A bird darts below, his tuxedoed, bottle-shaped body slicing through the cobalt water. “Penguin!” someone shouts. He soars up in great arcs around the snorkelers, chasing fish glinting bright as new dimes against the rocks’ green algae.
Every Galápagos traveler has some breathless eureka moment like this: their first hammerhead shark, a blue-footed booby’s high-stepping mating dance, or clearing the trail for a giant tortoise, so old it might have been born during the Civil War. But not every visitor gets to explore the World Heritage site in high style with Ecoventura’s new MV Theory, the greenest megayacht in the archipelago’s fleet.
This 142-foot, 10-cabin beauty offers charters and regular sailings; add on a VIP package for private transfers and tours, plus a sunset Zodiac ride with the captain. The chic minimalist decor allows the wildlife and haunting beauty of the rugged volcanic islands to hold center stage. Expect panoramic views, rainfall showers, and the option for king beds, along with the hospitality, fine dining and distinctive character of a Relais & Châteaux member.
MV Theory and her sister ship MV Origin also have the region’s best naturalist-to-passenger ratio with just 10 guests per guide. Other highlights include a concierge, a hot tub, a fitness room, sea kayaks and a glass-bottom boat. A master yoga instructor will also join select 2019 health-and-wellness departures, while other sailings will feature photography, marine biology and Ecuadoran gastronomy.
On the guilt-free, green-travel front, the vessel boasts dual-flush toilets and innovative wastewater systems. It also has a curved bow design that “cuts through ocean waves like a hot knife through butter,” according to Ecoventura’s owner and executive president, Santiago Dunn. This reduces drag and cuts fossil-fuel consumption by 30 percent.
“Why sacrifice luxury when you can integrate it with environmentally friendly aspects?” he says. “Ecological shouldn’t be synonymous with basic.”
This respectful ethos is more vital than ever. Visitors are taxing this fragile ecosystem, largely due to less-regulated, low-budget, land-based tourism. The national park welcomed 275,817 people last year, a 14 percent surge over 2018. A mere one-third sailed, as the government caps the fleet size, but those guests were rewarded with a more remote, immersive and exclusive experience—and one that reduces pressure on tourist hotspots.
“Galápagos has been on various endangered lists,” says Dunn, who grew up in the archipelago’s gateway, Guayaquil. “We didn’t want clients to feel they’re part of its demise. Instead, they can come to a pristine place and be part of the solution—keeping it just like Darwin found it.”