Guests on the new Silver Origin explore the islands with a team of Ecuadorian guides and the highest crew-to-guest ratio in the islands.
Snorkeling tops the list of popular activities on many expedition cruises. But snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands – whether from a Zodiac or a deserted beach – will have you hooting through your snorkel. “Sea lion pups want to play with you, penguins sometimes cruise by underwater, and sea turtles aren’t even bothered by our presence,” says Xavier Garcia, a Galápagos National Park Service naturalist and expedition leader on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Origin, the line’s custom-built vessel for Ecuadorian explorations. “It’s magical.”
The youngest ship in the fleet – apart from the 596-guest Silver Moon, which just launched in the Mediterranean – the all-suite, all-balcony Silver Origin has emerged from months of pandemic-curtailed travel with fresh appeal for travelers who appreciate rare wildlife and luxe amenities and service.
Small Meets Sustainable
The 100-passenger ship plies the 19-island archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection nearly 600 miles off Ecuador’s mainland. Designed to generate the smallest possible carbon footprint, the most eco-friendly vessel in Silversea’s fleet reduces fuel consumption by 15 percent, employs an advanced propulsion system to maintain position rather than dropping anchor (which can damage fragile seabeds), and converts sea water into drinking water to reduce plastic bottle use. The Origin is sustainable and comfortable, with a butler in every suite!
Get Your Bearings on Board
Silver Origin’s airy design incorporates glass windows and partitions that allow passengers to glimpse the Galápagos from ocean-view showers, balconies, a firepit on the lounge deck, and the top-deck’s stargazing platform. In keeping with the line’s new S.A.L.T. culinary program that takes a local, farm-to-table approach guided by destination, guests can expect delicious Ecuadorian-inspired dishes such as crudos, ceviches, amberjack grilled atop hot lava rocks, and vegetarian llapingacho con salsa de mani, a traditional Ecuadorian potato patty with peanut sauce.
The ship’s adventurous heart lies in its Marina, where a fold-down stern launches Zodiacs two at a time for excursions. Showers and racks allow guests to rinse and store their wetsuits and other gear upon their return.
Prior to embarking on Zodiac and kayak adventures, passengers can stop by Basecamp, an educational center staffed by Silversea’s guides – all permanent residents of the Galápagos and certified by the Galápagos National Park. The center’s interactive 20-by-5-foot digital screen displays aerial and underwater videos, excursion previews, historic footage from the Royal Geographical Society of London, and scientific presentations.
Where (and How) to See the Animals
The Silver Origin is currently scheduled to run 7-, 10-, and 11-day Galápagos itineraries, making comprehensive tours of the islands while changing calls frequently in keeping with park regulations to avoid overtourism.
If you’re not a birder (yet), the northern Genovesa Island will make you one, with colonies of tropicbirds, frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, and short-eared owls – a rare predator that hunts storm petrels. Visit North Seymour to see the blue-footed boobies dance in a mating ritual. And of course, snorkelers may find themselves watching Galápagos sea lions and green turtles off the coastline of Santa Fe, an island known for its curious sea lion pups.
On Santa Cruz Island, visit Montemar, a tortoise sanctuary and coffee plantation as its one of the best spots. It’s always fun to watch the reaction when visitors see Galápagos giant tortoises in the wild for the first time! Proceeds from the coffee farm fund the the conservation project. You get to see humans and nature working in harmony.
Silversea recently gained permission from the Galápagos National Park Service to visit five new sites, including Bahía Borrero, a white-sand beach and green sea turtle nesting site.
Go Like a Pro
For excursions, I recommend a good sun hat, water shoes, and an adventurous spirit – and your camera, of course. Photographers are particularly inspired by the close-ups they can get of the islands’ unique wildlife without a super-lengthy telephoto lens. It just takes a little patience. Let the wildlife come to you! Visitors are often surprised how, in many cases, the wildlife is as curious about humans as we are about the wildlife.
Connect with the Islands’ Future
Silversea’s presence in the Galápagos directly helps sustain the local community and wildlife. Through the Silversea Fund for the Galápagos, the line sponsors education and training. Many of the kids have said that they wanted to help preserve the islands for future generations and educate people about the region by becoming a Galápagos National Park Service guide!