A tale of a trip

White people discovered the Galápagos Islands in 1535 when a Spanish ship came upon them after being blown off course by a storm… [T]he Spaniards found…a sailor’s nightmare where the bits of land were mockeries, without safe anchorages or shade or sweet water or dangling fruit, or human beings of any kind… They did not claim the islands for Spain, any more than they would have claimed hell for Spain. And for three full centuries after …, no other nation wished to own [the archipelago]. But then, in 1832, one of the smallest and poorest countries on the planet, which was Ecuador, asked the peoples of the world to share this opinion with them: that the islands were part of Ecuador. No one objected… It was as though Ecuador, in a spasm of imperialistic dementia, had annexed to its territory a passing cloud of asteroids. But then young Charles Darwin, only three years later, began to persuade people that the often freakish plants and animals which had found ways to survive on the islands, made them extremely valuable…
(Kurt Vonnegut, 1985, Galápagos, pp. 17 – 18)

And the rest is history.

This site offers information about our trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands in September, 2009 and our return trip in May, 2013 (still under construction—I’ll be adding pages slowly!). We initially decided to take this trip in a shared celebration of our 60th birthdays—Zell’s, in 2009; mine, in 2010.  We had the money; I still had a job (no small consideration in these economic times); our health and physical fitness were good.  Who knew what the next year might bring?

The return trip in 2013, unintendedly, coincided with my retirement in June, 2013.

The year 2009 was a fortuitous year to visit the archipelago:  the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the origin of species, the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the establishment of el Parque Nacional Galápagos.  Here you’ll find pages for our Galápagos outings as well as three about the day trips we took:  some areas in northern Quito, Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, and el Centro Histórico in Quito. I’ve also written a few “overview” pages that transcend our specific trip.  You can read about the decisions we faced (and how we resolved them) when starting our planning, some of the issues one can consider when choosing a cruise, what life on an 8-day/7-night cruise is likely to be like, and some things to keep in mind when you’re actually getting ready to travel. These pages also have links to other Web sites that can provide more up-to-date and comprehensive information. These most popular pages are also listed at the top of the page, for a variety of options for truly easy access.

If you’d like to read about the Galápagos activities, click here for some background about Ecuador and the Galápagos.  From this page, you can click on links to the pages about each day’s activities and photos.  Or just use the links to various pages in the column to the right. They’re arranged there in chronological order, from top to bottom, broken into morning and afternoon outings.  NOTE:  I am just now finishing up the reports from our return trip in May, 2013.  So you can read about our experiences on the eastern islands by starting here; if you want to read about the western islands, you can start here.  A nice opportunity to compare the 2 itineraries to help you decide which one you might prefer—unless you’re lucky enough to be able to do a full 15-day cruise, that is.  :)

Even though our trip was in 2009, I have kept the general pages updated as new links, suggestions, and regulation changes have occurred.  In fact, since we were planning a return trip in 2013, I spent a lot of time researching that trip.  As a result, I’ve become very familiar with the latest news from the archipelago.  So check out the links to the general pages noted above for up-to-date information.

As you’re reading this, you may come across a broken or misdirected link.  By all means—please let me know by filling out the contact form below (which will come to me privately) or sending me a comment!  Also, if you have any questions I might be able to help with, feel free to fill out the contact form or write a comment.  (All comments are e-mailed to me before they are posted.  If you say in your comment that you’d prefer a private reply, I’ll just write back to the e-mail address you leave.)  Also, your questions help me know what other topics folks might be interested in, so I can add that information.  I welcome any and all questions, clarifications, musings, typos—whatever!  Note, though, that if your comment contains a link to a commercial Galápagos-related Web site, it will not be approved.  I need to maintain the “nonprofessional” or consumer orientation of this site.  (Also, comments from posters who don’t include an e-mail address or Internet URL will be deleted, since I want to be able to know that the posters are who they say they are.)  But feel free to include links to your own trip report, photo gallery, personal recommendations, or anything else from your personal experience with this marvelous archipelago!

Thanks for stopping by!

49 Responses to A tale of a trip

  1. Jo says:

    Headed to galapagos on the Isabella 2 in may 2015! Great site! Jo

    Like

  2. Mark Siegal says:

    In addition to National Geographic, are there Galapagos tours that cater to people who are particularly interested in photography–tours with a professional nature photographer on board?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Mark–

      The only other boat I’ve heard of (or at least that I can remember) that does a photography week is the Eclipse. You can read a bit more about it here: http://www.oagalapagos.com/index.php/The-M/V-Eclipse/mv-eclipse.html . (Scroll down a bit.)

      Tina

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      • Mark Siegal says:

        Thanks Tina, I will look at it.

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      • Mark Siegal says:

        It is not clear that the photographer in the Eclipse tour actually goes out with you, as opposed to giving talks on the boat. We found one that looks interesting (http://www.nathab.com/photo-tours/latin-america/galapagos-photo-tour/). Have you heard of this one?
        Mark

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      • Tina says:

        Hi, Mark–

        I don’t know Natural Habitats, but they’re chartering the Letty (owned and operated by Ecoventura), which is a well-respected first-class boat. With 20 passengers, you have a 1:10 naturalist guide:passenger ratio if she sails full–a smaller group than the typical 1:16 ratio. The itinerary they list is Letty’s northwest itinerary, so you get to 3 of the “big 4″ islands–Genovesa, Fernandina, and Isabela. That’s one of the best itineraries around and not that many boats offer it.

        If you’re traveling with a companion, you can skip this paragraph. But for other readers, I’ll include it. The only downside that I know of with the Ecoventura boats (Letty is one of 3 sister boats that often sail together)comes up if you’re traveling alone. They have a single supplement of ~50%–not out-of-range by comparison with other boats in the archipelago, but it can seriously increase the costs. If you’re willing to be matched with a same-sex traveler, you can avoid that supplement. However, if you’re not matched within 60 days of traveling, you may still have to pay the supplement. (Many other boats drop the supplement completely if you’re willing to be matched, whether you get matched or not.) But if you’re traveling with a companion, no problem.

        Tina

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  3. Cassandra says:

    Hi Tina, such a great blog! Thanks for all the useful information. You’re so blessed to have been able to go back to the Galapagos Islands and seen a good selection of all the islands. We’re a group going there this May and have trouble choosing between two, could you give some advice?

    There’s the Estrella del Mar – 6 days going to Santa Cruz, Chinese Hat, Rabida, Santiago, Fernandina, Isabella. Our last landing will be at Moreno Point as we have to cut short the trip – will be taking a speed boat to Santa Cruz before transferring to Baltra. We have a flight to catch on the Saturday night unfortunately so will be missing out on the Sierra Negra Volcano.

    The alternative is the Fragata – 8 days going to Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Bartholomew, Santiago
    South Plaza Island, Santa Fe Island, San Cristobal, Española, Floreana, Santa Cruz Charles Darwin Station, North Seymour Island and then transfer back to Baltra.

    Which would you recommend more? The Western islands or the North-South route? By going on the Fragata we’d have to give up on a 4 day trip to the Amazon (will be in Peru before that) so it’s a difficult decision!

    Sorry for the long post, but any advice recommended as you’ve been to all of them also taking into account the boats? Thanks Tina.

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Cassandra–

      No apologies needed for the long post–lots of info to include there! Let me check one thing first. Have you made sure that you can indeed leave the cruise at Punta Moreno? You’ll need to arrange some water transportation (maybe charter a private boat?) to get you from Punta Moreno to Puerto Villamil (the town on Isabela) in time for the twice-daily speedboat ferry to Santa Cruz (I think they run 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., but I’m not sure). That’s a pretty unusual occurrence. Or perhaps the boat goes from Punta Moreno to Villamil on its regular itinerary and the boat crew would be willing to off-load you and your luggage in town? That makes more sense, but I’m just checking…

      Assuming that part is not a problem, a few comments on the 2 itineraries. Both are good and will give you lots of great experiences with wildlife, so no worries there. The western islands are stunning (although lots and lots of lava) and the snorkeling is fantastic! But the eastern itinerary gets you to 2 other really wonderful islands–Genovesa and Española. The sea bird breeding colonies on Genovesa are tremendous–you walk eye-to-eye among the nestlings and parents. And the Waved Albatross will be in full breeding activities on Española; those gentle giants are really stunning. Plus snorkeling at Devil’s Crown (off Floreana), if this itinerary does that, is one of the 2 best spots in the archipelago for snorkeling. (Isabela & Fernandina are the other best spots.)

      Since you can’t have it all, you’ll miss something great no matter what your choice. But, as I mentioned, both itineraries have super options. For a first, and possibly only, trip, I think I’d lean toward the eastern itinerary (but only slightly) since you’ll get a wider sampler of the different islands–with 2 of the 4 most distant (and most interesting) islands in the mix.

      But really–you’ll do great with either one. So I suggest you pick one and get seriously excited!

      Tina

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      • Cassandra says:

        Hey Tina

        Thanks for your advice. Estrella is on it’s way to Tintoteras after Moreno. The agent was able to arrange for speedboat back to Santa Cruz so I assume that part was ok. The second itinerary will go to Devil’s Crown so another plus point for that! Will discuss it with the rest of our friends and book soon. Super excited already :)

        Cassandra

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  4. Alana says:

    Tina,

    Amazing story, I’ve been following your reviews on trip advisor, and am quite impressed with how you have conducted your answers with many many questions some the same over and over. But, all of us look to others that have been and looking for answers to what is going to be the best boat/itinerary to suit their particular trip.

    We are of 4 Adults looking for some tips as well we are thinking of going on the beluga March 15-20 or 22nd to 28 th of 2015 and very torn as to which itinerary the eastern or western..which side is going to be the one to go to that time of year? Perplexed…any tips would be appreciated.

    Thanks

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Alana–

      Good to be thinking this far ahead, in my opinion. The Beluga’s 2 itineraries represent the classic choice most folks face when considering an 8-day cruise. The bottom line is that either is good and you’ll have a great time on either. But to be a bit more picky, I’d lean a bit toward the western (Fernandina) itinerary. Here are what I see as the pros and cons of both.

      Pros of the eastern (Hood) itinerary–Genovesa (referred to by its English name, Tower) has terrific sea bird breeding colonies that you wander through almost eye to eye with the nestlings. Snorkeling at Kicker Rock is reported to be good. Cons–At the time you’re considering, the magnificent Waved Albatross will probably not be back on Española (which the Beluga refers to by its English name–Hood). Española is a lovely island, but it loses a bit of its “star” quality without these wondrous behemoths. You spend 2 days in and around towns (Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, P. Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal), which are never my favorite days (although the highlands of SC lets you see the Giant Tortoises living free–a real highlight!). But perhaps the biggest drawback to this itinerary is that it is cut up into 2 shorter cruises. So you will be letting off and taking on passengers in the middle of the cruise. Could be handled smoothly, but if there is a delay with the incoming plane, you could face some sitting around. Plus the excitement/distraction of new and leaving passengers. You just can’t know.

      Pros for the western itinerary (Fernandina)–It is uninterrupted by taking on new passengers. You spent a lot of time on the western-most islands, which are stunningly stark. (lava, lava, lava!) One of the best things is that you’ll see lots and lots of the diminutive Galapagos Penguins. (On the eastern itinerary, you might see a small group around Sombrero Chino. But only a small group and only if you’re moderately lucky.) The marine wildlife on this itinerary was stunning–lots of sea turtles, some of the largest marine iguanas in the archipelago, reef sharks, 2 species of dolphins, fish galore–even the rare Mola mola! Cons–The walk to Sierra Negra can be quite the muddy slog if it has been raining–and views are good only on clear days. You might get pretty tired of lava, although ending with Santiago and N. Seymour offer diversity (and N. Seymour gives you a nice taste of the sea bird colonies, since this itinerary doesn’t go to Genovesa). Also, the weather in March is likely to be quite warm; the paths on the shadeless lava can get pretty hot. (We traveled in the cooler month of May and still found them to be quite toasty.)

      So, there’s a quick summary of what I see as points to consider. And no worries–I enjoy thinking about our 2 trips and sharing my opinions and our experiences with anyone considering this marvelous adventure. Let me know if you have other questions!

      Tina

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  5. AGupta says:

    Hi – My husband and I along with 4 friends are deciding to visit the Galapagos Islands in April or May 2014. My husband tends to get sea sick therefore can you recommend the largest boat that is used by a cruise line? Also are the waters choppy in April/May time? Thanks

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    • Tina says:

      Hi!

      I don’t know much about the large boats, being a small-boat fan myself. Those with more than 48 passengers are the Galapagos Explorer (100 pax), the Galapagos Legend (100 pax), Endeavor (96), Santa Cruz (90), and the Celebrity Xpedition (90). I would imagine they all have a presence on the Internet, so you could just search on the names.

      April and May tend to be times of quieter waters. We were there in May and the waters for our week were very calm. However, those who had been on the week before had had some choppy waters. You don’t get any guarantees–it is, after all, the ocean. But Jan. – April are generally known for the lowest probabilities of rough seas.

      Good luck!

      Tina

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  6. Danna Numerow says:

    Thank you for all your information and time! My husband and I are from Calgary, Alberta and we booked a week our tour on ATHALA for Dec 7 with Grace at http://galapagosislands.com/ who was cheaper than any other agency by over $1000+ pp!! We booked our international flights on our own. FYI we are travelling to Chilie after to visit family and explore the Atacama Desert.

    My Galapagos question is:

    Shortie Wet Suits are recommended but I am nervous that the water temp in Dec may be too cold and we should think about full or thicker wet suits….I know the water temp at that time of year is estimated between 70-73 degrees Brrrrr!

    Thank you,
    Danna From Calgary

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Danna–

      I’d say since you’re already concerned with the water temps, you’ll likely be happier with a full suit. On our 2 trips (Sept., with about the coldest water on average, and May, considerably warmer than Sept.), only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the group of 16 wore wet suits. So they are definitely not mandatory. But if you know that you’re sensitive to cooler waters, you may want to maximize your time in the water with a full suit. (Check with your boat or bring your own–most boats that rent wet suits probably only rent half suits.) I didn’t wear a shortie wet suit on the Sept. trip and did wear one on the May trip. I liked the experience with the wet suit better (partly for the warmth, partly for the extra buoyancy), but the shortie was all I needed. Also, your itinerary will make a difference. If you’re on an itinerary that spends a lot of time around Isabela & Fernandina, the waters will likely be even cooler than the average temps listed (and than the waters around the more central or northern islands). Just another thing to factor into the decision…

      Tina

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    • Jennie Orr says:

      We went in October 2 years ago. I found some full length wet suits (4 mm core, 3 mm extremities) for a good price (about $80) on line and thought they worked very well and were compact enough to get in my carry on. Booties are also nice and only about $12.

      Like

    • Jo Irwin says:

      Dear Danna,

      How was your trip? We have been thinking of going on the ATHALA and wondered what it was like. Any tips?

      Jo

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Jo–

        Just a quick note, in case you hadn’t noticed it, that Danna’s cruise just started today. It may be a while before she responds!

        Tina
        Tina

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  7. Mary jane says:

    Hi Tina, we are planning a December cruise with our adult children. The number of boats is daunting! We don’t want all retired on our trip! Do you recommend one of ecoadventuas boats or the Legend ? Or maybe another? We will take a week cruise. Thanks Mary jane

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Mary Jane–

      You’re right–it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of boats to choose! If you’re talking about a Dec., 2013 trip, you’d better hurry. Mid-Dec. through the end of the year is the most popular time (with surcharges often accompanying!) and many boats are probably already booked. However, if you’re heading for 2014 or are thinking of early Dec. 2013 (a pretty low season), you should have more choices.

      You’re kind of comparing apples and oranges when you consider the Ecoventura boats and the Legend. I personally prefer small boats–the intimacy not only with the wildlife but also with fellow passengers and the crew. For that reason, I wouldn’t choose the Legend, which is possibly the largest boat plying the waters of the archipelago. (I know, 100+ passengers doesn’t seem that huge–but it’s gargantuan by Galápagos standards.) But some people like the extras these large boats offer and don’t mind the extra folks. Aside from its size, the Legend gets good reviews.

      The Ecoventura boats get terrific reviews–and at a max of 20 passengers, you’ll have a very different experience than on the Legend. Since Park regs require 1 naturalist guide for every 16 passengers, you have the chance (if the boat sails full) of having a 1:10 guide-to-passengers ratio. Even more intimate! The ELF boats (a nickname for the Ecoventura boats–Eric, Letty, Flamingo II) have an advantage in that they often sail together and tend to group their sailings by age–folks with young families, younger adults, the rest of us… ;-) Especially if you’re traveling during the holidays, that could be an advantage if you want to avoid families with younger children.

      I can personally recommend the Mary Anne, which we were on in May. Such a gorgeous boat! (If you haven’t already seen it, you can read about it and see photos on the blog. There’s a link under the header photo of the Giant Tortoise.) We also really enjoyed the Tip Top II, and I hear good things about her younger siblings–the Tip Tops III and IV. Their owner, Wittmer Turismo, is a wonderful organization and they treat their employees well.

      Really, though, any first-class or luxury boat will offer you a wonderful experience–it boils down to budget limitations, itineraries, personal preferences… It’s hard to go wrong in those 2 categories, so don’t make yourself too crazy trying to decide!

      I hope this helps somewhat. Feel free to write again if you have other questions I might be able to weigh in on.

      Tina

      Like

      • mary jane says:

        Thanks Tina! Yes, I also talked to Fabian with Mary Anne and he sent some competitive pricing! Do you think the sail boat would be rockier than the ecoadventura boat?

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, again–

        I’m so glad you asked this question, because I went to my sailor husband to see what he thought–and I learned a ton! The ELF boats are mono-hulls, as is the Mary Anne. But Zell mentioned that the Mary Anne is more than twice as long as the ELF boats and is full-keeled, since she is a mono-hull sailboat. The keel has a draught of 16 feet–meaning 16 feet of keel are below the waterline for perhaps 3/4s of the length of the boat (maybe 150 feet). (If true sailboats didn’t have hefty keels, the wind from the side would just send the boat skittering sideways across the water.) Any motor boat would have a draught of perhaps 2 or 3 feet, since they don’t have to counteract wind–and they can then move faster without the extra weight. The large keel on the Mary Anne makes her much more stable in lively, choppy waters than would be either a mono-hull or even a catamaran (which many people claim to be far more stable than a mono-hull). His guess was that she would likely be only a bit less stable than would be the larger, 100+ boats (which are agreed to be the most stable boats available in the archipelago).

        So, for stability, the Mary Anne is the hands-down winner in this comparison. I had no idea!

        Tina

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      • mary jane says:

        Thanks Tina!

        Like

  8. Joan-Marc says:

    Dear Tina, thanks for your phantastic blog! We are planning to visit Galapagos this October. However, it seems to be the “worst” month, and that’s probably many boats are being repaired. Since you have been there in October and in May (one of the “best” months, according to what I have read), what is your opinion? Thanks in advance for your attention.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Joan-Marc–

      Both months have pros & cons, so it depends on what you like. Sept/Oct will have moderate (mid-70s) air temps, low (30%) humidity, no bugs, and fewer visitors. But water temps will be cooler, vegetation will be sparse, and the seas may be rougher.

      May was considerably warmer (mid-80s) and much more humid–especially notable since we were on a “western” itinerary, which spent a lot of time on hot lava fields! The waters were warmer; but out by the western islands, they were still cool enough to make a wet suit a welcome option. Vegetation was much greener and more plentiful. An added bonus was that we saw a good number of fledgling birds (which we saw none of in Sept.)–so goofy and such fun to watch them begging from parents that were SO done with parenting. We had more annoying insects (mostly paper wasps in Santa Cruz and Floreana) in May than we did in Sept. (NONE). The waters were very calm when we were there, although during the previous week, they had had some rough waters.

      Coming from the dry, cooler temps of Colorado, we preferred the weather in Sept. But if you enjoy more tropical weather, May will suit you to a tee. If motion sickness is a concern, May will have a much lower likelihood of rough waters (although there are no guarantees).

      So really–there is no bad time to be in the archipelago. Wildlife were mind-blowing in both seasons–and will be in any month of the year. No worries there. So I’d say pick the time that fits your schedule and your weather prefs. and sign up!

      Tina

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      • Joan-Marc says:

        Thank you so much Tina for your prompt response. Your post has been an amazing finding! I will follow your advice, and travel to Galapagos next October… we are in our early 40′s, so I guess we will have the chance to go in March-May someday in the future… as you did.
        I am sorry to keep asking you, but since you have visisted all the islands, which itinerary do you suggest? I would like to visit Floreana (Devil’s Crown, etc) and also Isabella-Fernandina, but they are rarely connected in a 8-day cruise. I was thinking to take a short cruise visiting the southern islands and then stay for 2 days at Isabella (though the capital is in the South, so we would miss the Northern part). Any suggestion would be very, very wellcome.Thanks!

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      • Tina says:

        No need to apologize for asking questions–I love helping folks figure out their best possible trip to this marvelous place!

        Combining Floreana with Isabela & Fernandina isn’t as hard to find as some other combinations. For example, our recent trip on the Mary Anne went to those. Also, at least when I was looking, the Tip Top IV’s western itinerary went to Floreana (although snorkeling was at Champion Island, which gets good reviews) and the Tip Top III went to Devil’s Crown itself.

        One thing to keep in mind–any itinerary that gets you to Fernandina and the western shore of Isabela will have you in several amazing snorkeling spots. Folks who know more about it than I do say that the two best spots are Fernandina and Devil’s Crown. So if you have to give up Devil’s Crown, you certainly won’t feel cheated if you get to the western islands.

        If you stay on Isabela, all you’ll be able to do is go to areas around the main town (Puerto Villamil). You can’t get to the spectacular spots on Isabela or Fernandina without being on a naturalist cruise. If you HAVE to do a shorter cruise (not my first choice), I’d instead recommend a short cruise that goes to Isabela/Fernandina and then a few days on Santa Cruz to do a few of the day trips from there. (Bartolomé & N. Seymour are the best day trips from SC, I think.) But do some more looking for a 7-night naturalist cruise. Seven nights minimum is sooo much nicer than a short cruise and a land-based stay (in my opinion).

        LATE ADDITION–Check the Beluga too. When we were looking, it also went to Floreana plus the western islands.

        Tina

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  9. Tammy says:

    I am looking to book a trip next April with my family. My children will be 15, 13, 11. I tend to get seasick, so I think we should go on a bigger boat (90 passengers) but would love to hear comments. In addition, I think we would only go on a 4 or 5 day cruise. Can you give me any tips, information you might have.

    Thank you so much!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Tammy–

      A larger boat is often more stable in rough waters, although the seas in April should still be quite calm. (We went last May and the waters were wonderfully un-lively.) A larger boat could also be good for your kids, since there might be other youngsters among the passengers.

      You might also consider a catamaran, which is often a bit more stable than a mono-hulled boat if waves should hit from abeam (the side). Most rough waters, if they are to be found, will come on the longer, open-water voyages (e.g., to Genovesa); in our experience, the waves there were indeed predominantly abeam.

      If you haven’t tried motion sickness remedies lately, you might talk with your physician about them. There are some really effective options out there. My husband used the scopolamine patch with great success and no side effects. But other options work well for other folks.

      If you opt for a 4- or 5-day cruise, look carefully at the itineraries. Some short cruises will keep you around the central islands, with nary a stop at one of the more distant (and more fascinating, in my opinion) islands of Española, Genovesa, Isabela, or Fernandina. A number of the central islands can also be visited by day trips, so human traffics has a greater impact on the wildlife there. As a result, the wildlife tend to live further from the paths. On the more distant islands, you sometimes actually have to step over them or leave the path just to avoid disturbing them. It’s a marvelous experience!

      Tina

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  10. Yin Zu says:

    Hi

    Your blog has been really informative but i am still lost. I will be in Lima this Jul with my friend and we would like to travel to Galapagos Island. Sadly I only have 5 days 4 night for the island, can you help to propose some agencies that you have consider? Our budget is moderate, preferably les than $400/day. We are lost with all the options available!

    BTW do you book your airtickets yourself or u go thru an agency?

    YZ

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, YZ–

      It can be really confusing. There are a good number of agents you could deal with. Three that I read consistently good things about are Happy Gringo (http://www.happygringo.com/ ), CNH Tours (http://www.cnhtours.com/ ), and Columbus Travel (http://www.columbusecuador.com/ ).

      We booked our air travel from the US to Quito ourselves. It’s generally best, though, if the boat that you’re traveling with books your air travel from mainland Ecuador to the archipelago. That way, if there is some delay in the flight, everyone on the boat will be on the same plane and the boat won’t leave without you!

      Like

      • Hi,
        I totally agree with what you said, but since these are the relatively big agencies, they have relatively high prices too. I went with Midland Travel ( https://www.midlandtravel.com.ec/ ) to the Galapagos and was 100% satisfied (price and service were very good – I also checked other agencies).

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Savannah–

        Natural Habitats and NatGeo indeed larger agencies and often, people looking for very specific tours, such as photography or birding, have to use the larger agencies to get the specialized tours. But the other agency I mentioned–Ecoventura–isn’t a big agency but owns and books the Eric/Letty/Flamingo I boats. Regardless, it’s always good to contact a variety of agencies and/or boat operators to compare on your own–especially if you’re interested in a typical cruise.

        Tina

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  11. Jill Archibald says:

    Sincere thanks for such a helpful website. Planning our trip at the moment and your wealth of information has been invaluable. And I’ve really enjoyed reading it too!

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  12. sandy says:

    Wow…What a wonderful website. My family and I are getting ready for our trip in February on the Xpedition. You have answered so many on my questions….I appreciate how you discuss everything.

    Great job I love it all!

    Sandy

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  13. dan says:

    thanks for your great report.
    we went there 4 months before you and had almost exactly the same cruise route (on the reverse direction). we stayed over at isabella and Puerto Ayora after the cruise.
    it is very interesting for us to see the animals at a differet season (the chicks of frigate and albatross — they were in courtship and hatching when we were there).

    you can see pictures we took in my picasaweb album: https://picasaweb.google.com/danchung

    Like

  14. sujatha says:

    Wildlife watching is the most important thing for me to do in the galapagos. I am not interested in snorkeling or diving. Which is the best month to see wildlife?

    Tina writes:

    You are certainly not alone is having wildlife viewing as your top priority. You can see a helpful calendar that summarizes some of the month-by-month wildlife activities here: http://www.wildlifeworldwide.com/information/galapagos_wildlife_calendar.html. Really, any month will give you amazing opportunities to see all sorts of wildlife living their lives around you as if you weren’t even there. The lone exception to consider is the Waved Albatross of Punta Suárez (Española). They begin to leave that area in mid-December and don’t start returning until mid- or even late March. (I have heard of a lucky spotting in Jan. and an unlikely total “miss” in late March. So just be aware that the albatrosses don’t read the books…) Also, the Giant Tortoises can be harder to see in the wild in the highlands of Santa Cruz during breeding season (roughly May – August), when they move to lower grounds for nesting. But, unlike the Waved Albatross, not impossible. Aside from those, any month will be chock-full of wildlife wonders.

    And just one comment about snorkeling–the marine wildlife of the archipelago is just as spectacular as the land-based wildlife. If you don’t snorkel because you’re not very comfortable in the water, don’t necessarily write it off. In our group, several folks were a bit wary of the water and wore a personal flotation device for snorkeling. They bobbed around the waters and had just as marvelous a time as did the really confident swimmers. So that’s always a possibility—plenty of PFDs since everyone has to wear one in the pangas.

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  15. Candy Skelton says:

    Christina:
    Thanks so much for you help and this detailed information.
    We went in December 2010 on the Beluga and our guide Darwin, was fantastic. I can’t recomment this trip more highly. It is truly awesome. I have put together a photoshow that’s about 16 minutes long, but blame it on the animals!

    http://www.photoshow.com/watch/FK4gD3mV

    One bit of caution though. We stayed a few extra days in Santa Cruz. I bought a beautiful wooden sculpture of turtles from Galapagos Gallery on the main drag and had it shipped to me. It arrived on January 15th in pieces. The merchant has been extremely uncooperative so I advise not purchasing anything from this particular store.
    Candy

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  16. Brenda McKnight says:

    My, My!! I haven’t read Tina’s trip report, but from these replys, I know that it will be great. Ed and I will have our 50th anniversary June 2011. We began looking at Machu Picchu two years ago. This year we considered it again. I then saw a write up about the Galapagos Islands and now we would like to see both places. Like Montanabrit, I wonder if it will be too much to see in one trip. I usually take care of all the details. I enjoyed reading everyones comments.
    Brenda

    Tina writes–

    This is a good thing to consider. I think only you folks can make that decision for yourselves. My husband and I knew that we were likely to be ready to head home after being away for 12 days in Quito and the Gálapagos. (We also have 2 dogs that were stuck in the kennel while we were away.) Also, my “Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?” meter was pretty much on overload by the end of our 8-day/7-night cruise. I fear that anywhere else would have paled by comparison after that. Of course, keep in mind the fact that we’re wildlife people–we’re both birders and I’m involved in wildlife rehab–so it doesn’t get better than the Galápagos for folks like us.

    And yet, I have talked to others who indeed did Machu Picchu and the Galápagos on the same trip and had a great time at both. So many people do both. One thing you might consider is doing Machu Picchu BEFORE you do the Galápagos (if that’s possible). That way, you end the trip with the amazing experience of being out on the lonely ocean; visiting islands where the wildlife pretty much just conduct their lives around you without even batting an eye; and seeing stark, untouched scenery that will stay with you forever.

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  17. Wow- next time I consider a trip ANYWHERE, I am going to email you first and see if: 1) you have ever been there; or:
    2) will you please go first and write a blog about it?

    Such a great job-my wife and I are similar in “vintage” to you and Z, so this is so helpful. Thanks, and good work. Mark

    Like

  18. Gary says:

    Hi there,

    Very interesting trip you had! I’ve put together my 5 ways to visit the islands on a budget here. I’m all about budget travel and the Galapagos are so unique and mesmorizing, I think everyone should go. Thanks for your story.

    http://www.findcheapairfares.org/2010/03/09/galapagos-5-ways-to-visit-the-islands-on-a-budget/

    Like

  19. Bob Warwick says:

    What a great blog, Tina. My wife and I did essentially the same trip in 2010. Your detail descriptions helped us put into perspective that which we experienced. We put up a website that others might enjoy. It contains thousands of pictures.

    The URL is http://home.comcast.net/~rwarwick4/Exploritas/index.htm

    Bob

    Like

  20. John and Karen says:

    We really enjoyed reading about your trip to the Galapagos Islands. It’s much more informative reading about your first person experience than it is reading a travel brochure. Thank you very much for your diary of your trip. It was great! John and Karen

    Like

  21. Moti Dolev says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge on Galapagos tour.
    Me and my wife are waiting to to give ourself a 60 years old gift ( in one more year) and we intend to do the same tour. Your website will be our guide to arrange ours.

    Like

  22. lorraine says:

    i have not read your story as yet but was rapt when i read why you decided to go as my hubby and i are 60 at the end of the year. we want to go to antarctic as well and see as much as we can ver there including carnival. Would love to know more if needed advice.
    Lorraine

    Like

  23. Meg Menke says:

    Thanks for the very useful (and well written) adventure story. I’ll be joining the Exploritas trip to Galapagos that begins Feb. 3 — your practical advice is very helpful. I’ll be traveling with a friend; I plan to leave a link to your story with my husband and family — they can travel along. …..Well, sort of…. I cannot imagine that there is anything quite like being there.

    Like

  24. Essie Swanson says:

    This is the most comprehensive trip report that I have found. I am in the midst of planning my once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands. Your report has answered many questions that I was having difficulty finds answers to. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you have put into this blog.

    Like

  25. Elizabeth Rowley says:

    This is a great website that you’ve put together! Thanks!

    Like

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