My chariot for the experience was Haugan Cruises' fantastic Ocean Spray catamaran, as fine a boat as one could ever hope to be a guest on. On a six night itinerary (slightly delayed because of flight mayhem courtesy Avianca), I fully realized the scale, abundance and accessibility of the archipelago. Stepping over marine iguanas, playing with giant sea turtles, snorkelling with tropical penguins and flightless cormorants and hiking on lava flows with dozens of endemic species of birds...it's like nothing else on the planet. Of course, being accompanied by wonderful people ensured a wonderful time, and so a tip of the hat to my travelling companions, and the Ocean Spray's terrific crew. Check out some of the pictures above and you'll see what all the fuss is about.
1. What not-yet-achieved travel goal do you hope to accomplish during your lifetime? This could be visiting a specific city or country, staying at a certain hotel, or seeing a particular attraction or site.
I've ticked off my impossibly dreamy bucket list in over 100 countries, and it's a little like whack-a-mole: you tick one experience off the top and three more pop up at the bottom. This summer it's been the Amazon, Arctic and Galapagos. The moles that keep popping up: Indonesia, Vietnam and Morocco.
2. Why is this destination or experience personally important to you?
It seems a little ridiculous that I've explored Albania, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, but have missed these countries that blip so loudly on the global adventure radar.
3. What already accomplished travel goal would you recommend to others?
Antarctica. The expedition cruises are pricey and it is quite the adventure crossing the Drake Passage, but every human on Earth should have the opportunity to see how vast, remote and spectacular the seventh continent is. Protected by the international community, sailing alongside icebergs under the midnight sun puts a lot of things in perspective. I'd recommend One Ocean Expedition's chartered Russian research vessels for an authentic, fun and responsible experience.
4. Finally, ave you ever been disappointed by a travel experience that seemed like a good idea…but didn’t turn out that way?
I've found expectations to be the scourge of modern travel. The least you have, the better your experience will be. Traveling on a tight budget, I felt priced out by Croatia's Dalmatian Coast (which is how I ended in Albania, which was fantastic). I couldn't enjoy Cuba after a local showed me life outside the resort bubbles, dictated by a ridiculous and oppressive dual currency system. It seemed like a good idea to visit a massage therapist in Taipei who sets his patients on fire. I can still smell my burning skin. In future, I'll also think twice about accepting a cup of prized fermented horse milk from a Mongolian chieftain, or eating raw baby beluga whale in the Canadian Arctic.