, 2022-07-05 22:56:57,
In 1835, Charles Darwin stood above Tagus Cove and looked down at HMS Beagle, which had dropped anchor at the sheltered nook on the Galápagos island of Isabela. Incense trees and prickly pear cactuses dotted the surrounding volcanic craters and cones while sea lions and turtles patrolled the shore. Years later, Darwin’s research in the Pacific archipelago would inspire his quest for the origin of species.
On an afternoon in June, Francesco Galli Zugaro is taking in the same view, which has barely changed. Like Darwin, the Italian-American has come to observe the wildlife. But as the founder of the luxury cruise company Aqua Expeditions, he is concerned with the evolution of a species that has only recently begun to visit these shores: Homo affluentes rimor, perhaps, or affluent explorer.
Galli Zugaro uses the phrase often as I join him and his family on the inaugural voyage of Aqua Mare. She is his fifth boat and the first superyacht to sail among the Galápagos Islands, which lie in glorious isolation across the equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador. Available to book by the cabin, or for charter from $196,000 a week, the 50m vessel thrusts its bows into what Aqua sees as a gap in the market. “We’re catering to people who probably would never come here for lack of the right ship,” Galli Zugaro, who is 48, tells me, almost 15 years after he first cornered the market in boutique luxury in far-flung waters when he launched cruises on the Peruvian Amazon. He finds it hard to take his eyes off his newest toy, which cost close to $10mn to buy and refit. Days after her arrival in Ecuador, Aqua Mare’s hull, freshly painted in “expedition grey”, shimmers like the belly of a whale shark.
The yacht, which has seven sumptuous cabins, maybe new here but its dashing owner (think a young Al Pacino with Clooney’s eyebrows) knows the islands well. He first visited with Birgit, now his wife and business partner, in 1991, not long after they had met as students. They marvelled at the variety and abundance of natural life, the result of converging ocean currents and extreme isolation. “I was just blown away by the lack of predators and fear and the proximity to wildlife,” he says.
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