sampling of what we saw and did. I hope you enjoy, I know we did!
Photos by Troy Bermel.