Saturday 27 February 2016

Luxury - Galapagos Style

My friend Ivan and I wrote and perform a song about the Galápagos Islands that is filled with joy and celebrates the natural beauty and magnificent animal and marine life surrounding us. If you listen to the video you'll get the essence of what makes this place we call Paradise so special. I invite you to watch the video and luxuriate in the magnificence we know as the Galápagos Islands.

The Galápagos Islands are unlike anywhere else in the world. That's why this is such a desirable destination. Guests from around the world come here expecting luxurious first class service - and they will get it. There's just one thing: luxury in the Galápagos Islands is unlike what you'll find at the Ritz or Four Seasons or even on Crystal Cruises. Let's call it pampering and opulence "Galapagos style."

Here's what I mean:
Galapagos Islands Volcanic cliffs
Cliffside Santiago Island Galapagos
You're on a beach vacation, but most of our beaches consist of rocky coastlines and volcanic ash. We don't have beachfront homes as in Palm Beach or beachfront resorts as in Maui. The beach - every bit of it - is national park and very well protected. Our beaches are still meant for sea lions and green sea turtle nests, for pelican mating and iguanas sunning - not for people.

Public Beach Santa Cruz

To be sure, there are several public beaches throughout the islands where you can put up a chair with an umbrella while you read a book. But, they are few and far between and not a single hotel boasts a beach cabana with waiters bringing drinks, serving lunch and giving ocean-side massages. It's just not that kind of place. Almost none of the hotels have even an inch of beachfront property.

Food Service Galapagos Cruises
Buffet on Board a Luxury Catamaran
And the luxury boats ... They come in various sizes from 16 to 100 people. They have delicious healthy food, sometimes  jacuzzis and often balconies for the cabins. They have an excellent staff to guest ratio (smaller boats have 10 or 12 staff personnel for just 16 passengers). But they don't have wine rooms, libraries, room service, massages, spas, aerobics classes or nightclubs. There is no on-board internet or telephone service. You can't keep in touch with your office. You don't need fancy clothes, makeup or even shoes on the boat. 

Me Teaching about Whale Bones
That's just not what the Galapagos is about. Instead, Galapagos boats have very knowledgable certified naturalists who will teach you and guide your appreciation of the islands. The very best cruise helps you absorb nature and understand what intrigued and stimulated Charles Darwin and changed the way in which we all now understand evolution and our place in and responsibility to our planet.

Hotels too tread the same thin line between luxury in the traditional sense and luxury as it's understood and practiced in Galapagos. It's not Las Vegas with ritzy glitzy bustling hotels or New York City with 12 varieties of top shelf cognac. It's authentic and casual here. 

King Room at Galapagos Eco-Lodge
For example at my hotel, the Galapagos Eco-Lodge, you will have a microwave and a refrigerator in your room, both certified energy efficient and top of the line. Your mattress, linens and towels will be appropriately thick and soft. Everything will be maintained in perfect condition and beautifully cleaned and presented. You'll have quiet air conditioning, a flat screen t.v. and plentiful hot water with excellent water pressure. You'll even have specially equipped low water quiet toilets. We have wifi.

Recycled materials as insulation at the Hotel
But - and this is key to understand - everything in the Galápagos Islands is rationed everywhere. So, though many hotels, like mine, have paid a surtax for installing extra hot water heaters, the hot water still can run out. Though we have the most modern toilets our sewage systems won't accommodate paper, which has to be placed in a separate can. Our televisions get every channel available here, but it's nothing like On Demand. Rooms are spacious by Galapagos standards, bearing in mind that land ownership is strictly monitored and that land is not released for private ownership because it's all national park. Power too is rationed and 60% of ours must be wind-powered. And wifi: it's inconsistency throughout the islands is legendary. Service is sketchy everywhere and Internet service can't be guaranteed. It won't be the hotel's fault when you can't Skype or retrieve your email. I have the exact same problem at home. It's just the nature of Galapagos service being quixotic. 

Forbes Magazine wrote in its review of the world's most luxurious cruises:
True luxury is no crowds, not searching for an available deck chair, not standing in a buffet line. Luxury is about service and attention to detail, in addition to accommodations and food.

Shipboard Food
I love that definition because it applies to the Galápagos Islands so perfectly. There are no crowds, no waits for deck chairs, no long lines. You get service and attention to detail. The food is hearty and delicious and accommodations are first class. But you're always in Galapagos.

Galapagos Luxury - Just Open Your Eyes!
A guest recently called the Galapago Eco-Lodge a "diamond in the rough." What a perfect description. We do live in Paradise, just like my song says. We have the unequalled privilege and luxury of swimming with sea lions and penguins, watching blue footed boobies mate and raise their little chicks, examining lava for its natural beauty and seeing some of the most exquisite sunsets and vistas anywhere on our planet. You'll see and experience species of plant, marine and animal life that don't exist anywhere else in the world. You'll see waved albatross mating on Espanola Island and Magnificent Frigate Birds on North Seymour.

We have quiet, peacefulness, millions of stars from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in the night sky totally unobscured by big city lights. 

That's the luxury that awaits in the Galápagos Islands.

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