Personal Galapagos Samba Cruise Experience by Rebecca.
At the end of November, I went on an 8-day cruise around the Galapagos Islands onboard the Samba, a Dutch ship built in 1966 and refurbished in 2007. The Samba was originally used as a fishing boat in the “Noordzee”. It was bought by an American and he sailed it to Miami. A couple of years later, a native of the Galapagos bought it and sailed it to the archipelago where it is now used as a cruise ship.
First of all, I think we should not call this a “cruise” because this word is associated with big ships cruising around the Caribbean Islands with thousands of people onboard entertaining themselves. Instead, The Samba looks more like a “sea safari” where comfort onboard is less important than the activities and experiences you will have.
The Samba activities were very important and from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM we were enjoying our time snorkeling, hiking, or just watching nature. The boat is kind of small with room for 14 guests and 8 crew members but the atmosphere and activities were absolutely amazing!
Samba Galapagos Cruise Experience Onboard
The stay on the boat itself is very interesting, 14 individuals and you all live the same schedule. Sometimes you even get up at 5:00 AM to be ready for the first activity that begins at 6:00 AM when the sun gets up.
Cultures and ages mix on board. Youngest 23 and traveling alone, oldest 80-year-old lady traveling with her daughter from the USA. Four couples; mid-60s from the UK, end 20s and begin 30s from Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. There was even a 35 years old Chinese guy from Xzendou with very different norms and values from the others, but if you are together for 8 days on a small ship, you get to know everyone really well.
As a consequence, you will learn to value and respect all the differences because you share the same passion for nature and you are all enjoying the luxury of being on a cruise enjoying one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Samba Cruise Experience: The Crew
Juan Manuel Salcedo was our guide. His family owns the Samba. Juan Manuel has a background in biology and nature education and he taught us a lot about the different evaluations of the flora and fauna we found.
The guide is essential at tours and especially at a cruise where you spend 8 days. He (or she) makes your experience relevant because a plant, animal, or landscape can mean so much if you are taught about its background, development, and importance in the ecosystem.
In this case, there were 7-8 crew members on board among the captain, engineer, panga captain, cook, etc. The first night they all introduce themselves to the group. Then, they make a welcome toast and mark the beginning of a great journey. The last night they come to officially say goodbye and you’ve got the time to speak and tell them about your experience.
Food Onboard & Schedule
The food onboard was delicious! All three meals we had sitting on the two long tables in the main cabin:
- Breakfast always includes fruits, yogurt, toasts, eggs, cheese, salami, and vegetables.
- Then, for lunch, (the main meal of the day in Ecuador) we had a soup, main course, and a dessert. The main course is always served with a couple of bowls on the tables with two types of vegetables, one type of fish or meat and rice, pasta or potatoes.
- Finally, the diner consists of a main course with a dessert.
There was a vegetarian passenger onboard and a passenger who was allergic to gluten, this wasn’t a problem for the cook, every day they ate just as good as the rest of the group.
Every night the guide gives you a briefing about what you will do the day after. He gives a small PowerPoint presentation and sometimes he recaps what you have seen for the day. There is a whiteboard in the cabin where the schedule is written down. You can find every day’s schedule there.
The Samba has two different itineraries around the Galapagos islands. The Northern islands itinerary (Genovesa, Floreana, Isabela, and Fernandina) and the Southern/Eastern islands itinerary (the one I did).
Day to Day Samba Galapagos Cruise Notes
Below you can find my brief notes of every site while I was on board the Samba Galapagos Cruise experience:
Day 1: Arrival at the Samba
All the guests are picked up by the guide at the airport and are taken to the highlands to visit Chato Ranch. There you will find the great land tortoises. All spaces on the Samba are very small but you will get used to it really fast. Especially when you go to bed the first night you have to get acquainted with the small spaces. The bedroom is about 3,5 m2 and the private bathroom about 2 m2.
Day 2: Floreana Island
In the morning we had a panga ride and spotted the Floreana Mockingbird. There are four types of Mockingbirds at the Galapagos and they all have the same genes, but because of the different life conditions, they have evolved over time. For example, the Espanola Mockingbird has a bigger beak and longer feet because it has to walk longer distances and dig deeper to get fresh water.
After that, in the mid-morning, we hike to the Flamingo Lagoon and then we hiked to the Baroness Lookout. We also visited the post office bay where, since old times, the inhabitants use the post barrel to send and receive letters. Over time, it became a tradition that all tourists leave a postcard, and you can check if there is one for your hometown. If so, you take the postcard or letter and deliver it personally to the addressee.
Day 3: Espanola Island
We took a long hike of about 4 hours on Española Island. There, we had the chance to spot Albatross Pairs, Albatross Chick, Lava Rocks, and Nasca Boobies. Definitely, the biodiversity in Galapagos will leave you speechless.
Day 4: San Cristobal – Kicker Rock & Punta Pitt
The next day we snorkeled with whitetip, blacktip, and Galapagos sharks at Kicker Rock. Also, we got the chance to swim with a sea lion at the beautiful Golden Beach of Punta Pitt. There, we saw three types of boobies: Blue-Footed, Red-Footed, and Nasca Boobies. On that day, we were lucky enough to be surrounded by dolphins. It was a unique experience and you could actually feel the connection with nature!
Day 5: Santa Fe – Barrington Bay
During snorkeling, a sea lion gave birth to a stillborn and we saw her moving the baby inside and outside the water, doing everything to get the stillborn moving but, unfortunately, without any success. Later, in South Plaza, we spotted tons of different birds as frigid birds, tropicbirds, and Galapagos sheerer. Also, we got to evidence a land iguana fight and, while navigating to the next island, we saw jumping manta rays.
Day 6: Chinese Hat – Santiago Island & Bartolome
Two newborn sea lions, Galapagos hawks, cactus plants, and lava tunnels. This was the beginning of day 6. We also got the chance to do Kayaking while spotting the penguins and enjoying the amazing landscape. Chinese hat is located next to Santiago Island, and only 100 years ago there was an eruption at this place, so almost everything on the island is burned by the lava. Here, the views are simply beautiful!
Later, we went to Bartolome Island. Golden beach, clear water, penguins, tons of different sharks at the coastline from one to three meters long, a big group of rays, and so much more are found in this magical place.
Day 7: Santiago – James Bay & Rabida
Three types of crabs -mole crab, ghost crab, and sally lightfoot crab-, different starfish, lava herrings, catching snails, fur seals, and more! We also visited the famous red beach, Rabida. The island’s peculiar color is caused by the high contents of iron oxide in its sands. It was an amazing place to take photos and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Day 8: North Seymour
On the last day, we went to North Seymour. This place is mainly populated by Magnificent Frigatebirds, which nest nearly year-round. Here, you will be able to observe the wildlife in its purest state. Surely, you will be amazed by the behavior of the animals that are not scared of people. Free and pure are two perfect words to describe the final day of this cruise trip.
Recommend This Cruise or Not?
My Samba Galapagos Cruise experience was absolutely amazing and I would like to thank the Samba crew for their hospitality. I would highly recommend this boat for adventurous people who would like to see the Galapagos Islands at their purest. These are some videos of the other Samba guest with their opinion.
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