National Geographic Society Newsroom

Galapagos Expedition Journal: On Board National Geographic Endeavour

On the night we sailed across the Equator the sun set fire to the sea and sky, creating a dramatic setting for the shadowy dormant volcanoes lining the horizon around us. It was a memorable moment celebrated over a glass of champagne on the bridge deck of National Geographic Endeavour. We were roughly midway through...

On the night we sailed across the Equator the sun set fire to the sea and sky, creating a dramatic setting for the shadowy dormant volcanoes lining the horizon around us. It was a memorable moment celebrated over a glass of champagne on the bridge deck of National Geographic Endeavour.

We were roughly midway through our 10-day Lindblad/National Geographic Expedition around the iconic Galapagos islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 600 miles west of Ecuador, South America. The spectacular sunset reminded us that the Endeavour was as much part of a unique experience as the islands themselves.


National Geographic Endeavour photo by David Braun.


Passengers on the Endeavour’s bridge deck photograph whales swimming alongside the ship. Photo by David Braun.


Passengers Olivia Chapman and Terry Goss got married on board National Geographic Endeavour. Captain John Zurita performed the ceremony. Photo by David Braun.
Endeavour catering staff made the wedding floral arrangement out of fresh produce. Photo by David Braun.


From the ship we had made forays  by Zodiacs to beaches and ledges of lava to get up close to sea lions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and colonies of sea birds. But also from on board the ship we had watched whales, been met by pelicans, boobies and frigate birds, circumnavigated islets, and moored in waters rich in tropical fish of every kind.  The Endeavour was our luxury hotel, transporter, and platform for exploration.

In this fifth post of my Galapagos Expedition Journal, I share some of the highlights of life on board the National Geographic Endeavour. I was on the ship as the National Geographic Expert, sharing experiences as a journalist for the Society and learning about the islands and species I have featured in our news stories.

In my earlier posts about the expedition, I described our arrival on the island of San Cristobal and our first visit to a Galapagos beach, what it was like to swim with sea lions, how we followed Charles Darwin’s footsteps to Floreana Island, and what it was like coming face to face with giant tortoises. You can also find the entire series of posts for the Galapagos Expedition Journal here.

Named after HMS Endeavour,  the ship Captain James Cook used to explore Australia and New Zealand in the late 1770s, our National Geographic Endeavour was built in Germany in 1966 as a fishing trawler. Refitted and renamed for cruising in polar waters, the ship is full of photos of the Antarctic.  For the last few years she has been based in the Galapagos, sailing under the Lindblad/National Geographic colors. Other Lindblad/National Geographic ships explore the Arctic, Antarctic, Alaska and Baja California.

As befits a National Geographic ship flying the Society’s famous expedition flag, Endeavour has the look and feel of a vessel built and equipped for exploration. Very comfortable exploration for those who want to experience the Galapagos as curious travelers.  But also a floating exploration platform for National Geographic’s scientists and journalists who use the ship regularly for field research and reporting.


Below decks on the Endeavour. Notice the National Geographic seal on the floor, at the ship’s main entrance. Photo by David Braun.


My favorite place on board Endeavour is the library, which from the uppermost deck has wonderful views of ocean and islands through large picture windows. It is crammed with books about adventure, exploration and discovery, including a large National Geographic Atlas of the World on a reading stand.


The Endeavour’s well-stocked library includes many books about exploration, discovery, and geography. Photo by David Braun.
The ship library is also a great place to quietly sit and admire the island scenery. Photo by David Braun.


Expedition Paula Tagle briefs passengers on the day’s exploration options. Photo of Endeavour lounge by David Braun.


The lounge is where much of the social activity takes place. Each evening we would gather for cocktails and hot pre-dinner snacks to share photos and video, recap adventures, and compare notes of what we had seen and learned during the day. It was also where we would meet to go over the next day’s program, hear presentations by the naturalists, and watch videos about the Galapagos. On some evenings there would be after-dinner live entertainment by local artists.

Perhaps the most popular part of the Endeavour is the dining room. Three lavish meals presented each day by a talented kitchen staff provided great opportunities to meet and mingle with other travelers.  Endeavour takes up to 96 passengers (plus 90 crew), a number small enough to provide a good measure of intimacy, but just large enough to find many new friends.

Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions is fastidious about minimizing the tourism impact on the Galapagos. Great care is taken to make sure that all fresh produce taken on board Endeavour is free of soil and organisms that might introduce new species to the islands.  Trash is meticulously sorted and recycled. Water is processed by desalination and made available to passengers in reusable bottles. Detergents are ecofriendly and used in minimal amounts.

While the focus of the expedition is on visiting the islands, snorkeling, kayaking, and walking, there are plenty of things to do on board. The library is certainly an option to relax and read, or use the ship’s satellite wireless connection to check email or surf the Web. But there is also a small gym, swimming pool, sauna, and several decks to sunbathe.


Photo by David Braun.


In this video I interviewed our Expedition Leader, Paula Tagle, about her job and her passion for the Galapagos. Paula is also a storyteller, having written a book about the islands. The book and several handicrafts made by residents of the islands, are available in the Endeavour’s small shop.



Next time on my Galapagos Expedition Journal: Underwater Exploration with Prize-Winning Photographer Terry Goss


Endeavour inside the partly collapsed and submerged caldera of Genovesa island, Galapagos. Photo by David Braun.


Explorers view marine life from a glass-bottom boat, one of the many activities off the ship available for Endeavour passengers. Photo by David Braun.


National Geographic Endeavour off Bartolome Island. Photo by David Braun.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet the Author

Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn