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As one of the most pristine and biodiverse tropical regions in the world, this equatorial haven harbors landscapes where the preservation of flora and fauna is still prized over human development, forming a playground for iconic species to flourish, from giant tortoises and flamingos to penguins and hammerhead sharks.
Though the Galápagos remains a preserved paradise, a recent United Nations study suggests the world’s natural areas are declining at a rate unprecedented in human history, including oceans and coral reefs, making it more important now than ever for travelers to consider how they travel and who to travel with. That’s why I set sail on family-owned, Ecuador-based Ecoventura’s new Theory, a 20-passenger mega-yacht and one of the most eco-friendly vessels to ever launch in the region.
Named after Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution—a scientific breakthrough on natural selection the British naturalist discovered in the 1800s during his studies in the Galápagos—the Relais & Chateaux yacht merges five-star luxury and sustainability with the most favorable naturalist-to-passenger ratio in the Galápagos with just 10 guests per guide.
Beginning on San Cristobal Island, I spent the next week exploring the area’s pristine beaches and volcanic landscapes, from discovering Española Island where red- and green-coated marine iguanas feasting on succulents near a colony of sea lions resting on sandy rocks, to snorkeling in translucent waters with turtles, parrot fish, and manta rays near the shores of Floreana Island. When I wasn't watching the flight of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies on North Seymour Island, I enjoyed the yacht’s sundeck—loungers and daybeds and an open-bar are set before a bubbling Jacuzzi—and took rest in my cabin, a spacious suite with elemental silver and ash interiors, three panel panoramic windows, and a private bathroom with a rainfall shower and biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
To protect the fragile ecosystems in the Galápagos, I learn Ecoventura President Santiago Dunn built the Theory with unprecedented stabilizing technology, reducing its fossil fuel consumption by more than 30 percent while allowing the vessel to cruise up to 30 percent faster. Going beyond reusable water bottles and biodegradable paper straws, the Theory’s cutting-edge bow design weaves through waves for smoother and faster sailing with an increase up to 14 knots, making remote islands accessible while simultaneously reducing the yacht’s environmental footprint. The vessel also features ecological plumbing and an advanced water treatment system that prevents untreated water from being disposed into the ocean.
“The Galápagos is one of the few pristine places left on Earth, and it should serve as an example for other destinations and park authorities on how to handle traveler capacities and passenger arrivals to avoid over-tourism so that future generations can continue to learn about and enjoy the world’s natural areas,” Dunn said. “That’s why we created the Theory and our seven-night luxury expeditions—we limit the number of guests we transport and our two routes make stops at some of the most remote islands to help preserve the environment and cut down on oversaturating popular landing spots.”
Rates for a seven-night voyage start at $7,850 per person based on double occupancy, including meals, wine and spirits, and guided shore and snorkeling excursions, with the added option to combine both itineraries for a comprehensive expedition of the Galápagos.