As our panga (dingy) sped out into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, I scanned the horizon just in time to catch a giant manta ray propel itself out of the water and flip twice before it disappeared back under the waves. Salt water sprayed my face, and I couldn’t help but smile; it was only the first morning of our Galapagos luxury cruise and our safari-style adventure was already well underway.

Located about 550 miles west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are the perfect destination for those seeking luxury and adventure in equal measure. My travel partner on this adventure of a lifetime was Quasar Expeditions, a luxury small ship cruise line, on their Evolution yacht. Traveling by yacht is my preferred way to see the Galapagos – it allows you to travel to more remote Islands, which have less tourism and more of the iconic wildlife that the Galapagos are known for. Plus, once the day’s adventures were over, I didn’t need to worry about journeying back from the Island to my hotel on another Island; I simply grabbed a cocktail and settled in for beautiful sunset views from the yacht’s deck.

My 8-day journey retraced the historic journey of Charles Darwin, the scientist who famously developed his theory of evolution after a trip to the Galapagos. Every day I felt closer to the natural wonders of the islands and created countless memories I’ll cherish forever. From snorkeling with sea turtles in Punta Vicente Roca, to hiking across lava fields on Espinoza Point, to spotting endemic blue footed boobies, albatross, and Galapagos penguins on land and sea, my experience in the Galapagos left me with unique, memorable moments that will stay with me forever.

Traveling to another country can be a stressful undertaking, and when you add in planning adventure activities it can get overwhelming. That’s why it was so great that Quasar provided the equipment for all excursions and created an itinerary that was full of activities. Each day there were 2-3 different excursions – usually kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and swimming – and we were encouraged to participate in all of them. Local naturalist guides led these activities and shared helpful knowledge about the landscape, wildlife, and island conservation efforts, which enriched the experience and made me feel so safe and cared for. The trip is perfect for a multi-generational family adventure: age ranges on our ship ranged quite a bit, and activities were suitable for most ages and fitness levels.

After a long day of adventuring, it was so amazing to get back on the ship and reflect on the day’s activities, cocktail in-hand. The Evolution yacht is a gorgeous and comfortable vessel to travel on; it features a contemporary design aesthetic and modern appointments like a hot tub, al fresco lounge and bar area, and indoor and outdoor dining options. Every one of the Evolution’s luxury staterooms are well-appointed, spacious, and comfortable. Foodies like me will me happy to know that mealtime was a treat, too. Meals were prepared by Ecuadorian chefs, and the menu showcases the diverse cuisine of Ecuador using locally sourced ingredients. If you’re a picky eater though, don’t worry; dietary restrictions are happily accommodated.

The Galapagos Islands are an unforgettable destination that will leave a mark on your heart. The adventures and authentic insights provided by the team at Quasar made it easy to fully appreciate the natural wonders surrounding me, so I could focus on relaxing and having fun. I can’t recommend the Galapagos – and Quasar Expeditions – highly enough to anyone seeking the next trip-of-a-lifetime!